By AMY MILLER

amillertnonline.com

Over the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to cover quite a few children's events in the area.

From Pirate and Luau day at L.B. Morris Elementary and the D.A.R.E. graduations in Jim Thorpe to the SHINE After-school program at the Penn-Kidder campus and even meeting a future Eagle Scout in Nesquehoning, I've realized that the decisions that our state and federal governments make today will impact all of these children as they grow up and will either continue to give them the opportunity to continue to shine brightly as they are doing so right now, or extinguish their flame.

I've sat back and listened during quite a few meetings of organizations that deal with education and preventative programs in Carbon County. Each group is worried about very real funding cuts on both state and federal levels because without this money, there can be no programs like SHINE, Right From The Start, 4-H, Head Start, or Prosper. That means that after-school programs that engage the students and help them grow both socially and educationally may be lost.

Today's children will be pushed into the shadows, where they will only be expected to be mediocre instead of exceptional.

We've seen in the news in recent weeks, that schools are laying off teachers, programs are being cut, all because our leaders can't be financially responsible and live within their budgets. Big spending comes with big penalties when it means taking money away from our education system.

The worst part about these penalties is not that it is affecting today's government officials, rather, it is affecting tomorrow's government leaders, who will not be getting the quality education they so deserve.

Over the last few years, I've had the privilege to watch and see hundreds of children in these programs grow and flourish. I've seen first-hand what Pre-K Counts, the D.A.R.E. program, SHINE, Prosper, and 4-H can do for our children. I've talked to and listened as these students shared their stories excitedly about the things they learned and how it has helped them in school.

Recently, I talked with three SHINE students who couldn't talk fast enough about how they loved the SHINE program. Why did they love it? That answer was simple and reflected in each of their smiles. It was fun and it made learning fun.

One girl, Ashlee, who is a third grade student, said it perfectly when she talked about the SHINE program. She said the SHINE students are like a family who help each other and grow together.

Seeing these students succeed and be excited about learning made me realize that in today's society, we value quantity, more than quality. The quality of education has seemed to fade into the background and is no longer as important as it once was. Instead, everyone seems to look at what programs are needed to fulfill education requirements, rather than what programs could challenge a student and exceed those requirements.

Why are our children the ones getting penalized for something they did not have a choice in? Why are our future doctors, lawyers, social workers, educators, being treated like they did something wrong and should not be allowed to enjoy learning? Why are we, the American people, not doing more to prevent these very, very good programs from becoming only a memory?

I challenge all of you to stand up and do something to help our children get the support and education we need. Remember, the children of today are the ones who will be taking care of you tomorrow, so take care of them now.

To the politicians who are reading this, please don't let the flame go out on the children's desire to learn.