KENNETT >> Supporters and members of the unique After-the-Bell program gathered on Friday at the Mendenhall Inn to honor Sue Woodward, one of the group’s longtime leaders.
After-the-Bell is a project that serves the students at Kennett Consolidated’s Middle School with interesting and enjoyable activities at the end of the school day. Woodward, 75, of Kennett, stepped down as its director in recent years, but has been heavily involved in various areas of its leadership practically from the beginning.
Sue Woodward is joined by her family at the dinner honoring her on Friday. From left are son Steve Rayne, Woodward, husband Bob Woodward, daughter-in-law Amee Rayne and son Tim Rayne. CHRIS BARBER — AVON GROVE SUN
In describing Woodward’s dedication, After-the-Bell President and former Kennett School District Superintendent Rudy Karkosak told his audience of about 200 that this is the first time in the association’s five years of banquets that they have chosen to honor someone. He described Woodward as someone of high energy and dedication. “It’s always been difficult to say ‘no’ to Sue,” he said.
Woodward, a retired Unionville High School English teacher and lifetime Kennett area resident, has spent many years overseeing the programs After-the-Bell offers, but has also done almost every other task including driving one of the buses on an icy day.
Reflecting on the beginnings of After the Bell 18 years ago, she said in 1997, The Episcopal Church of the Advent presented “A Time to Listen” to the Kennett Community. This report was the result of a community listening study that focused on the quality of life in Kennett Square.
“They asked more than 100 people ‘What does Kennett do well and what does it fall down on?’”
“At the top was affordable housing, but second was something for middle schoolers to do after school,” she said.
As a result of that study, its leaders, the late John and the late Denise Wood and the late Marshall Newton spearheaded the program, which, incidentally was named by a student.
It works like this:
Students at the middle school are welcomed to participate in two-hour activities three days a week in six-week segments throughout the year. They can take courses in such interesting subjects as cooking, knitting, “Cops,” soccer, tennis, fishing, guitar, aviation, martial arts and many more. Sometimes they are taken on field trips to nearby points of interests, and Woodward said that at one point, her sister, Georgia Brutscher even brought over her horses for horseback riding lessons.
The children pay nothing — even for supplies, and bus transportation home is provided for them.
Woodward said when After-the-Bell was proposed, then-Superintendent Larry Bosley was extremely supportive. When his successor, Karkosak came onboard later that year, he too jumped in to help as well.
In her role as program director, she said she sat around with her committee and talked about ideas for classes. Sometimes, the selections were driven by people who offered their services.
“We never had to not run a program because of lack of volunteers,” she said.
She added that the program is purposely separate from control of and financial support from the school district, although its facilities are used.
It has an annual budget of about $220,000, Karkosak said, and that money comes from grants, foundations, the United Way, the Mushroom Festival, the Hamilton Foundation and many other groups and longtime individual supporters.
The annual banquet is one of the biggest fundraisers, and provides about $20,000 in income which derives from sponsors and the silent auction.
Karkosak said he is impressed with the growth.
“Last year there were 280 unduplicated participants. This year there are about 340.” That is significant, he said, because it means that about one-third of the student body at the Kennett Middle School is using After-the-Bell.
Overall, he said, After-the-Bell has served more then 4,500 students in its lifetime.
He praised the community and volunteers for their involvement.
“After-the-Bell could not exist without the support of the community. This is the most generous commuity. It couldn’t work any other place besides Kennett Square,” he said.
After-the-Bell has been recognized nationally for its success and continues to serve its students.