EDISON, NJ - What’s a brighter idea than to have a 6-foot lightbulb spread awareness of an afterschool program? That is exactly what Bill Michener, the executive director of Illuminating Lincoln: Lighthouse, was thinking.
Michener hauled the gigantic, 6-foot, 1,200-pound lightbulb all the way from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Edison, New Jersey, a 1,500-mile trip, to spread the word of the much needed after-school programs for teens, from grades 6 to 12.
Michener stopped at Des Moines, Iowa; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before arriving at Edison. The 19-hour trip paid off, as Michener was featured on “Good Morning America” on Aug. 13.
“The most at risk time for teenagers are directly after school till 6 p.m.,” Michener explained, “We make sure that we provide quality after-school programs to guide our young people.”
During Lincoln’s afterschool program, Michener keeps teens occupied while having fun at the same time. The program helps build relationships with young people, provides academic support, recreational activities, enrichment activities, and even gardening. These programs are at no cost to the youth. Michener believes that it is important for young people to have role models. He also believes that teens need more guidance on “what to do” more than “what not to do.” The after-school program has proven to be very successful, with a 95 percent graduation rate in Lincoln. The program runs in three high schools in Nebraska, serving roughly 2,000 to 2,500 students.
Why did Michener come all the way from Nebraska just to Edison?
At the American State Games, held in Nebraska this year, Michener met a few people from New Jersey who convinced him to come to Edison, the city where the lightbulb was invented. 51 artistically designed lightbulbs were placed in Lincoln itself, which will be auctioned in Lincoln in October. Michener contributed the lightbulb to Edison, the 52nd lightbulb added to the list. This light bulb will reside in the newly renovated Thomas Edison Museum beginning on Oct. 24.
On hand to receive to receive the 6-foot lightbulb at Camp Kilmer were Edison Mayor Thomas Lankey, Len Sendelsky, Chairman of the Edison Tower, Kathleen Carlucci, director at the Thomas Edison Museum and Freeholder Charles Tomaro, trustee of the Edison Tower.
“The lightbulb is what Edison is known for and adding the lightbulb to our town is a piece of modern art,” Lankey commented. “Therefore, people will ask more about Edison and know what Edison is really about.”
“The lightbulb is a symbol of our town and we are happy to add this program to the activities at the museum,” Sendesky added.
The lightbulb will be part of Edison’s modern art addition.
“This 21st-century piece will be a great way to attract young people to this event. I also hope this will be a stepping stone to do more educational programs at the museum,” Carlucci stated.
“18,000 people from different parts of the world annually visit the tower. I expect an increase in tourism as the lightbulb will attract many people,” Freeholder Charles Tomaro stated.
The Illuminating Lincoln: Lighthouse after-school program has enriched the community in Nebraska, and Michener hopes that other communities also adopt the after-school program. This project was sponsored by Icon Poly who manufactured the lightbulb, and the Goodwin Foundation. Security First Bank sponsored the entire journey from Nebraska to New Jersey.
Mayor Lankey appropriately summed up the event by saying, “Let there be light.”
The lightbulb will serve as a beacon in Edison for years to come.