Skip to main content

About Bright Lights

Mission Statement

Bright Lights is a nonprofit organization that takes learning beyond the classroom by providing youth with

unique, motivating, hands-on learning opportunities.

Bright Lights was founded in 1987 by two moms, Barbara Hoppe and Jan Dutton, wanting summer mental Olympics for their small children as they began to see budget cuts in the public school summer program. The concept grew from a graduate school project for Barbara and Jan, leaped onto the kitchen table, and took flight three months later. Both women equally funded the first year's operation. They hired teachers with reputations in subject area expertise and with a strong ability to work with students in hands-on learning.

The first year, Lincoln Public School's non-air-conditioned Hawthorne School was rented and 281 students enrolled in 28 camps. The second year, a board of directors was formed and the Articles of Incorporation and the organization's By-Laws were adopted. Bright Lights applied for and received federal non-profit 501(c)(3) status and the opportunity for the organization to enter into the fundraising arena. In the third year, the program moved to rented office space. Need-based scholarships were added.

Additional services to families now include Before Care and Lunch Care. Bright Lights continues its working relationship with Lincoln Public Schools by renting an elementary school building for the summer camps. The program has expanded to middle and high school buildings for some camps, including camps that require specialized labs. Additional community site locations (such as UNL, Innovation Campus, Pioneers Park and Holmes Lake) have enhanced learning, emphasized career awareness and allowed the program to expand class offerings.

Both the number of students enrolled and the number of camps offered have increased significantly since the program started. In 1988, 474 students enrolled in 34 camps. In recent years, enrollment figures showed approximately 1,600 students enrolled with more than 2,200 registrations in about 125 half-day and full-day camps.

Student have always paid a program fee to attend camps. While these program fees provide approximately half of Bright Lights’ revenue, the remaining funding comes from generous foundations, businesses, community service groups, families and individuals within the community. 

"My daughters love their Bright Lights experiences. Every day they come home excited about learning and eager for the next day. The environment is supportive, welcoming, and encourages them to make new friends and try new areas of interest. We are so fortunate to have a program like this in Lincoln."
—Bright Lights Parent/Guardian

"All staff was helpful and full of smiles. I actually have never seen anything like the atmosphere that I experienced at Bright Lights. Concerns were handled in a professional and extremely quick manner. Staff were going up and above at all times!! I know the kids had fun – but in my experience it is very hard to create a support system like Bright Lights has. Your staff is quite unique and amazing!!"
—Bright Lights Parent/Guardian

"We have continually had a positive experience with Bright Lights. My daughter has taken classes for the past four years and she has never taken a class she didn't enjoy. The teachers are responsive, caring and knowledgeable. My son took a class for the first time this year and enjoyed his Lego Robotics class. The staff did an amazing job to engage students and help them learn new skills."
—Bright Lights Parent/Guardian

"Throughout the summer, my children asked me each Sunday, 'Is tomorrow Bright Lights?'  They love the experience, the chance to meet new friends from other schools and even reconnect with old preschool buddies."
—Bright Lights Parent/Guardian

"Bright Lights is that perfect combination between academic and fun. I attended Bright Lights as a child, and still have fond memories of the activities I participated in. Some of the things that I learned, I still use to this day. I expect my children will be able to carry the skills that they learned with them throughout their lives." 
—Bright Lights Parent/Guardian

© 2022 Bright Lights

Powered by Firespring