Afterschool programs = success in school, life & work
Three nonprofits take learning beyond the last bell
The new presidential administration and questions about funding for school, afterschool and summer learning programs have amplified the national conversation about how we instruct our children.
While many are focused on traditional school day programs, some experts say out-of-school programs are equally, if not more, important to the development of today’s youth. Children spend about 20 percent of their waking hours in school. But, they don’t stop learning at the end of the school day or year.
Effects of creative youth development programs
• Sense of productivity
• Building connections to peers and adult mentors
• Greater community and civic engagement
• Engagement and leadership and higher levels of cross-cultural understanding
• Higher academic achievement as measured by grades, IQ, standardized test scores, and high graduation rates
• Greater creativity
• More sophisticated problem-solving and reasoning skills
• Increased emotional development
Sources: Arts Education Partnership’s Out-of-School Research Overview and Heather Ikemire, chief program officer at the National Guild for Community Arts Education in New York
“What they are learning depends on what they are doing, whether that means spending too much time on screen or with bad individuals,” says Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance in Washington, D.C.
Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. is when more than 11 million children are on their own, often unsupervised, waiting for parents or guardians to return from work. Between those hours, youth are more vulnerable to experimenting with drugs and alcohol and participating in gang violence. These children also tend to lag in social skills and, Grant says, are 37 percent more likely to become teen parents.
What’s more, during summer break, youth often lose two months of skills they learned during the school year. According to a Measure of American report from the Social Science Research Council, 4.9 million youth, ages 16 to 24, are disconnected, meaning they are not in school and not working and are isolated from routes that help them transition into an independent and rewarding adulthood.
“That’s a huge loss in workforce development skills,” says Grant.
However, they can grow as individuals in programs that help them succeed in school, in work and in life, she says. “If we really want our kids to be prepared for the workforce, we can’t underestimate them gaining soft skills in a safe space. Kids in afterschool programs do better academically, better behaviorally, attend school more.”
We take a look at three out-of-school, nonprofit youth programs — Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation’s AileyCamp, 826 National and Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit — that have been successfully enhancing youth development for more than a decade.
Denise Montgomery, director of Creative Youth Development National Initiative and founder of CultureThrive consulting, says the most successful out-of-school programs pay attention to the whole person and offer a different dynamic than what young people get at school.
“Successful programs aren’t trying to produce artists but young people who are engaged in their communities and productive citizens with fulfilling lives who have support to achieve their potential,” she says.
One example of this is AileyCamp.
Now in its 27th year, every summer about 1,000, inner-city middle-school students attend AileyCamp’s 10, six-week summer camps. While all participants take dance and other creative courses, the summer program emphasizes personal development, such as cultivating self-esteem, health and conflict-resolution skills.
“We’re looking to build leaders,” says Nasha Thomas, national director of AileyCamp and spokesperson and master teacher for arts and education and community programs. “It’s about getting along with others and being a team player. It’s about trying things in life that are difficult.”
Tutoring and writing-based program 826 National takes an asset-based view of learning by treating young people as authors and writers. From day one, Montgomery says, the mentors address them that way.
“Rather than treating young people as vessels to be filled or problems to be solved, they are really positioning young people as leaders in these programs, providing opportunity for them to gain skills,” says Heather Ikemire, chief program officer at the National Guild for Community Arts Education in New York.
Gerald Richards, CEO of 826 National, calls it “stealth education.” He says, “We work to give students a safe place. It’s not home and it’s not school. They are really excited about something, but they aren’t thinking about the fact that they are going to the tutoring center.”
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit not only trains actors, singers and stage technicians (ages 12-18) and stages student-driven performances and national and international tours, but the out-of-school program also mentors the youth in life.
Acclaimed for artistic excellence by national news media, even representing the U.S. at international events, Mosaic’s youth performers have performed at the Kennedy Center and opened for Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger and other notable artists.
More impressive, while most of the nonprofit’s youth participants are “disproportionately minority and from low-income families,” founder Rick Sperling says 100 percent of them have gone to college for the past eight years, up from 95 percent in the preceding years.
“You have a lot of organizations, like Rick’s, that have been doing tremendous work,” Ikemire says. “The focus is on realizing young people already have creative capacity and on how we unleash that while giving them high-quality training and life skills.”
The Ford Motor Company Fund has been a longtime sponsor of Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. The 25-year-old nonprofit fulfills part of our mission by enhancing both community life and education.
Children out of school – by the numbers
1 in 5
Children are left on their own between 3 p.m.-6 p.m.1
students from low-income families participating in arts-rich experiences were three-times more likely to earn their bachelor’s degree than those with low arts exposure2
8 in 10
parents say afterschool programs help them keep their jobs1
For every $1 invested in afterschool programs, $9 is saved by reducing welfare and crime costs, improving academic performance and increasing kids’ earning potential1
students from low-income families participating in arts-rich experiences were 10 percent more likely to complete calculus than those with low arts exposure2
the amount in 30 years the academic achievement gap has grown between students from lower-income and higher-income families.1
of teachers say learning programs are important to student success
the number of additional hours that children in afterschool programs gain in learning by the time they reach 6th grade.1
1 Afterschool Alliance
2 The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies, for the National Endowment for the Arts