Each after-school program is a unique entity with its own benefits and differences. Yet, when seen as part of the broader educational industry of after-school education, we can point out common benefits for the students, and in the long run, for the whole community in which these programs exist.
Over the years, research and reports from organizations, such as Afterschool Alliance, have shed light on these shared advantages covering different areas of students’ lives: academics, behavior, family, and social.
1. Development of Emotional and Social Skills.
Participation in high-quality extracurricular activities actively shapes social and emotional development, fostering positive behavior, intrinsic motivation, and heightened concentration levels. As noted by the Afterschool Alliance, these factors collectively contribute to boosting young people’s self-esteem, laying a foundation for their overall well-being.
Moreover, the benefits extend beyond self-esteem. Children engaged in after-school activities develop essential life skills, such as effective emotional management, building supportive relationships, and making responsible decisions. These skills form a crucial toolkit for navigating the complexities of the real world, equipping students with the resilience and empathy needed to succeed.
2. Enhancing Academic Performance & Participation.
Academic and STEM-focused initiatives reinforce classroom learning, resulting in a notorious improvement in academic performance through problem-solving abilities, advanced critical thinking skills, and understanding of scientific concepts. Some students even surpass grade expectations, demonstrating the effectiveness of these programs. Increased class participation, higher attendance rates, and a decrease in academic dropout rates further highlight the positive impact on students’ scholastic journeys. These programs also contribute to a more integrated and engaged school community.
3. Support for Working Parents.
For working parents, after-school programs provide a reassuring sense of security. Knowing that their children are in a safe environment with responsible staff overseeing their well-being allows parents to focus on their professional responsibilities. Youth Gov emphasizes that these programs prevent parents from missing an average of eight days of work per year.
4. Exposure to the Labor Market.
Beyond academic and emotional development, after-school programs also offer a unique window into the labor market. Work-based programs expose students to various industries, allowing them to apply specific skills in real-world settings while honing new ones. As these programs conclude, many students seamlessly transition into the workforce, equipped with practical experience and confidence gained from internships. And even if the after-school program isn’t work-based, students in discipline-focused programs can develop mastery and knowledge in the area that sets them apart from the rest.
4. Safety and Personal Wellbeing.
Safety and personal well-being are paramount concerns addressed by after-school programs. Adult supervision fosters safe relationships among peers, diverting students away from high-risk behaviors that could lead to drug abuse, violence, or involvement in gangs. By providing a structured and supervised environment, these programs actively contribute to creating a safer and more nurturing community for young minds.
As we’ve learned, after-school programs show a rich tapestry of benefits in and beyond academics, but we must remember that these positive outcomes are achieved through the implementation of quality standards, rigorous data tracking, and multiple sessions of planning where feedback also plays a pivotal role in ensuring continual improvement and positive results.
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Afterschool Alliance (2011). Afterschool Alert. Issue Brief, no. 47. Retrieved from https://www.afterschoolalliance.org/issue_briefs/issue_quality_47.pdf
Mary Larner (2015). Why Should We Care About After-School Care? Retrieved from https://www.purdue.edu/hhs/hdfs/fii/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/s_mifis01c04.pdf
Youth Gov (N/D). Benefits for Youth, Families, and Communities. Retrieved from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/afterschool-programs/benefits-youth-families-and-communities
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