The Value of High-Quality Afterschool Programs

Last Updated on December 3, 2023 by Manuel Zavala
afterschool program

As educators, our understanding of the value and impact of afterschool programs cannot be overstated. These initiatives serve as critical platforms for enrichment, providing students with opportunities to explore interests beyond the standard curriculum while developing vital social and leadership skills.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the role that quality afterschool programs play in mitigating risky behaviors among youth. We also highlight some of the funding challenges these programs face, including a discussion on how different states are leveraging resources to support them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably disrupted many aspects of education – afterschool programming is no exception. Herein lies an exploration into its effects on such out-of-school time initiatives.

We further discuss key elements that contribute to successful afterschool programming like enhancing social skills and building confidence among participants. Finally, we look at state-specific efforts toward improving these programs and what the future holds for them.

Table of Contents:

The Importance of Afterschool Programs

Afterschool programs are like the cool sidekicks of education, providing an extra boost of learning and fun for kids. They’re the Batman to the school day’s Robin.

These programs understand that learning doesn’t stop when the final bell rings. They offer a unique blend of academics and social-emotional learning, like a delicious combo meal for the brain.

Research has demonstrated that students who participate in high-quality afterschool programs tend to achieve better academic results. It’s like they have a secret superpower that helps them ace their tests.

Reducing Risky Behaviors with Afterschool Programs

Afterschool programs aren’t just about books and pencils. They also play a crucial role in keeping kids on the right path, away from risky behaviors like a superhero fighting crime.

By providing a safe and supervised environment during peak hours for mischief, these programs act as shields against engagement in risky behaviors. It’s like they have a force field that repels trouble.

Fostering Leadership Skills Through Afterschool Programming

Afterschool programs aren’t just about learning; they’re also about shaping future leaders. Nonprofit organizations promoting student leadership find fertile ground within these programs, where kids can develop skills like decision-making, conflict resolution, and communication.

By developing a student’s leadership skills, afterschool programs set students up with a rock-solid foundation as they progress through their educational journeys.

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Challenges in Accessing Afterschool Programming for Families

Afterschool programs, commonly referred to as OST (out-of-school time) activities, can provide a variety of advantages for students; yet many families experience difficulty in gaining access to these beneficial afterschool opportunities.  For every child enrolled in an afterschool program, there are three more waiting to get into one.

The primary challenges include cost and availability. Approximately 3 out of 5 parents cite these factors as reasons they cannot enroll their children in such beneficial initiatives. Transportation can also be a barrier for some families, as access to reliable transportation is often not available.

Funding Constraints for Afterschool Programs

Funding is another critical challenge that hinders the reach of quality afterschool programs.

It’s essential to recognize that the funds apportioned by grants regularly don’t suffice because of high demand and limited resources at the national level. This shortfall has led several states across America to allocate specific funds towards supporting their local afterschool programming efforts while others tap into other sources like state lottery profits or grants from nonprofit organizations promoting student leadership.


21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC), Afterschool Education and Safety (ASES), and the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP), can be instrumental in alleviating funding constraints for afterschool programs in California. This type of grant aims to provide financial support to create or enhance quality afterschool and summer learning programs, particularly for underserved and disadvantaged youth.


Texas leverages its Expanded Learning Opportunities Council and Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants specifically aimed at addressing disrupted learning due to COVID-19 through quality afterschool programming.

New York:

New York State provides research-based literacy interventions via its comprehensive early literacy initiative designed especially for kids attending high-quality afterschool programs.


Pennsylvania supports existing robotics and STEM-focused clubs under its expanded learning opportunities landscape aiming at increasing STEM knowledge among participants.

Check out our other article to learn more about the different ways afterschool programs are funded.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Afterschool Programs

COVID-19 really messed with afterschool programs. These awesome programs used to reach tons of kids, but then schools closed and social distancing happened. Bummer.

But hey, some states are trying to make things better. They’re using federal relief funds to support afterschool programs and help students catch up. Smart move.

  • Funding Support: The CARES Act gave a bunch of money to schools, including $13.5 billion for afterschool programs. Cha-ching.
  • Safety Measures: Providers had to get creative with safety. Smaller groups, more cleaning, and masks became the new normal. Safety first.
  • Innovative Programming: Despite the challenges, some programs got super creative. They went remote, sent materials to homes, and even became emergency childcare for essential workers. Talk about thinking outside the box.

Now, let’s make sure afterschool programs aren’t just a temporary fix. Let’s ensure that afterschool programs become an integral component of our educational system, helping learners to attain success and bridge any disparity in accomplishment. They help students succeed and close those pesky achievement gaps. Let’s keep ’em going.

Key Elements for Successful Afterschool Programming

A successful after-school program is not merely a secure spot for pupils to go when classes are finished; it offers stimulating experiences that promote growth and learning, assisting kids in reaching their maximum capability. It provides enriching experiences that foster learning and development, helping children reach their full potential. But what makes an afterschool program successful? Here are some key elements:

  • Regular attendance: Students who attend high-quality afterschool programs on a regular basis show better outcomes in academics and behavior.
  • Appropriately trained staff: Staff members should have the necessary skills and training to provide support and guidance to students.
  • Safety measures: Ensuring student safety is paramount. This includes physical safety as well as emotional safety, where students feel respected and valued.
  • Academic support: Programs targeting at-risk youth can help close achievement gaps by providing academic assistance such as tutoring or homework help.
  • Sense of belonging: Creating a sense of belonging among participants fosters positive relationships between peers, with adults, and with the community at large.

Enhancing Social Skills through Afterschool Programs

In addition to academic benefits, participation in afterschool programs has been shown to enhance social skills. These programs offer opportunities for teamwork, leadership development, and conflict resolution – all critical life skills that extend beyond the classroom walls. In fact, research-based literacy interventions demonstrate how these initiatives have helped improve not only reading levels but also social-emotional competencies among participating students.

Building Confidence through Participation

Kids in afterschool programs have the opportunity to investigate different activities without the anxiety of not succeeding – something they may struggle with during school hours due to peer pressure or competition. This exploration leads directly to building confidence; when kids try new things successfully (or even fail but learn from it), they build self-esteem which translates into increased engagement in school activities.

Studies have shown increased STEM knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and overall interest in learning among those who participate regularly in these out-of-school time programs. These findings underscore why leveraging quality afterschool programs is crucial for creating confident learners ready for future challenges.

Key Takeaway: 

A successful afterschool program should have regular attendance, well-trained staff, safety measures in place, academic support, and a sense of belonging for students. Participation in these programs can enhance social skills and build confidence by providing opportunities for teamwork, leadership development, and exploration of new interests without fear of failure.

State-Specific Efforts Towards Quality Afterschool Programs

States are stepping up their game to improve afterschool programs. These programs offer kids more than just homework help after school – they provide enriching experiences and extra learning opportunities.

Some states have even created websites such as this one to compile data on afterschool programs. This facilitates educators, parents and decision-makers to gain access to data and observe the impact of these initiatives.

Promoting Student Leadership Through Non-Profit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations are doing their part to promote student leadership through afterschool programs. They work with schools and communities to create fun activities that teach teamwork, problem-solving, and resilience.

One great example is the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. They have programs specifically designed for at-risk youth, offering academic support, character development, health education, and sports and arts enrichment.

States are also establishing Expanded Learning Opportunities Councils (ELOCs) to shape the afterschool landscape. These councils help make policies that support out-of-school time programs.

Rhode Island’s ELOC is a standout. They’ve made big improvements in program quality through their ‘Quality Improvement System’ initiative. For more information, visit Rhode Island’s ELOC website.

Literacy Initiatives: A Key Focus Area

States are also focusing on literacy skills in afterschool programs. They’re rolling out comprehensive initiatives with research-based interventions to help kids become better readers.

For example, the Colorado Reading Corps provides one-on-one tutoring sessions that have significantly improved reading proficiency levels among participating students. Learn more about it on the Colorado Literacy Project website.

Future of Afterschool Programs

The future of afterschool programs is looking bright. These enriching afterschool programs will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of students, families, and communities. They’ll also be shaped by the latest research on child development and learning.

More states are recognizing the importance of access to quality afterschool programming for all students. They’re taking steps to ensure that these programs exist and are of high quality. Some states have even established expanded learning opportunities councils to develop strategies for increasing program availability and quality.

Funding for after-school activities is increasing significantly. The federal government has shown increased support through expanded learning opportunities grants, which have helped close achievement gaps among disadvantaged youth.

As we look ahead, technology will play a bigger role in afterschool programming. Online platforms and virtual reality tools may be used to provide engaging educational experiences outside the traditional classroom setting, especially for at-risk youth.

Leveraging Quality Afterschool Programs to Address Disrupted Learning Due to COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexible out-of-school time programs that can adapt quickly during crises while still providing valuable services. States have been leveraging quality afterschool programs as part of their recovery plans to address disrupted learning due to COVID-19. High-quality afterschool programs have been shown to result in improved academic performance compared to those who do not participate.

Promoting STEM Education and Literacy Through Afterschool Programming

In the future, we can expect to see a greater emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in afterschool settings. Some organizations have already provided research-based literacy interventions through comprehensive early literacy initiatives, while others have supported existing robotics programs, leading to increased STEM knowledge among participants.

Key Takeaway: 

The future of afterschool programs is promising, with more states recognizing their importance and increasing funding. Technology will also play a bigger role in providing engaging educational experiences outside the traditional classroom setting. Additionally, quality afterschool programs have been leveraged to address disrupted learning due to COVID-19, and there will be a greater emphasis on STEM education in these settings.

FAQs in Relation to Afterschool Programs

What does the research say about afterschool programs?

The research shows that afterschool programs can improve academic performance, reduce risky behaviors, and provide safe, structured environments for children.

What are the benefits of a great afterschool program?

A well-designed afterschool program promotes social skills development, improves academic performance, enhances self-esteem, and fosters leadership qualities in students.

What does the research by Afterschool Alliance say about afterschool programs?

Afterschool Alliance‘s research suggests that attending high-quality afterschool programs can lead to significant gains in test scores, work habits, and behavior improvements among disadvantaged students.

What are the main reasons that parents use afterschool programs?

Parents often choose afterschool programs not just for childcare, but also because they offer enriching activities that contribute positively to child development.


Afterschool programs: the secret sauce for reducing risky behaviors and boosting college and career readiness.

Despite the funding challenges, these programs have proven to be game-changers, improving students’ social skills and confidence levels.

State-specific efforts and non-profit organizations are stepping up to promote student leadership and make these programs accessible to all.

The future of afterschool programs? Brighter than ever! They’re ready to tackle the learning disruptions caused by COVID-19 head-on.

By leveraging quality afterschool programming, we can bridge the achievement gaps and prepare students for success.

If you are looking to start an afterschool program at your school, reach out to our team at

Last Updated on December 3, 2023 by Manuel Zavala

Manuel Zavala

Manuel Zavala is the founder of Manuel is a former high school career technical education teacher and founder of Student Hires LLC, a company committed to creating valuable job opportunties for students. is a community-centered approach towards afterschool programming led by Student Hires staff.

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