Group of children petting a dog

After School Programs

Quality after school programs help promote children’s learning and ensure that children are in safe, productive activities during out-of-school time. United Way has been a long-time funder for after school programs in our region.  We currently focus on programs that promote literacy and math skills, and programs that promote children’s mental health.

The importance of literacy and math skills cannot be overstated. Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation rates and career success. Unfortunately, only 17 percent of low-income students in our region are reading at or above grade level.  Additionally, many children are struggling to keep up in math. As our society shifts to new and advanced technology, the majority of jobs in this country will require employees to possess more advanced math skills.

High quality before and after school programs can help children who are at risk for low academic achievement by intentionally focusing on activities such as:

  • Homework assistance
  • One-on-one tutoring
  • Connecting to grade-level benchmarks, standards, and the school-day curriculum to increase achievement
  • Providing real-world activities that connect to the broader community
  • Integrating technology
  • Planning activities that engage students and enhance skills across the curriculum
  • Supporting healthy relationships through high quality out of school time programs & mentoring

United Way also supports programs that improve children’s mental health.  Research indicates that trauma can have long lasting effects on the wellbeing of children that extends long into their adult life. The good news is that these effects can be mitigated by the development of skills that help children cope, recover from hardships, and be prepared for future challenges.

These skills, collectively known as resilience, enable children to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress. Such adaptation provides the scaffolding for not just personal gratification but academic success. The most common factor among children who develop resilience is the presence of at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. These relationships provide a buffer from developmental disruptions of key capacities such as the ability to plan and regulate behavior. These skills enable children to respond to adversity and thrive.

Out of school time programs that focus on mitigating the effects of stressful or traumatic environments by fostering resilience, such as mentoring initiatives, have been shown to be an effective vehicle for improving kids’ outcomes across behavioral, social, emotional, and academic domains. Programs or services that promote the social, emotional or behavioral health of youth can include a wide range of activities such as:

  • Counseling
  • Mentoring
  • Leadership development
  • Opportunities for positive social interaction/belonging, challenge and responsibility.

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