Quality youth programming matters

Youth who are given access to afterschool programs are not only given the opportunity to better themselves – they are also better equipped to put back into the community that provided for them.

The number of out-of-school programs has increased substantially over the past decade. There are many reasons for this increase, including the need for afterschool child care, a safe place to spend time and homework help. These programs provide an abundance of content enrichment opportunities for youth that can range from culture, science and art to recreation and nature programs. Afterschool programs can also provide alternatives to instructional methods focused on test preparation, individual needs, interests, imagination and time.

High-quality youth programs are linked to positive impacts on the development of young people. In turn, this is a great investment for our decision makers. On the other hand, a poor quality program can have a negative impact on youth. Care must be taken in the development, staffing and implementation of youth programs that are of substance. We also must be vigilant in assessing youth programs in our communities.

The idea of “instructional quality” matters as much in out-of-school programs as in formal education. Policy makers are very interested in the efforts made in local communities in regards to out-of-school opportunities provided to youth.

4-H and other youth organizations have a unique role to play in the education of youth. Informal afterschool programs offer learning opportunities that may not be available in traditional, formal school settings, but compliment formal education. Other advantages of out-of-school or informal education is the opportunity to adapt activities and lessons to the individual needs, abilities and interests of the youth. Many programs are bases on hands-on, experiential approaches to learning. Research shows youth retain 90 percent of what they learn when this type of learning is used.

If there aren’t afterschool programs in your community, consider starting one – if there are, be aware of the richness they offer to youth, their development and the fullness of their lives later on in life.

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