Problem Definition

According to the Afterschool Alliance, there are 20-25 hours per week that youth are out of school while parents are at work (Afterschool Alliance). This “after-school gap” during the critical hours after school releases is a time when youth are likely to engage in risky behaviors. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national youth development organization, asserts that these are “the peak hours for teens to commit crimes, be in or cause car crashes, be victims of crime, and smoke, drink and use drugs” (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids). According to a Nellie Mae Education Foundation study comparing youth who participate in extracurricular activities to those who do not, those who do not participate are “6 times for likely to have dropped out of school by their senior year [and]…are about 75% more likely to smoke cigarettes or use drugs as sophomores” (Miller). We believe that afterschool programs provide youth a safe space that occupies and productively engages the time – and minds – of youth.

Specifically within the Charlottesville/Albemarle area, there is an increased concern for the well being of the students and their future achievements.  With regards to poverty, and thus, increased barriers to success, the ratio of students approved for free/reduced meals in the City of Charlottesville sat at 54% compared to the Virginia state average of 37% according to the Stepping Stones report provided by the Charlottesville/Albemarle Commission on Children and Families (Stepping Stones).  Also, the same report found that the percentage of juvenile delinquency judgments in the Charlottesville area is 13.1% as compared to the Virginia state average of 7.5% (Stepping Stones).  Additionally, there is an increasing trend in the number of both drug/alcohol possessions in public schools and the number of investigations in response to allegations of child abuse or neglect in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area.  These statistics together serve to demonstrate the prevalence of the risky behaviors that students within the area are engaging in – often higher than the state averages – and thus the need for intervention from organizations and experts in the community.

Fortunately, there are statistics that demonstrate that afterschool programs have a positive impact on youth development. Nicole Zarrett and Richard M. Lerner wrote that “the more activities in which an adolescent has participated [afterschool], the higher the adolescent scored on scales of positive youth development and contribution to family, school, and the community at large” (Zarrett and Lerner). These researchers found that in low-income communities, afterschool programs are especially effective in countering the negative risky behaviors of youth during unsupervised time after school ends. Also, Zarrett and Lerner cite the “4-H Study of Positive Youth Development,” a project initiated by the National 4-H Council to attempt to understand the relationship between after school involvement and youth achievement among 4-H Club participants. Some of the implications of this study can be seen in Figure 1 below.

We fervently agree with the idea that “children’s minds don’t stop after 3PM” (Education Week). Afterschool programs provide a safe space for youth, keeping them out of trouble, which is more likely to occur during the unsupervised critical hours. But also, afterschool programs provide a space for youth to learn new skills and develop as adults. We believe that afterschool programs will close the “after-school gap” providing an outlet through which youth can learn and develop life skills, and engage in physical and mental activities.

Additionally, we believe in a growing movement in youth development centered around a focus on “21st century skills.” The idea behind this movement is that, as the fundamental structure of society changes with the rise of the Internet and globalization, the skills that are required for success change as well. As defined by a research project at the University of Melbourne these skills include creativity, creative problem solving, personal and social responsibility, and decision-making (ATC21S). We have chosen to support organizations that foster these 21st century skills, with a specific focus on creativity and decision-making through the arts – because, according to the President’s committee on the arts and humanities, “students with high involvement in the arts, including minority and low-income students, performed better in school and stayed in school longer than students with low involvement, the relative advantage increasing over the school years.”


Works Cited

  1. “After-School Programs.” Education Week. Editorial Projects in Education, 2004. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <>.
  2. “Afterschool Programs: Keeping Kids – and Communities – Safe.” Afterschool Alert: Issue Brief. Afterschool Alliance, 2007. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <>.
  3. Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills. University of Melbourne, n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <>.
  4. Lerner, Richard M., and Nicole Zarrett. Ways to Promote the Positive Development of Children and Youth. Research rept. no. 2008-11. Washington, DC.: Child Trends, 2008.
  5. Miller, Beth M., Ph.D. “Critical Hours.” Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Nellie Mae Education Foundation, 2003. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <>.
  6. New York City’s Out-of-School Time Choice. New York: Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2007. Print.
  7. President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools, Washington, DC, May 2011. Web. 7 Apr. 2013 <>.
  8. “Stepping Stones.” Charlottesville / Albemarle Commission on Children and Families. Charlottesville / Albemarle Commission on Children and Families, 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <>.