As one of Youth-Nex's main areas of focus, Out-of-School Time—the availability and accessibility of afterschool opportunities for schoolchildren—plays a key role in the lives of youth. From improving school attendance, decreasing the likelihood of dropping out, to improving decision-making skills, and providing access to physical activity, homework assistance, relationships with supportive adults, and even food security, afterschool programming is vital to youths' ability to thrive. When engaged in these kinds of prosocial activities and positive relationships during out-of-school hours, youth can flourish. Yet high quality out-of-school opportunities are not evenly distributed, with greater unmet need for youth from economically disadvantaged and/or racial minority backgrounds. Further, there is need to bolster program quality and training, professionalism, and reach of youth workers. Elevating the capacity of organizations requires sound training approaches, empirically based programming, and evaluation for decision making and impact tracking.
The 2014 Youth-Nex "Let's Talk After-School" Conference
In light of the significance of afterschool programming for youths' healthy development, Youth-Nex focused its 4th annual conference on the topic. Titled, "Let's Talk After-School," over 150 invited scholars, youth, educators, practitioners and policy-makers held discussions for two days on October 16-17, 2014.
VIEW THE INTERACTIVE DIGITAL BOOK
CONFERENCE VIDEO and Panel Descriptions:
OPENING PANEL: Why Does After-School Matter from a PYD Perspective? (Moderator: Nancy Deutsch)
Everyone at the conference probably agrees that after-school matters. But how does considering after-school from a positive youth development lens shape how we think about the role and importance of after-school time? This panel set the foundation for the conference by discussing the role of after-school in supporting positive youth development. Highlights included a 30-year follow-up from a key study of exemplar after-school programs, an exploration of after-school and extended learning in the middle school years, and the current policy context.
Milbrey McLaughlin, Ed.D. - “Breaking the Cycle: A 30 Year Retrospective on the Contribution of a Community-Based Youth Program” (David Jacks Professor, Education & Public Policy, Emerita, Stanford University)
Dru Tomlin, Ph.D. - “Triumphs, Challenges & the Bright Road Ahead: Young Adolescents, Effective Middle Schools, & OST” (Director, Middle Level Services, Association for Middle Level Education, AMLE)
PANEL 1 - Evaluating Outcomes Of Effective After-School Programs (Moderator: Joanna Williams)
Many after-school programs struggle with documenting the impacts their services have on youth. This panel reported on evaluation techniques and effects of after-school programs. Panelists discuss measuring youth participation and engagement, the average effects of after-school programs on different youth outcomes, and measuring skill development, and presented an example of how one organization has incorporated evaluation in its ongoing work.
Workshop Sessions - (individual breakout sessions, no video)
Workshops offered attendees the opportunity to engage in a small-group discussion of best practices in specific types of after-school programs. Six concurrent workshops were co-facilitated by a researcher and a practitioner and some featured a youth from the practitioner’s program. The workshop began with brief presentations from each facilitator. Workshop attendees were invited to share experiences and practices and to pose questions to the leaders to provide opportunity for learning from others involved in the same type of programs.
Opportunities and Challenges in:
Comprehensive After-School Centers: Barton J. Hirsch, Ph.D. (Northwestern University), James Pierce, M.Ed. and Youth: Ariana Morris (Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia)
STEM & SEL After-School Programs: Gil Noam, Ph.D., Ed.D. (Harvard University), Kala Somerville and Youth: Erica Jackson, M.S.W. (Computers4Kids - C4K)
Arts-Based After-School Programs: Valerie A. Futch, Ph.D. (University of Virginia), Sibley Johns, M.Ed, and Youth: Robert Shelton (The Music Resource Center)
Mentoring After-School Programs: Jean Rhodes, Ph.D. (University of Massachusetts Boston), Jackie Bright (Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge)
Sports-Based After-School Programs: Rita DeBate, Ph.D., M.P.H., F.A.E.D., F.A.A.H.B. (University of South Florida), Ellen S. Markowitz, Ph.D. (SuperStarters Sports; PowerPlay NYC)
Educational-Empowerment-Based Interventions: Paul C. Harris, Ph.D. and Youth: Kendell Dennis (Men Passionately Pursuing Purpose - MP3, University of Virginia), Carol Easterlin Freeman, M.Ed. (Charlottesville High School)
PANEL 2 - What Makes The Magic Happen? Key Components of Effective After-School Programs (Moderator: Gil Noam)
There are many moving parts in every after-school program. But what are the key ingredients that make a program truly successful? This panel considered what research and practice tell us about important components of programs and organizations. Panelists focused on the importance of belief systems, creating relationships, the role of youth engagement, and the practices of expert staff.
PANEL 3 - Specialized Programs (Moderator: Catherine Bradshaw)
There are many different kinds of after-school programs, providing different types of services to different youth. This panel featured four programs that were developed to serve either a specific population of youth or to provide a specific type of experience. Panelists, including some of the founders of the programs featured and youth who have participated in the programs, considered the needs their programs were created to fill, challenges they have faced and how they have addressed those challenges, and what youth have gained from their programs.
PANEL 4 - Views From The Field: What Staff, Youth, And Evaluators Say About Best Practices (Moderator: Noelle Herd)
This panel focused on best practices from the views of evaluators, practitioners and youth. What can programs do, on a daily basis, to make their programs as effective as they can be? Panelists spoke about what we have learned about effective after-school programming from evaluations of summer learning programs as well as major after-school programs, on best practices in informal settings, and the importance of particular practices, such as mentoring, that occur within programs.
Brenda Abanavas and Youth Participant: Melissa Gonzales-Maguiña - “The Impact of Effective Mentor Relationships in Promoting Successful Integration of STEM Activities in After-School Informal Learning Environments” (Program Manager, Geographic Liaison, Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, Boston Museum of Science)
Breakout Sessions: Youth Perspectives: What Do Teens Want in After-School Time? (no video)
Youths who are current or former participants in after-school programs joined attendees at their tables for an informal discussion about their experiences in after-school programming. They discussed what they expect from after-school programs, and what attracts and deters them from participation. The youth also fielded questions from those seated at their table.
Wrap-Up Panel - Shaping Policy and Practice for Effective After-School Programming (Moderator: Nancy Deutsch)
What was learned over the two day conference? How can we take what we have learned and apply it to our own work and to promoting after-school in a policy context? This panel connected themes from across the two days and considered next steps for the field in research, practice, and advocacy. Panelists considered: What makes quality programs, the importance of community partnerships, how to think about evidence more broadly and use it more effectively, how to reach kids who aren’t currently being served by an after-school program, and how to better evaluate programs from a PYD perspective to understand impact and inform practice and policy. (Since speakers responded to the days’ discussions, talk titles were not provided)
The Washington Post consulted with conference chair and Youth-Nex faculty, Nancy Deutsch, in their story, "Group Calls for Increased Investment in After-school Programming”
NBC29: "4th Annual Conference Held at UVA"
Charlottesville Tomorrow published an in-depth synopsis here: "Youth Development Conference Highlights After-School Programs"