Instilling Hope with After-School Programs

photo by lori059871 on Flickr

LaVerne DaCosta is a Ph.D. student and faculty associate, teaching education and society courses at Arizona State University.  Her Master of Science research focused on youth services.  Her current research interest is in youth culture and technology.


From my brief profile above, I am sure you already know where my passion lies.  I believe in the creative potential of young people, and I believe strongly in the value of after-school programs as a resource to help foster and sustain that potential. 


The research on after-school recreation programs, which includes my own Master of Science research, has shown that after-school programs can be beneficial to students, particularly children from underserved communities and/or adolescents who are trying to form their individual identity and are particularly vulnerable to structural or environmental factors that leave them exposed to risk.  Such students tend to act out their aggressions, mistrust and hopelessness in a myriad of counter-productive ways. 


The public school classroom is the one place that such students seldom get the help they need.  The structure of schools and classroom discipline only serve to exacerbate the problem.  Regular participation by young people in after-school recreation programs, however, can have an impact on reducing their negative behaviors.


Additionally, the numerous literature indicate that because the factors that affect young people’s behaviors are inter-related, after-school recreation programs which help to reduce negative behavior, juvenile delinquency, and violent crime also help to build self-esteem, ego-resiliency and ultimately impact their academic achievement.  After-school recreation programs can help maltreated children and transitional foster-care children cope with a variety of issues in their lives and contribute to goals such as self-efficacy and positive development.  Practice is the key to building confidence and these programs provide this space through enrichment curriculum with the exclusion of any grand theory of success and failure.


Children in foster care tend to be an overlooked population because they appear to be in stable home environments.  However, this is the group that falls through the cracks most often.  Effective support requires that the entire immediate family be involved.  Thus, an efficient program gives special attention to the environment in which the children spend most of their time and to those with whom they have frequent interactions.  In cases where parents, including foster parents, are not capable of providing support to their children, community recreation programs can provide support for those parents. 


An important lesson from my research is that many of the parents do need to be supported in order to provide adequate support to their children.  Community programs that are designed to include parents have proven to be successful as well.  In these family support programs, parents form networking groups, creating functional and emotional attachments to other parents and becoming effective role models for their children.


For this population of young people, the provision of safe, positive environments offers them a sense of hope, which is a major goal of many after-school programs. I believe there ought to be as much value placed on the kind of “informal” learning that takes place in afterschool programs and community centers as is placed on the formal, cognitive-based learning that takes place in schools.


The good news is that I serve on the board of an organization that is doing great community work.  A New Leaf offers several types of social services at numerous sites throughout the East Valley and West Valley, Arizona.  The services include transition-family homeless shelter, youth residential treatment, immediate crisis intervention for youth and parents, emergency rent and utility payments, and a shelter for single men — just to name a few.  Organizations such as A New Leaf and CLTL give hope to those who are struggle through life.  I believe this is the meaning of “Changing Lives.”


4 thoughts on “Instilling Hope with After-School Programs

  1. Laverne:I admire your work there in Arizona and agree that an impoltant dimension to working with children is to build a community which includes, if possible, the parents. We have tried versions of CLTL in the public schools with some success, and part of that success, I believe, is connected to the way stories can help bring people together, parents and children. Literature can help build a neighborhood, and, if fortunate, that new neighborhood turns out to be more interesting and exciting than the neighborhood created by street gangs.

  2. I’d like to make some comments that I suspect you will find very unwelcome. I am extremely skeptical about you, and your efforts. The comment that made me especially hostile you your words was this: “enrichment curriculum with the exclusion of any grand theory of success and failure.”
    I am a former prisoner. I was brought up in the state of New Hampshire, attending grammar school and high school there. Although I despised school, I did manage to become relatively erudite, mostly though self-education. Although they are probably exemplary of most of the teachers in America, I considered, and still consider, almost all of my teachers to be incompetent hacks. We agree, then, that school children do not get what they need in the classroom. However, the idea that
    after-school programs are the answer seem profoundly asinine, especially when you heap contempt upon the idea that you should be held accountable for results. Unless there have been comparison tests with control groups, there is NO evidence to suggest that your after-school programs are any more effective than simply herding the children into a corral and keeping watch over them until they can go home. It could be strongly argued that children simply get into less trouble when they are under supervision, ANY sort of supervision, whether that be touchy-feely socialist-propaganda liberal-political-correctness-fascist supervision, or not. I am not a conservative. Far from it. But when I moved to Washington DC, it became vividly obvious that most “programs” and government agencies, are staffed by incompetent hacks whose primary interest is going through the motions and collecting a check made up of TAX dollars, money that people have been forced to pay, and that these hacks are NOT held up to ANY standards of performance, results or accountability whatsoever. The entire culture of persons living in Washington DC has been poisoned by this attitude of entitlement and immuntity from accountability. I see you as just another manifestation of thta disease.

  3. Installing Hope with after-school programs

    I think it is wonderful that Laverne DeCosta has been able to initiate the after-school programs as it goals are to reduce the temptations and negative force that our youth face everyday. Once again someone has identified another area in which humanity has failed. In my opinion we the people have failed, we elect individuals who acknowledge education and our youth as a ongoing concern, but do nothing more than acknowledge and pass bills that are not readily available to those who don’t know how to access them. For instance the Obama stimulus grant, how many underpriveledged youth are going to wake up oneday and say let me review that grant. Just like the after-school programs, these are suppose to be community programs, which are typically supported through community grants or residental taxes, yet most of them require a monthly fee from families who are awaiting a monthly check. Not only are foster children being overlooked, many low-income children are also being overlooked as the school boards system have set state guidlines that require teachers to meet certain criterias, like ACT/SAT which has become a state competitions. Teachers have first hand knowledge on the needs of students, yet they are forbidden in a way to pay special attention to the individual needs of a student and forget it, when it comes to foster children unless they have a foster parent who knows anything about the IDP (individual development plan) of the foster child, those plans are rarely review. The issue could be due to their frequency in transition, however the issue is that they are overlooked. Years ago, the after-school programs were free to all, regardless of their income, or family status it was an open and caring program, most of the workers were volunteers, now most of them are making it a place of employment . To some it was a way to escape their negative environments, it was a social club that not only built hope, it built character, it strengthen skills, it educated the slower learners and encouraged others to exceed, it was a community in itself, it was a big brother, big sister club, a social hour, where youth could express themselves and if a brawl broke out, the counselors where there to help you work it out or talk it out. They even had punching bags, and other activities that helped you to work out your frustrations or competiveness. I don’t think they can do all that now, whichout a price attached. Can you tell me if it is that today, or has it become a money making institution like most social services which are income based. It would be a great investment if communities renacted the after-school programs of old.

  4. For many low-class students throughout the United States, the ability for recreation in an after-school safe environment can be somewhat difficult to find. Therefore, Laverne DeCosta is providing a safe environment that will benefit the students involved in the program by increasing confidence, social skills, and the ability to interact with their peers in a pressure-free haven. In many low-income areas, the only positive environment that a student can prosper in is his or her school. Their home might not have a positive environment because of many reasons like poor parenting, a bad neighborhood, and/or negative peer influences. Studies show that the one of the most important aspects of becoming a successful student, thus possibly leading to a successful person in society, is parental involvement in a their student’s schooling. This after-school recreation program should feature an area where students can work on homework while being supervised by teachers who contain the knowledge needed to help on certain homework problems. Because some low-income parents provide minimal, if no, parental involvement, the after-school program will be effective in minimizing this deficiency. There are many reasons for low parental involvement, and these reasons can be cultural, financial, and/or social. For some parents, they simply do not possess the skills needed to help their kids on homework. A cultural reason for decreased parental involvement is that some parents simply believe that the job of teacher is to teach, and the job of the parent is to be a parent. These parents will not help their children on homework, and do not see the long-term effect that simply assisting their kids on homework will have on their future and well-being. In saying this, I agree with Laverne that parents need to support their children. The after-school recreation program definitely needs this revision, which will foster an educational culture that will benefit the students by showing the importance of academics. These tutors will also serve as counselors to effectively work out conflicts between students, and help show them the significance of fostering relationships in this harsh world. Not only will this after-school program be effective by keeping students away from a bad environment where trouble might be lurking, but also provide a culture based around excelling in academics. Many students, especially elementary to middle school, are at an impressionable age where the ability to have a positive impact on a student’s life is fairly easy and all about contact. Therefore, these students in the after-school program will have the counselors serve as role models, and provide the students with the relationships, tools, and skills needed to increase their self-esteem, confidence in their abilities, and academic skills. The importance of parental involvement is very important in a kids’ education, and this service will enlighten the parents and push them towards increasing their involvement in their childrens’s schooling. This positive environment will benefit the kids in many ways, and more after-school programs are needed throughout the country to help students excel in school, and ultimately, life.

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