The Lifeline of Out-of-School Time Spaces

The possibility in…out-of-school time spaces.

During the last full week of April each year, we recognize and honor those who work with youth during out-of-school hours. Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week celebrates the joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child development workers and individuals who commit to creating quality learning experiences for young people when the school day ends.

Advocates and practitioners in the out-of-school time (OST) field know the impact that quality programs have on youth, their families, and on communities.  Some, outside of the field, have questioned the value of such programs, and the measurable outcomes of what they do.  Once again, there’s the threat of losing funding that supports these programs.  Advocates and practitioners in the field understand (on a deeper level) how vital safe after school spaces are for millions of youth and families.

Out-of-school time programs transform, and save lives.  In that way, they are truly lifelines.

lifeline

Young people with nothing to do during out-of-school hours miss out on essential opportunities for their positive growth and development.  The odds are much higher that youth with nothing positive to do and nowhere to go will find things to do that negatively influence their futures.

During my time as a practitioner in the field, I saw firsthand how quality OST programming can make significant investments in the lives of youth. These programs and the learning experiences they offer can be the lifeline that young people need during the hours when they are most vulnerable and in need of safe places to go.

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With funding from the Atlantic City Education Foundation, Res/ili/entwas presented to the youth of Atlantic City as an out-of-school time initiative that combined arts & humanities with the social sciences.

This interactive learning experience was designed as a springboard for ideas that would encourage the youth to go out (with a camera and notebook) and discover what existed in their own neighborhoods— capturing images & writing entries about what they experienced.  These activities culminated in a student art installation at The Noyes Arts Garage of Stockton University where the visual work and writings of the students were showcased to the public.

The museum generously donated an empty studio space for the project and told us to create something.  Together, the students & I, envisioned and co-designed a space where all people could go to be inspired to pursue their own possibilities—via inspirational writings and artifacts of human resilience all curated by the students.

Anyone questioning the value of after school programs should consider all the millions of youth and families in our country that depend on them, then simply ask themselves: “How can we sever such a vital lifeline?”

(c) 2018 Devan Blackwell, M.A.

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