The Impact After-School Programs Can Have on Students

Richard Lawrence
Richard Lawrence
Elementary school principal; M.A. in School Administration
Students in an after-school program gather around a table as a teacher instructs them how to build a robot vehicle.

During the 2006 through 2008 school years, I spent my first two years as a new school administrator running an after-school program for grades sixth through eighth and third through fifth called the “Boost Program.”

“Boost” stood for “Buena Out of School Time”, named after the district I work in. The program was funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. This grant, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, is “a competitive grant that provides federal funding to establish community learning centers that provide academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families.”

The purpose of the program was two-fold:

  1. Provide an hour of time for students to work on homework and reinforcement practice for their regular academic classes.
  2. Provide two hours of enrichment classes (one hour per session) with content outside the traditional material that is taught and covered during the regular school day.

The “Boost” program was well-attended and popular among students and parents alike. It gave students the opportunity to get assistance with their regular classwork and experience content outside the regular academics’ realms. For parents, it was a break from rushing home after work and worrying about whether their children would safely make it home.

This was my personal experience with running an after-school program. For the rest of the article, I will be looking at some of the after-school programs available in the United States and the core elements of an effective after-school program.

What is an After-School Program?

According to The Utah Department of Workforce Services Office of Child Care, such programs take place at schools, community centers, parks, recreation centers, daycare centers, and from family home providers. They define after-school programs “broadly as any program that provides childcare for elementary and middle school youth when students are not at school, and parents are not at home.”

What Benefits Do After-School Programs Provide Students?

After-school programs provide a multitude of benefits for students:

  • A “safe space” during after school hours, especially in more economically hard-pressed areas with higher rates of crime and poverty
  • Extra academic assistance for students for their regular academic course work
  • Access to enrichment activities where content that is not normally accessible to students during the regular school day is taught
  • Field trips to various historical and cultural sites and fun activities like weekly swimming, water parks, and movie theaters
  • A chance to build relationships with students they do not normally encounter during the regular school day (different grade levels and academic tracks) and even deeper relationships with students they do
  • An inexpensive or free avenue to childcare for parents who need financial assistance or work longer hours
  • A chance to do community service work

Types of After-School Programs

After-school programs encompass more than the conventional program that takes place in a school directly after dismissal; they also include recreation center programs, summer camps, programs in parks, daycare centers, and family home providers.

Tips to Get Started at Your School

After-school programs can operate in varying capacities, including for-profit entities, non-profit organizations, and school-based or government-based providers. Schools can look to their state for grants that are available. The program I ran was funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers; a grant funded by the federal government at the time. States are not the only source of such grants, so make sure an exhaustive search of funding sources has been done.

Once a source of funding has been identified, a committee operating under the lead of an appointed administrator or other point person is a good route to take. A needs assessment survey can be done and administered among students, parents, and staff. This will give the school a good idea of the direction to take for the after-school program. The size of the school, the socioeconomic profile, and other demographic factors will also determine the type of program that will be created.

After these steps have been taken, the administration of the program will be the next step. This will include identifying and establishing the specific site, creating a curriculum, a basic schedule, hiring staff, transportation, and more.


There will be far more details to any after-school program, but I’ve attempted to lay out the basics here. After-school programs are a beneficial and worthy undertaking for any school. If you end up being a part of an effort to establish an after-school program, make sure you are thorough and as detailed as possible in your approach to help best meet the needs of your students.

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