The after school hours are prime times for teens to get in trouble with the law, experiment with drugs and alcohol, and engage in other risky behaviors. Quality after-school activity programs can be beneficial to teens, families, and communities, and they don’t have to be boring.
Over 15 million youths, the majority of whom are teens, are alone and unsupervised between the hours of three and seven. For various reasons, including costs, lack of knowledge, and disinterest, among others, only about 15 percent of them participate in programs that challenge and engage them after school hours.
There are many after school activities that can provide benefits to teens in a variety of ways.
What ARE the Benefits to After-School Activities for Teens?
- Those who attend after-school programs do better in academic subjects in school, particularly reading and math. Standardized test scores are also higher for these teens. This can be because of tutoring and homework help, or it may simply be because they become more interested in succeeding.
- Improved attendance in school is another benefit of participating in after school programs. To attend the programs, especially those based in schools, youths must first attend their regular classes. Those who do not attend after-school programs are three times more likely to skip classes.
- Attendance in after-school programs can reduce the risk of high school drop-out.
- Drug use and sexual activity are also reduced for those attending after school activities. Youths who attend these programs are three times less likely to engage in these behaviors than those who do not.
- Some programs encourage physical activity. Even if the program is not a sport, it may take place in a facility, like a YMCA, that has equipment for students to use to become more physically fit.
- Parents also benefit. When their children are not enrolled in quality after-school programs, parents tend to worry and be less productive and thus miss work. Knowing that their children are engaged increases productivity in the workplace.
While all students will reap the rewards of top-notch programming, at risk youths are the most positively affected.
WHERE Should I Be Looking?
Many places offer after school programs that are geared especially for teens. Locations and options will vary based on your specific area.
Here are just a few places that may offer after-school activities:
- Local community centers often have a variety of activities and classes, and they provide a safe place for teens to hang out. Boys and Girls Clubs and city run centers are two possibilities.
- YMCAs also offer programs for youths of all ages. For example, over 1,000 YMCAs nationwide are offering year-round STEM activities to help nurture curiosity about the sciences and inspire creativity. They also offer outdoor programs, sports, and education and leadership activities geared towards teens.
- Libraries offer free programming for all different ages. For teens, there are often book clubs, classes, including computer literacy, and workshops for youths to take part in. Many even offer video game sessions, Lego building, and themed crafts.
- City Parks and Recreation Departments often offer after-school programs at low or no cost. Youth programming can include sports, classes, and homework help.
- Additionally, many schools also offer their own after-school programming for teens. These offerings can vary and may include sports, clubs, enrichment learning, tutoring, homework help and much more.
- Churches and religious institutions offer youth groups, field trips, and a safe place for teens to get together with friends.
- Some areas may have businesses that cater directly to teens after school. These could include art, karate, or dance schools, among others. What you will find may depend on your community.
What Types of Programs Are Available?
What does your teen like to do? Thinking about likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses of your teen can help you to find the right programs.
For example, in central Mississippi, a non-profit group works with the local high school providing programs for at risk youth. They offer programs in robotics and how to start your own business, for starters. The program director commented that the programs were much more interesting than being a member of a gang or going home alone.
Other programs may offer homework help for students who may otherwise struggle in their regular classes. Academic enrichment classes are another academic route. Would your teen like to learn a subject not taught in their regular school classes?
What Are the Costs?
The type and location of any after-school program will be a determining factor in the cost. In addition, some programs will offer a sliding scales or scholarships based on income.
There may be some programs that are actually free. While these can be high quality, they may not always be consistent. For example, the teen book club at the library may only be offered one day per week.
Still, who doesn’t like a free program? Sometimes, other programs can be fit together to form a schedule for the week.
One source notes that costs for after-school programs are up from just five years ago. On average, prices have gone from $44 per week to $67 per week.
Specialized activities like classes in dance or theater are likely to cost a bit more. There may also be supply fees, such as for an art class, or uniforms and equipment to purchase for a sport.
Some places have so many opportunities for teens that you may wonder where to start. Other areas are actually lacking.
After-school activity programs are becoming more popular, but there are not enough of them in many places. One study found that 4.6 million youths would participate in after-school programs if they were available to them.
Nonetheless, if you search in the right places, activities can usually be found.
Does your teen learn best by actually DOING things? Many students find that service learning programs are the most helpful. They build leadership skills, boost academic achievement, and enhance ties to the community, thus benefitting many people.
It is great when everyone benefits from youths who are focused on activities. Students achieve more, parents are more productive at work, and communities have fewer gangs and less drugs on the streets.
After-school activities can be the key to building more productive teens and turning them into productive adults.