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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Why After-School Programs Matter

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
In this time of international financial crisis, it is even more imperative that opportunities that assist students academically, economically, and emotionally rise from grassroots efforts.

Liahona Youth Empowerment is a Polynesian organization doing exactly this. Nate and Linda Dudoit have given freely from their hearts to create a multifaceted service program for special-needs and at-risk youth.

The word liahona refers to a holistic approach, or navigational direction, based on personal empowerment through proper physical, spiritual, and life-skills training. Their chosen vehicle is after-school programs in Hawaii held in local parks and community centers.

In fall 2009, nearly 700 students will apply to participate in the five Liahona programs: Strength/Condition, Healthy Bodies Education, Performing Arts, Dance and Music, Vocational and Computer Programs and Life Enrichment, and Senior Volunteers. It is the design and delivery of these programs -- not the labels -- that has drawn students to the organization for three years.

The young people come to Liahona programs because they know they are valued as individuals who have something to contribute to the team, or dance troupe, or fitness group. Their efforts are rewarded intrinsically -- a new experience for many of them -- as they heal feelings of isolation, fear, anger, frustration, and failure.

They interact with local football heroes from the University of Hawaii who serve as volunteers, mentors, and role models. Athletes who go on to mainland universities return to talk story about their journey in reaching their goals.

These role models give the youth a purpose and a passion that is real. The children get to see for themselves that the volunteers, who grew up in the same communities, have carved out a space for themselves while retaining the uniqueness of their own Hawaiian culture and values such as teamwork, responsibility, and humility.

Liahona believes that setting a direction with specific goals and objectives is essential for each youth prior to enrollment. It is mandatory that each child meet with a program counselor prior to enrollment and that they see the counselor to assess their progress quantitatively.

The organization works closely with community youth organizations, local fitness experts, and Hawaii public and private schools. Liahona's popular Strength and Condition Program consists of one-on-one and group training for children and young adults up to three times a week for one- to two-hour sessions.

Liahona and SPARQ (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, and Quickness) teamed up to develop a unique program that includes lifting free weights, machine apparatus, ply metrics, cardiovascular, yoga, Pilates, and other modalities to help develop their physical, psychological, mental, and emotional well-being.

Volunteers with expertise in areas of health, fitness, and sports hold age-appropriate workshops and classes for kids on topics that support the organization's goals, expanding into areas like safety in sports, how to avoid injuries, proper nutrition, and calculating calories.

Liahona's mission is to build multiple pathways for all kids to be successful. Indeed, the long-term vision includes growing large enough to serve youth in Polynesian communities all around the Pacific Rim.

For Liahona, youth empowerment starts with visualizing success, and, like a rainbow reflecting the light of many prisms, stretches across valleys of time and space to hopefully inspire other grassroots efforts in other communities.

Are you inspired? Has your school or community empowered children in ways similar to this after-school program?

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Comments (22)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Brandy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that after school programs are effective and they can give so much more to students than we can imagine. My district and school does not have an after school program. However, I believe that it should. I work at a low socioeconomic school and so many of the children go home to empty homes with no parental supervision. In elementary, it is hard for a student to be responsible to do their homework or study for a subject. If we had an afterschool program, it will give students the extra help they need, but it also will teach them more social skills as well as life skills. I believe that having an after school program will help bridge the gap between communities and school and the students will have a better chance at succeeding instead if getting into trouble. No matter what socioeconomic level all students deserve the chance to better themselves.

Maria 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Liahona Youth Empowerment sounds like a great afterschool program. Our school has an afterschool program. It includes an addtional hour of students sitting and learning (not from our core curriculum), an hour for them to do as much of their homework as they can and then the rest of the time its the babysitters club. Most of the students just hang out and really do not get any homework done. The program is funded by the State of California and we, the teachers and staff, have no say in what they do.

Mary Martin's picture
Mary Martin
Eighth grade English teacher from Aiken, South Carolina

I agree wholeheartedly that afterschool programs offer so much for students who otherwise would go home to empty houses. I have taught in my school's afterschool program for the past four years, and I have witnessed the constriction that our program has experienced due to budget cuts. The first year that I participated, our program offered a wide variety of activities such as horseback riding, art, music appreciation, math and language arts tutoring, and a strings program.
Slowly but surely the program has whittled down to two days a week with the only emphasis being to raise student scores in reading on our state standardized test.

With such a narrow focus, it is hard to keep the students enthused. Does anyone have any suggestions as to literacy activities or projects that might appeal to middle schoolers?

Phil's picture
Phil
Teacher and Ed-Tech Blogger at BrokenAirplane.com

I cannot say enough about how grateful I am to those who introduced me to after school programs.

This article inspired me to write in my blog about it. I hope it inspires you as well.

BrokenAirplane.com - Afterschool Programs

Kent Leung's picture

Out-of-School Time (OST) is undoubtedly one of the most important times in a child's life. Although there are numerous studies that have proven the value of high quality after-school programs, I would like to discuss the benefits using an example from my childhood. When I attended elementary school I participated in many after-school activities from art to sports, but no other activity impacted me as much as the after-school chess club.

Every Wednesday a chess coach would visit to teach us chess strategies and tactics. Although I must admit much of his time was spent teaching us how to sit still, but on those special moments when all the children listened to the story of the origins and history of chess, it was truly magical. I recall being in a sense of awe knowing that we were playing a game which kings have played for centuries. The class was taught by my late mentor Gus Gosselin, he taught us the value of thinking ahead, planning, and understanding the consequences of your actions.

Beyond the lessons in chess he taught us that life is about making choices, much like the ones you make on a chess board. Gus empowered the children to understand that chess was the great equalizer, regardless of gender, creed, ethnicity, and socio-economic class; all are equal when you start a chess game. Possibly more interesting was the concept he taught that you can't win every game and you are bound to have defeats along the way, but it is how you deal with setbacks on and off the chess board the defines you. As Gus would say every failure would get you one step closer to victory.

I would like to make clear that my blog post is not intended to be a tribute to my former mentor, but more importantly a tribute to all the "Gus's" in the world. The after-school paid or un-paid staff that dedicate a part of themselves every week to children who may or may not appreciate their commitment. This is also similar to impact the local football heroes made to the children in Liahona Youth Empowerment program. There are children all over the world looking for role models just like Gus, a person who dedicated his life to the community, after-school programs, service, and educating children. Gus was generous with his finances, but more importantly with his heart. In 2004, Gus received the prestigious honor of becoming a recipient of the Governor's Point of Light award. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts gave Gus this award for his generosity and dedication to after-school programs and volunteerism. Long story short, if it was not for the lessons I learned on and off the chess board I wouldn't have learned one of the most important lessons that has molded my character. It is not only about making moves, going through the motions; it is the impact of your moves on the outcome of the game. This epiphany has given me the idea that I wanted to make a difference in lives of children.

The impact of after-school programs has fundamentally changed my outlook on life. Before Gus Gosselin's passing he asked me to dedicate my life to living a happy fulfilling life. When I asked him what made his life fulfilling he simply smiled and said to me it was teaching children just like me. Serendipitously the same day after speaking with Gus I received a high-level promotion at a large company in the finance sector. Immediately after receiving the offer of promotion I quit my job, left my office, left corporate life, and opened up a chess coaching company and learning center. I can honestly say I have never regretted that decision. I applaud all those who dedicate their lives to their community, volunteerism, and after-school enrichment programming. Even if I am able to share an ounce of the passion Gus showed to children I feel that I have lived a happy fulfilling live.

I am currently happily running a successful chess coaching company and learning center. I am humbled by the fact my chess coaching company, the International Chess Institute is ranked as one of the best chess institutes in the United States. Even my learning center is doing reasonably with high attendance and students are improving their test scores through tutoring. One of my principles reasons for creating the learning center was to provide a safe nurturing environment for children. I wanted children to feel that their needs were being met. For this reason I am a believer in Howards Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory. I fervently believe that all children have talents and certain type of intelligence(s) . These talents cannot always be so easily defined by standardized test and believe the merit of a child surpasses their IQ. If experience has taught me anything I feel that emotional intelligence (EQ) is possibly a stronger indicator of success in adult life. I have met many "intelligent people" who lack interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, and ability to deal with problems; all attributes that a high EQ would help solve. I think many of these benefits can be found through after-school programs that facilitate socialization to much high degree than in a traditional classroom setting.

If anyone liked anything I that I wrote or have any questions please feel free to visit Excelsior Learning Center or Internatioanl Chess Institute

I hope I did not bore anyone with my long comment on this blog. After I started writing the comment I got inspired and just kept writing. Before I knew it my comment was very long. Thank you for anyone who read my entire comment.

Kent Leung's picture

Out-of-School Time (OST) is undoubtedly one of the most important times in a child's life. Although there are numerous studies that have proven the value of high quality after-school programs, I would like to discuss the benefits using an example from my childhood. When I attended elementary school I participated in many after-school activities from art to sports, but no other activity impacted me as much as the after-school chess club.

Every Wednesday a chess coach would visit to teach us chess strategies and tactics. Although I must admit much of his time was spent teaching us how to sit still, but on those special moments when all the children listened to the story of the origins and history of chess, it was truly magical. I recall being in a sense of awe knowing that we were playing a game which kings have played for centuries. The class was taught by my late mentor Gus Gosselin, he taught us the value of thinking ahead, planning, and understanding the consequences of your actions.

Beyond the lessons in chess he taught us that life is about making choices, much like the ones you make on a chess board. Gus empowered the children to understand that chess was the great equalizer, regardless of gender, creed, ethnicity, and socio-economic class; all are equal when you start a chess game. Possibly more interesting was the concept he taught that you can't win every game and you are bound to have defeats along the way, but it is how you deal with setbacks on and off the chess board the defines you. As Gus would say every failure would get you one step closer to victory.

I would like to make clear that my blog post/comment is not intended to be a tribute to my former mentor, but more importantly a tribute to all the "Gus's" in the world. The after-school paid or unpaid staff that dedicate a part of themselves every week to children who may or may not appreciate their commitment. This is also similar to impact the local football heroes made to the children in Liahona Youth Empowerment program. There are children all over the world looking for role models just like Gus, a person who dedicated his life to the community, after-school programs, service, and educating children. Gus was generous with his finances, but more importantly with his heart. In 2004, Gus received the prestigious honor of becoming a recipient of the Governor's Point of Light award. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts gave Gus this award for his generosity and dedication to after-school programs and volunteerism. Long story short, if it was not for the lessons I learned on and off the chess board I wouldn't have learned one of the most important lessons that has molded my character. It is not only about making moves, going through the motions; it is the impact of your moves on the outcome of the game. This epiphany has given me the idea that I wanted to make a difference in lives of children.

The impact of after-school programs has fundamentally changed my outlook on life. Before Gus Gosselin's passing he asked me to dedicate my life to living a happy fulfilling life. When I asked him what made his life fulfilling he simply smiled and said to me it was teaching children just like me. Serendipitously the same day after speaking with Gus I received a high-level promotion at a large company in the finance sector. Immediately after receiving the offer of promotion I quit my job, left my office, left corporate life, and opened up a chess coaching company and learning center. I can honestly say I have never regretted that decision. I applaud all those who dedicate their lives to their community, volunteerism, and after-school enrichment programming. Even if I am able to share an ounce of the passion Gus showed to children I feel that I have lived a happy fulfilling live.

I am currently happily running a successful chess coaching company and learning center. I am humbled by the fact chess coaching company, the International Chess Institute is ranked as one of the best chess institutes in the United States. Even my learning center is doing reasonably with high attendance and students are improving their test scores through tutoring. One of my principles reasons for creating the learning center was to provide a safe nurturing environment for children. I wanted children to feel that their needs were being met.

For this reason I am a believer in Howards Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory. I fervently believe that all children have talents and certain type of intelligence(s) . These talents cannot always be so easily defined by standardized test and believe the merit of a child surpasses their IQ. If experience has taught me anything I feel that emotional intelligence (EQ) is possibly a stronger indicator of success in adult life. I have met many "intelligent people" who lack interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, and ability to deal with problems; all attributes that a high EQ would help solve. I think many of these benefits can be found through after-school programs that facilitate socialization to much high degree than in a traditional classroom setting.

If anyone liked anything I that I wrote or have any questions please feel free to visit Excelsior Learning Center or International Chess Institute

I hope I did not bore anyone with my long comment on this blog. After
I started writing the comment I got inspired and just kept writing. Before I knew it my comment was very long. Thank you for anyone who read my entire comment.

Kim's picture

I agree with all of the comments about the necessity and the positive outcomes of after school programs. We have a 21st Century CCLC program. Although it targets the at risk students, any child can attend. Teh problem that we are having is getting the teachers to be motivazted and to stop looking at the program as a part time check. Any suggetions? The childrent are motivated, how do wse motivate the staff?

Phil's picture
Phil
Teacher and Ed-Tech Blogger at BrokenAirplane.com

I agree it can be hard for teachers after a full day of teaching to then come and provide support to struggling students. How do you know that the teachers are unmotivated? Are they saying so, or doing a poor job of tutoring?

Is it possible that some of the days can be community based or activity based as opposed to just homework and catchup in skills? Perhaps one day a week can be game day where students play math or word games that are fun but also building skills.

Perhaps if the students are struggling in high school math they could tutor elementary or middle schoolers a couple of times a week.

Is there a goal besides a grade for these students? There are lots of science/math/language arts competitions that they could compete in that might make them more motivated to try.

I know that the most successful after school programs depend on teachers enjoying themselves. Are there a lot of teachers that you could have a positive brainstorming session about what could be done to make it more interesting. Perhaps the ideas are already in the groups.

Jacque Gamble's picture

This really shines a light for me in a sense that after-school programs are very necessary for our students to stay active and give them some self confidence. This all in turn helps the student in the classroom.

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