After School Programs:
With the amount of “risky teen behavior” at its peak between the times of 3 pm and 6 pm, more schools and Federal programs are starting to support after-school programs. Policy makers are trying to focus on the best ways to keep youths busy during after school hours and to keep them away from smoking and drinking activities. Policy makers have been actively looking at psychological research and they have found that after-school activities such as playing basketball, learning an instrument, or volunteering for community service products helps keep students away from sex, drugs, and other risky behaviors that produce healthier, more productive students later in life. The problem is that there is a heated debate as to what makes a good after-school program.
Many debates between researchers include whether or not an after school program should target disadvantaged youth or all youth, and whether they should focus on academic or other programs like music, art and sports. Politicians prefer academic focus because it is easy to measure and national competition is a top concern. Other researchers like psychologists and social scientists like a developmental approach. The whole child matters and they are hopeful that with holistic approaches that these students will become more responsible and enriched, and that academic success will follow.
Developmentally based youth programs do show a relationship between program attendance and good school performance and behavior. In a study detailing several youth development programs, the ones that were more holistic with targeted music and arts programs also benefited the kids academically and long term studies have shown similar results that students benefited from any school related program. A study involving much younger children have shown greater response to enrichment after-school programs like music and art and helps them to develop better concentration and attention in school.
Good after school programs are best characterized by their approach to students because most resources can be adjusted to students it is important to worry about developmental stages rather than how to manage certain problems. Good programs should:
- Help youth and students develop into strong and positive relationships with adults, teachers, and parents.
- Build on youth and students strengths rather than focus on their weakness or disciplining them. An after-school program should never be seen as a punishment; it will drive students away.
- A positive environment helps youth and students develop positive relationships with peers and the teachers that are volunteering at the after-school programs.
- Provide these students with challenges they can rise to; this helps them develop into responsible adults and helps them to learn coping mechanisms later for harder situations.
- Creative activities help to develop student’s brains and allow them to think in different ways than the traditional methods.
- It is important to give student’s leadership abilities and decision making skills as this makes them successful later in life.
- Focus on the developmental needs of students and youth by helping with the teens’ autonomy at the same time as lending them guidance.
- Provide these programs and opportunities on a long term basis.
After-school programs are an important way to guarantee that our youth is staying out of trouble as much as possible; the more time on their hands the more likely they are to have risky behaviors. Long term risky behaviors will lead them to having more developmental problems as adults. The best way to keep after-school programs problem free is to make sure there is a good range of activities to stimulate all different kinds of youths, either using academic programs or enrichment programs, or a little of both.
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