Out-of-school time is gaining momentum and expanding education beyond the classroom. Research shows that students who regularly attend high-quality programs over longer periods of time demonstrate improved attendance, academic performance and decision-making skills. That’s why a wide variety of organizations, funders, and government entities are focusing on this high-potential window in a student’s life, encompassing all types of extracurricular activities – from after school tutoring to summer swim classes to edible education. Student’s are better equipped for success when they have access to experiences that complement their learning inside of the classroom.
Recently, the Foundation partnered with the Robins Foundation, Altria and Richmond City officials to gather key stakeholders and elevate a discussion about a citywide out-of-school system. Potential for positive change is amplified when our community’s common agenda focuses on an issue rather than a specific organization or program. This scaled effort will require diligent coordination, a commitment to data collection and analysis, and training and support to ensure consistent quality of service.
NextUp RVA is a backbone organization in the out-of-school time space and currently models this approach in three Richmond middle schools. Executive Director Barbara Couto Sipe explains, “We provide better choices for students at a time when boredom and peer pressure often lead them down the wrong path. Through powerful partnerships with community leaders and service providers, we have proven that when young people discover new talents and interests in a safe environment, it leads to improved student performance and broad community benefit.”
Scaling this type of success can occur when the grass roots meet the grass tops. “As these groups agree on priorities for youth development and out-of-school-time, funders, policy makers and direct service agencies can plug into the work and achieve collective goals. We can maximize local resources and ultimately leverage national resources.” This is the future support system for educating the whole child and the Community Foundation is eager to work with both public and private sectors to create new experiences for our kids.