Today, millions of students are participating in afterschool programs. Such programs can be school-based or community-based. Both programs differ in structure and supervision but aim at achieving positive outcomes focusing on the needs of students, especially those at risk.

Afterschool programs range anywhere from recreational activities to tutoring, special assistance for bilingual students, counselling and guidance, and help with homework. The afterschool hours are risky for students at risk students with too much time on their hands as they may get into gang activity, engage in unprotected sex, or even drug abuse. As a result, parents, communities and schools are looking for a way to use afterschool programs as a safe place in which students at risk can use their afterschool time productively and safely.

Why Are Afterschool Programs So Important for Students at Risk?

Students at risk tend to have low expectations for their success on challenging tasks at school. They do not feel motivated to pursue their academic success. However, students involved in afterschool programs feel more committed to academic success and are more optimistic about their future because they have learned through the programs that if they work hard, they will see results. Afterschool programs can help all students feel more confident in themselves and the education process. Through an afterschool program, students at risk can have active roles in program decisions and carry out leadership roles, which can help empower them. These types of activities promote a sense of belonging and value and help show students at risk a stronger commitment to academics. This stronger commitment leads to improvements on homework, test scores, and results in better grades. All of this is possible for students at risk through an afterschool program because they grow in confidence and have a safe place to learn and be challenged.

Afterschool Programs Give Students at Risk a Safe Place to Learn

Afterschool programs protect students at risk from getting into risk-taking activities and keep away from negative peer influences. Afterschool programs increase self-esteem, improve social skills, and encourage healthy behaviour and offer more opportunities for students in participating in programs like art, music, theatre, and dance classes. These days there are fewer and fewer schools that offer these opportunities or resources during the traditional school day. Also, afterschool programs provide a supervised environment for students at risk of academic failure to spend safe time while they improve their academic and social skills.

Time alone after the school is dismissed in the early afternoon leaves many students vulnerable to boredom, potential involvement in risk-taking and illegal activities, and crime. However, because students are participating in afterschool programs and surrounded by positive influences there, drug use is significantly reduced among students at risk.

Students at risk who attend afterschool programs have the most to gain from them, as they are the most likely to show improvements in academic achievements, social skills, extracurricular activities, and statistically less likely to drop out of school. Students at risk who attend afterschool programs will gain much more than those who stay alone after school and should be encouraged towards participating in these programs whenever possible.

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