The importance of after-school programs for middle school students is understated.

The Importance of After-School for Middle Schoolers

Middle schoolers need opportunities to build upon their social skills outside of school. Programs offering after-school for middle schoolers are excellent ways to help your child develop a well-rounded view of the world. 

As crucial as these programs are to middle school youth, they’re in short supply (unless they’re sports related). Sadly, middle schoolers get overlooked in program development in favor of young children and teens. According to Afterschool Alliance, in 2020, about 45% of sixth through eighth-grade children would have attended an after-school program if one were available. Two more are waiting to get in for every child enrolled in an after-school program.

The benefits of after-school care

Research shows that kids are more likely to stay out of trouble after school if they have a safe, fun and supervised environment to hang out in.

A Fight Against Crime: Invest in Kids report summarized that after-school programs benefit children and communities through reduced crime, improved behavior, cultivating healthier habits and saving money.

Personal and Social

Findings suggest when middle schoolers have opportunities to connect with supportive adults and participate in challenging activities with peers, they discover and apply new skills and individual talents. They’re also exposed to conflict resolution, working with diverse groups, and building self-esteem.

Academic

Just so you know, parents are ‘pro’ after-school programs. Not only do their kids have a safe place to retreat after school, but they have peace of mind knowing they’re supervised, learning, and having fun! 71% of Georgia parents agree that after-school programs help their kids learn and remain excited about learning. 61% believe it helps them stay in the loop with their child’s education. 67% appreciate the homework help offered, and 80% of parents are satisfied with the life skills kids learn in after-school programs.

Support

After-school programs for middle schoolers are a godsend because of the rapid growth they encounter in a short amount of time. We all experience the shock of puberty. Waking up to a deeper voice, boobs, and hair that wasn’t there before can be a scary, confusing time for your youth. Attending after-school programs with peers offers support in ways you may not realize they need by creating space to build community. It’s hard finding your tribe as an adult. Think of how much more challenging that is as a kid. Engaging in challenging activities with others creates bonds of friendship and understanding. After-school activities are designed to promote teamwork and healthy esteem where youth work with and encourage others while maintaining pride in their own growth and development.

What should I look for in a program?

For one, all programs are different. Some are more effective than others. Remember, you may have to “shop around” before you find one your middle schooler likes. But as far as components go, after-school programs should “foster the personal and social skills of youth because youth can benefit in multiple ways if these components are offered.” Youth Life Center programs help build character, confidence, and self-esteem through creative expression, performing arts, and enrichment programs. Our approach to program development includes the following:

  1. Focusing on character-building, confidence, and self-esteem.
  2. Helping students identify their interests and motivations, creative, technical, etc.
  3. Welcoming students as they are while enforcing boundaries and accountability.

What can you do?

Parents and local leaders should be aware of program options for middle school youth in the arts and STEM areas. We encourage you to look for programs serving middle school youth in your communities. We’ve identified there needs to be more programming for middle school students outside of sports. You can help bring these services to the kids who need them most by donating to the Giving Tuesday/Georgia Gives fundraiser for the recording and podcast studio. And if you’re really ready to take up the cause but can’t find programs for pre-teens in your area, create them! 

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