High-quality afterschool, summer and other out-of-school-time programs can provide young people with a range of benefits—from development of academic and other skills to opportunities to build positive relationships with peers and adults. Recent studies, however, have shown a widening gap between working-class and middle-class young people in access to, and engagement with, these programs.
To better understand this gap, Wallace commissioned a literature review and set of interviews with field experts to identify major challenges to—and leading practices toward—equity in the out-of-school-time field. Part of that effort, described in this brief, was research conducted in 2020 by a team of 11 high school and college students, who surveyed and held focus groups with teenagers.
In the survey—which was based on peer network sampling and provides an indication of youth experiences in, and views of, out-of-school-time programs—a majority of the 191 respondents reported that either they or someone they knew had faced obstacles that had prevented them from joining a program. Almost half, 45 percent, also reported having sometimes been treated differently from others in programs because of their race, ethnicity, gender identity or religion. Nearly two-thirds of Black respondents reported this. Focus group participants mentioned a number of factors limiting program participation, including the cost of program fees and unequal distribution of programs across neighborhoods or schools. At the same time, the young people pinpointed factors that enhance programming, among them: the availability of skill-building experiences, a non-cliquish atmosphere, and a meaningful say in the program’s direction.
Based on their work, the youth researchers make a number of recommendations, including eliminating exclusionary and discriminatory behaviors by program staff members and participants, and ensuring that programs have the resources to reduce participation barriers such as program fees.
This publication is part of an occasional Wallace series titled Considerations, in which Wallace invites leading scholars and other experts to share insights based on research and theory on issues of importance to the fields that the foundation supports.