Out-of-School Time and Community

Leaders from after-school and community programs identified several potential roles and responsibilities for professionals who wish to support adolescent health and development.

Out-of-School Time and Community Programs: Making a Difference

After-school, summertime, and community programs support multiple aspects of adolescent health and healthy development, including physical health, cognitive development, and socio-emotional health.

Professionals from these groups are encouraged to take action on one or more of the roles and responsibilities identified below that can promote adolescent health.

Benefits of after-school, summertime, or community programs:

  • During after-school activities, children develop social skills, improve academic performance, and establish strong relationships with adults.1
  • Participation in club activities is linked to higher academic performance and self-esteem,2 and participation in sports is linked to higher social competence.2-4
  • Sports participation is also linked with better health and lower likelihood of obesity.5,6
  • After-school and community programs provide youth with safe, enriching environments to grow and develop skills outside of school and can provide youth with a sense of accomplishment.
  • They can also provide a safe space for adolescents to congregate.
  • Peer-to-peer relationships formed during these out-of-school time settings are as critical to adolescents’ overall health and well-being as the presence of supportive adults and information and resources

Action Steps and Resources

Help youth connect to supportive adults, positive peers, schools, and the community

Encourage youth to connect with supportive adults such as program leaders, coaches, tutors, or mentors, as well as peers who can also be mentors. Serve as a role model in your actions, behaviors, and speech. Be a resource both to adolescents themselves, but also in other ways, like providing access to space, equipment, or resources to support activities. Arrange opportunities for young people to get involved in the community, such as with older citizens in retirement centers or as volunteers for community projects.

Find more resources about helping youth connect to supportive adults »

Create a safe, warm, and enriching space

Provide a safe environment, a "safe haven," to engage adolescents in enriching activities and the formation of healthy relationships with one another. Create stability, consistency, and a sense of safety for adolescents through well-trained staff, age-appropriate programs, and safe and secure settings. Teach about healthy relationships and encourage a sense of community among your participants. Support skill-building activities to contribute to adolescents’ overall sense of competence and future accomplishments. Offer unstructured time where adolescents can just be.

Find more resources about creating a safe, warm and enriching space »

Encourage physical activity and good nutrition

Plan group activities that include physical exercise (like hikes, bike rides, and competitive sports) and non-competitive play (like aerobic, muscle and bone-strengthening, and cardio-respiratory fitness activities). Establish policies to encourage healthy snacks or meals (as appropriate or needed) and distribute tips for healthy eating.

Find more resources about encouraging physical activity and good nutrition »

Be another set of eyes and provide a listening ear

Keep a lookout for how adolescents are doing in terms of their health and healthy development. But also, be a listening ear. Let adolescents talk things through and then help them think about what they should do or say, or guide them to resources that can help.

Find more resources about being another set of eyes and providing a listening ear »

Share local resources with youth

Identify health resources in your community and share with the adolescents in your programs and activities. Encourage and highlight the importance of regular medical and dental care, vaccinations, dental health, and make sure teens know about help lines. Provide individual or group learning sessions on health topics. Refer adolescents to programs or services beyond the scope of your activities (for example, mental health professionals or social service providers.)

Find more resources about sharing local resources with youth »

Teach youth about staying healthy and safe

Offer special sessions about health and healthy development. For example, bring in speakers on online safety, texting, suicide prevention, healthy relationships (with peers, adults, and mentors), and gender-specific workshops since boys and girls are often working through different issues.

Find more resources about teaching youth about staying healthy and safe »

Footnotes »


Gartland, D., Bond, L., Olsson, C.A., Buzwell, S., & Sawyer, S.M. (2011). Development of a multi-dimensional measure of resilience in adolescents: The Adolescent Resilience Questionnaire. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 11. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2288/11/134/


Fletcher, A.C., Nickerson, P., & Wright, K.L. (2003). Structured leisure activities in middle childhood: links to well-being. Journal of Community Psychology, 31(6), 641-659.


Schaefer, D.R., Simpkins, S.D., Vest, A.E., & Price, C.D. (2011). The contribution of extracurricular activities to adolescent friendships: New insights through social network analysis. Developmental Psychology, 47(4), 1141-1152. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3134619/pdf/nihms-294155.pdf


Kort-Butler, L.A., & Hagewen, K.J. (2011). School-based extracurricular activity involvement and adolescent self-esteem: A growth-curve analysis. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 40, 568-581. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1197&context=sociologyfacpub&s


Krebs, N. F., Jacobson, M. S., & American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. (2003). Prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity. Pediatrics, 112(2), 424-430. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12897303.


Drake, K.M., Beach, M.L., Longacre, M.R., MacKenzie, T., Titus, L.J., Rundle, A.G., et al. (2012). Influence of sports, physical education, and active commuting to school on adolescent weight status. Pediatrics 130(2), e296-e304. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/2/e296.abstract

Last updated: September 21, 2016