Out-of-School Time and Community Program Leaders
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
- Create a safe, warm, and enriching space
- Encourage physical activity and good nutrition
- Be another set of eyes and provide a listening ear
- Share local resources with youth
- Teach youth about staying healthy and safe
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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Content last reviewed on November 1, 2016