Back to Afterschool at the Y: Data Shows Positive Youth Practices Bolster Children's Development

students gathered together

As parents prepare to send kids back to school this month and consider their afterschool options, the Y continues to be a safe, supportive, and fun place for children. Data from the 2022-2023 school year shows that Ys supported 85% of young people in character development growth at YMCA afterschool programs.

What exactly does that mean? It means that the positive youth development practices implemented by our YMCA Youth Development staff helped K-5th graders increase their capacity for stronger academic achievement, health and wellness, and future readiness for college and/or jobs. (CASEL, 2021) As children continue to recover from the negative impacts of COVID-19 isolation and lack of socialization, the Y’s positive youth development practices are more important than ever.

By the Numbers

Data shows that:

  • 93% of third through fifth graders at the Y’s afterschool programs reported that they were frequently reminded that they were expected to do their best, and 
  • 83% reported Y staff really took time to understand them and their lives outside of the program 
  • In addition, 80% reported that the Y’s afterschool program included opportunities for them to engage with people different from themselves,
  • 76% reported they had opportunities to work together and help one another, and 
  • 75% reported a sense of team or group identity and safe space to work with or learn about people different from themselves. 

What’s more:
•    92% of children in grades K-2 reported that Y staff carved out time in their day to learn about and listen to them, and 
•    90% reported they knew the staff cared about them 
•    84% said they were in a space where they could listen each other, and 
•    81% said there were opportunities for kids to work together and help each other.

NC YMCAs utilized Hello Insight (HI) developmentally appropriate assessment tools to measure growth based on the feedback of the children served. According to HI, the target goal for positive youth development is at least 70%, so our NC Ys are exceeding that in serving the children in our state. 

Professional Development

NC Ys continued a deeper dive this past school year on professional development for youth-serving staff, particularly focusing on skills to engage authentically with youth and promote peer bonds among youth. 

Both of these practices are critical in growing character development. When Y staff engage authentically with kids, they are taking time to get to know them by listening and understanding who they are, including their interests and their experiences. Also, Y staff create a safe space that enables kids to work in teams and groups to learn from each other, explore similarities and differences among, and develop deeper bonds and relationships. All of this goes to support mental health and well-being, as well as develop critical skills for working with others. 

The Y is a national leader in out of school time; in North Carolina, we’re committed to continuing to help youth excel after school socially and academically through out positive youth development practices.