Data Shows Students Grow Critical Skills at YMCA Afterschool Programs

Y staff helping students in afterschool program

North Carolina YMCAs are helping students build relationship skills and manage their emotions, which improves academic performance, confidence and behavior in the classroom and beyond.

Data shows North Carolina YMCAs’ investment in professional development around character development is paying off in student progress and counter-acting pandemic-related learning loss. According to the NC Alliance of YMCAs, which tested 3,100 youth between February and May to assess the impact of its afterschool programs, 87% improved in at least one character development competency and 66% in two or more of the five competencies. 

Even during this short period of time, the data indicates that children further developed important skills; this is worth celebrating during a school year with ongoing COVID-19 challenges and as the new school year approaches.

“Additional support for students has never been more critical,” said Sherée Vodicka, CEO of the NC Alliance of YMCAs. “Beyond the significant learning loss caused by the pandemic, students also lack the socialization skills to succeed and thrive after spending so much time isolated from other children.” 

Vodicka shared that the NC Department of Instruction (DPI) provided grant funding to the Ys to support their work with youth; this aligns with the state’s goals to partner with community organizations to help students succeed in school, work, and life by learning to manage emotions, problem-solve and build relationships with people who are different from them. The grant provided access to real-time data utilizing Hello Insight, a tool to collect data before and after the character development training for YMCA staff. 

“We have seen students struggle so much during the past school year,” said Ebony Burnett, Senior Association Youth Development Director at YMCA of Greensboro. “Positive youth development practices are the foundation of our afterschool programs; but having more training and the tools to meet these kids where they are has really helped our team support their growth during this hard school year. We have been energized to see the data on how the kids have benefitted from our intentional focus on social and emotional learning.” 

The Y’s afterschool programs leverage best practices to help foster children’s cognitive, social-emotional and physical development through opportunities and experiences in a safe, fun and enriching environment. Across the state, during the 2021-2022 school year, NC Ys served 21,000 in before- and afterschool programs, and engaged 16,000 teens in mentoring, tutoring and other supportive programs to help them thrive. Visit to find local YMCA afterschool programs in North Carolina.