YEP's aim is to provide the most effective after school program that leads to positive outcomes for youth.
There is now an increasing amount of research showing the benefits of after school programs - particularly those programs that prepare adolescents for productive adulthood.
Youth development programs are best characterized by their approach to youth as resources to be developed rather than as problems to be managed and their efforts to help youth become healthy, happy and productive by increasing their exposure to external assets, opportunities and supports.
We believe that by developing our youth, we help them meet the increasing challenges they will face as they mature.
Richard Lerner et. al. state in their report that "We must talk to our youth about what they should and can become, and not only about what they must avoid being. We should then act on our statements, and work with young people to promote their positive development....Youth development programs must emphasize the strengths and assets of young people, that is, their capacities for positive development, their possession of attributes—strengths—that keep them moving forward in a positive developmental path. Such strengths involve individual attributes, such as self-esteem, spirituality, religiosity, knowledge, skills, and motivation to do well..."
Jodie Roth et. al. made three conclusions. First, programs incorporating more elements of the youth development framework seem to show more positive outcomes. Second, the evaluations support the importance of a caring adult-adolescent relationship, although these relationships need not be limited to 1-on-1 mentoring. And 3rd, longer-term programs that engage youth throughout adolescence appear to be the most effective.
A meta-analysis of 73 after school evaluations by Joseph Durlack et. al., concluded that after school programs employing evidence-based approaches to improving students’ personal and social skills were consistently successful in producing multiple benefits for youth including improvements in children’s personal, social and academic skills, as well as their self esteem.
Programs with a strong intentional focus on improving social and personal skills were found to improve students’ self-esteem and self-confidence.
Deborah Lowe Vandell et. al., found that students participating in high-quality after-school programs were less likely to misbehave, less likely to become aggressive with their peers, and less likely to engage in drug and alcohol use. The study findings demonstrated the benefits of continuous participation in high-quality after school programs, community activities, and supervised home settings for youth from economically disadvantaged families.
The Harvard Family Research Project found that "programs are more likely to exhibit high quality when they effectively develop, utilize, and leverage partnerships with a variety of stakeholders like families, schools, and communities. However, strong partnerships are more than a component of program quality: they are becoming a nonnegotiable element of supporting learning and development across all the contexts in which children learn and develop."
Sabrina Kataoka et. al., found that quality after school experiences were related to positive changes in classroom teacher reports of adolescent functioning. When youth liked their after school program, they showed improvements in the classroom with better work habits, stronger task persistence and pro-social behavior with peers. The study also identified that "supportive relationships have been found to be especially beneficial for youth who may be lacking supportive relationships in other contexts of their lives."
After school programs can also play an important role in encouraging physical activity and good dietary habits. Participation in after school programs has been associated with positive health outcomes, including reduced obesity.