In a new Youth Voices Youth Power Project video, young District residents explained how out-of-school-time (OST) activities have changed their lives. Seventeen middle and high school students discussed how their OST programs provide:
- A safe, constructive way to express their feelings, talk about difficult issues, and receive social and emotional support from peers and mentors
- Guidance in developing skills such as public speaking, community organizing, and advocacy
- A way to get to know other young people who share their interests, identities, and aspirations
- The chance to try new things, explore interests, and learn about careers
- An alternative to getting involved in street life or criminal activity
- An inclusive, welcoming environment and a place to relax after school, especially when home doesn’t offer that
Interviews featured in the video were conducted throughout 2023 with young people involved in 10 community-based organizations that partnered with the Youth Voices Youth Power Project, which invites young people to share their opinions and experiences about life in the District in order to amplify their stories and build their power.
Young people know intuitively and from their own experiences what researchers have found–that participating in OST programs significantly improves their social and emotional well-being, academic outcomes, college and career readiness, and safety. Unfortunately, access to OST programs in the District is inadequate and inequitable, and funding for OST is far below where it should be to allow all youth to participate. 53,000 students are missing out on afterschool programs and 57,000 are missing out on summer programs that are publicly funded. Learn more about the current state of OST in the District and the case for universal OST in DC Action’s recent policy brief.
All young people deserve the chance to grow up in safe, nurturing, positive environments. Especially when that support doesn’t exist at home or at school, OST programs offer a lifeline.
In case you missed it, watch the Youth Voices Youth Power Project video on mental health. Stay tuned for upcoming videos on public safety, education, and more. Learn more about what young people think by watching their videos at dcyouthvoice.com.