After-School in Housing Communities: A World of Learning, Right at Home

More and more after-school programs around the country are providing engaging learning opportunities to children by partnering with affordable housing communities. Here, Jenny Hicks, Technical Assistance Manager at the Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY), discusses the innovative work they’ve been doing to bring expanded learning to children in low-income housing.

Every Hour Counts: Can you tell us about your work in affordable housing communities?

Jenny Hicks: PCY’s work in affordable housing communities is focused on two goals. First is to build awareness within the fields of education and housing of the value of offering expanded learning in housing. And second is to enable housing agencies already running such programs to communicate, strengthen, and improve their programs.

Many staff members running youth programs in housing developments have had little or no training in how to run effective programming. We have trained staff members from eleven Bay Area housing agencies who serve 2,500 kids, and members of our affordable housing network serve 10,000 kids.

Every Hour Counts: Why place after-school programs in housing communities? Why not reach these children at schools or community centers?

Jenny: The most important difference is the emotional freedom that kids gain when they’re in what they consider a safe space – free from judgment, free from embarrassment, and free to ask for help when they need it. Having expanded learning programs at home can give kids a tremendous confidence boost. For example – kids who might not feel like ‘leaders’ at school, suddenly have the confidence to take on that role when they’re out of that environment.

Programs in housing communities also offer convenience. Kids in programs don’t have to worry about transportation to and from a site or getting home safely after dark. With fewer logistical worries, children are able to attend programs more consistently.

Every Hour Counts: Can you share a success story?

Jenny: Even better, I’ll show you one. This video tells the story of a young man in one of the sites we work with, who wasn’t comfortable at school, and was not handling himself well at home – and the turnaround he is making with the help of his community’s expanded learning programs.

Every Hour Counts: If a community is interested in working in bringing after-school to affordable housing communities, where should they begin?

Jenny: The most important first step is to reach out to others who are doing the work. There is an entire network of individuals and organizations looking to teach and inspire anyone looking to start or improve an expanded learning program in an affordable housing community.

We’d be happy to connect anyone with a member of our network that would be most appropriate for them to speak with. We’d also invite them to attend our upcoming free conference on expanded learning in affordable housing on February 6th, 2015 in Oakland, CA.

Thanks Jenny!

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