After School Matters is a nonprofit organization that provides afterschool and summer opportunities to Chicago public high school teens to explore their passions and develop their talents, while gaining critical skills for work, college, and beyond. After School Matters programs are project based, led by industry experts, and provide a pathway to progress in skills development and independence. Teens earn a stipend while participating in programs in the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, After School Matters engaged in organization-wide planning and preparation efforts to move in-person programs online. After School Matters reenvisioned its summer 2020 program session to provide 517 remote learning programs to nearly 10,000 teens in the city of Chicago. Remote programs offered a combination of one-on-one time with instructors, group collaboration, and individual work time to achieve various projects. Online program meetings occurred 3-5 days a week through Google Suites. After School Matters delivered individual program supply kids and tech devices directly to teens.
After School Matters partnered with AIR to contextualize and better understand remote programming in three key topics: (1) teen experiences, (2) instructor experiences, and (3) program quality. AIR also explored how summer 2020 compares with previous summers and what this means for future programming.
What did we learn?
Findings from AIR’s analysis of After School Matters data revealed that After School Matters teens had a positive remote learning experience during summer 2020, building relationships and skills during what was likely an unusual and otherwise stressful summer for all. Instructors reported both positive experiences and challenges, and shared what they need to best support themselves and teens moving forward into the school year. After School Matters programs maintained a high level of quality in their transition to the remote learning program model. AIR provided five key steps to improve for next year, based on the lessons learned from the summer 2020 program session. AIR also discussed the broader implications these findings have for the education and out-of-school time fields.