After School Matters Summer Program Analysis

After School Matters is a nonprofit organization that provides afterschool and summer opportunities to Chicago public high school teens. Teens earn a stipend while participating in programs in the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Image of After School Matters workersWhen the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, After School Matters adapted its program structure to move in-person summer programs online. In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic persisted, and After School Matters reenvisioned summer programming once again to offer multiple program format options. Over 10,000 Chicago teens participated in more than 650 programs through in-person and remote learning options in summer 2021.

Starting in the summer of 2020, After School Matters partnered with AIR to better contextualize and understand summer programming amid the pandemic in three key topics: (1) teen experiences, (2) instructor experiences, and (3) program quality. AIR also explored how summers 2020 and 2021 compared with previous summers and what this means for future programming.

What Did We Learn?

In AIR’s analysis of After School Matters’ summer 2020 programs, AIR found that while many teens experienced food insecurity and varying levels of stress, and instructors struggled with access to supports, program quality remained high, and teens and instructors reported having valuable, inspiring experiences. In AIR’s analysis of summer 2021 programs, AIR found that authentic relationship building is important for both teens and adults and that teens have a need for more empathy, patience, and understanding. AIR also learned about the viability of offering a variety of program formats for educational programming.

Across both summer 2020 and 2021, findings from AIR’s analysis of After School Matters data revealed that After School Matters teens in both remote and in-person formats had a positive learning experience. 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. AIR provided five key steps to improve for next year, based on the lessons learned from the summer program sessions. AIR also discussed the broader implications these findings have for the education and out-of-school time fields.