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November’s Data Digest: Connection with Community

Posted on November 6th, 2018 in: Blog

This blog post, by our Research Analyst Erin Schwab, is the fourth in a monthly series unpacking data from the 2017 YRBS survey and making connections to out-of-school time programming in Vermont.

For this month’s data digest, we look again at the results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Study (YRBS), Every two years, the Vermont Department of Health administers the survey throughout the state in middle schools and high schools. In both 2015 and 2017, Vermont Afterschool submitted a question that was included on the high school survey. It asked students to indicate the number of weekly hours they participated in afterschool activities. In addition to responding to our question, over 20,000 high school students in the state responded to items related to their “risk” and “asset” behaviors and other demographic factors (see our past posts for our analyses of correlations between students’ afterschool participation in 2017 and bullying, screen time/physical activity, and academic performance; and for a post about LGBT students’ access to afterschool activities).

In 2017, the YRBS also included a few questions that helped reveal the extent to which students feel valued and connected in their communities. One question asked, “Do you agree or disagree that in your community you feel like you matter to people?” In total, 60.5% of high school students said that they either agreed (41.4%) or strongly agreed (19.1%) that they mattered to people in their community. This was an 11% increase from 2015.

We cross-tabulated the 2017 results with the students’ responses to our question about their extent of participation in afterschool activities. The data, visualized in the chart below are based on 20,009 students that responded to both items on the survey. We can see that as hours of participation in afterschool activities increased, the percentages of students who felt that they mattered in their communities also increased. For students that did not participate in afterschool programming, 47% agreed or strongly agreed that they mattered to people in their communities; for students who participated in between one and four weekly hours of programming, 63% agreed or strongly agreed that they mattered to people in their communities; for students who participated in between five and nine weekly hours of programming, 69% agreed or strongly agreed that they mattered to people in their communities; and for students that participated in ten or more hours per week of programming, 71% agreed or strongly agreed that they mattered to people in their communities.

Research by Jennifer Fredericks (2006) at Connecticut College backs up our findings; her research has shown that students who participate in extracurricular activities after school improve in their sense of belonging with their communities. Afterschool activities can give students opportunities to connect with their school and greater community in new and interesting ways. Whether they plant a community garden, showcase their talent in a theatrical performances, participate in community service, or learn some new skill that they can share, they are able to use their talents to connect with their communities in ways that they are not able to do during the regular school day or by just going home after school.

Afterschool activities that make students feel connected to their communities can serve another purpose. It can provide them with increased access to adults who might be able to help them solve problems. When students are in high school, they face a lot of pressure and challenges. They deal with peer pressure associated with risk behaviors like consuming drugs and alcohol. They also face academic pressures and need to make decisions about their futures. Not all students are able to talk about these issues with their family members; in fact some students might need to talk about issues within their families. When teens feel that they have an adult in their lives, whether a teacher or someone else with whom they can talk about their problems, they have a greater chance of success as they move forward in life. Afterschool participation and meaningful community connections help foster such connections.

The 2017 YRBS data helped back up these assumptions. There was an item on the survey that asked high school students, “Is there at least one teacher or adult in your school that you can talk to if you have a problem?” Eighty percent of students responded, “Yes” to this item. We looked at the responses to this item cross-tabulated with our question about hours of participation in afterschool activities. A total of 19,994 students responded to both questions. The chart below shows these results. In general, students who participated in afterschool activities were more likely to respond that they had an adult that they could talk to than students who did not participate in afterschool activities.

Afterschool programming is an important way for for high school students to feel that they matter in their communities and connect with adults who care about them. These are just a few more of many reasons to advocate for access to quality afterschool experiences.

 

 

Reference:

Fredricks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2006). Is extracurricular participation associated with beneficial outcomes? Concurrent and longitudinal relations. Developmental psychology, 42(4), 698-713. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.546.5178&rep=rep1&type=pdf

VerMoney Mini Grant

Posted on November 6th, 2018 in: Blog

Vermont Afterschool, in collaboration with Vermont State Treasure’s office, is excited to announce the roll-out of the Vermoney Financial Literacy Program. Treasurer Beth Pierce is a huge advocate for young people. Her office has identified afterschool as the perfect setting to bring this type of learning to life. The program is designed to help young people be intentional about financial decisions.
Financial decisions impact how we all live, work, and play, yet only 22% of Vermonters have participated in financial education in school, college or at work. Young people want and need what we all want and need: opportunities to connect, explore interests, build skills, experience supportive relationships, and have a happy, healthy life. Young people are also problem solvers who are eager to be engaged and to make decisions. One of the best things we can do for young people is give them the skills and knowledge they will need in life, including financial literacy. Teaching students financial concepts early can positively influence how they manage their finances throughout their lives. This curriculum helps young people reflect on the differences between wants and needs, and engages them in making choices about money.
What you get:
1. Financial Literacy Curriculum for grades 2-5
2. Gooks from the state Treasurer’s “Reading as an Investment” program
3. Program kit
4. Training
5. Training stipend for staff ($200)
6. Money to purchase supplemental materials
7. Eligible for an additional $200 prize
How to apply:
Fill out a short application and send to katrina@vermontafterschool.or
Deadline: November 16, 2018

Call for Youth Art

Posted on November 1st, 2018 in: Blog

Do you have afterschool artists who would want to show their work at the State House? If so, we would love to display their work at an afterschool exhibition in the State House cafeteria for March 2019.

Who: Afterschool and out-of-school time artists of all ages and abilities from Vermont
What: 2D and 3D art needed for display
Theme: Youth rights and youth expression in the “third space” ( = anytime when youth aren’t at home or at school)
When: Submissions received by December 3, 2018 for display in March 2019
Contact: email Alissa Faber for further information

Artwork can be photographs, drawings, paintings, collage, clay, sculpture, prints, masks, and digital creations. All ideas and expressions are welcome! Download the flyer to share or hand out at your afterschool program.

October’s Data Digest: Bullying and aggressive behavior

Posted on October 3rd, 2018 in: Blog

This blog post, by our Research Analyst Erin Schwab, is the fourth in a monthly series unpacking data from the 2017 YRBS survey and making connections to out-of-school time programming in Vermont.

Happy October! This month is National Bullying Prevention Month, founded by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center in 2006. It is intended to raise awareness about the issue of bullying and its devastating long term effects. Bullying among youth in school has been an issue for a long time, and in the past decade or so technology has increased the ways that youth can bully one another. Electronic bullying, or cyberbullying through text message, social media, or some other kind of cyber message can spread quickly, be anonymous, and follow students even after they leave school property for the day.

We turn again to the results from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Study (YRBS) to look at bullying in Vermont and its relationship to afterschool participation. Over 20,000 high school students in Vermont answered questions about their levels of participation in “risk” behaviors (such as bullying) as well as “asset” behaviors (such as participation in afterschool activities). On the YRBS, bullying was defined as when one or more students tease, threaten, spread rumors about, hit, shove, or hurt another student over and over again. Electronic bullying was described as bullying through texting, Instagram, Facebook, or other social media sources.

Research has shown that there is a positive link between participation in afterschool activities and bullying prevention. The YRBS data support these findings for high school students in Vermont in 2017.

–> As weekly participation in afterschool activities increased, reported bullying behaviors decreased. The charts and corresponding descriptions below illustrate these findings.

It is worth pointing out the slight increase toward the end of each of the charts below (in the 10 or more hours category). A further breakdown of this data reveals that this slight increase is mainly due to larger percentages of bullying behaviors among students who participated in more than 20 hours per week of activities. Our hypothesis for this is participation in sports and the unfortunate hazing and bullying that happen among athletes which skews our data for the ‘10+ hours’ category. This hypothesis deserves further exploration; but for now, we do see bullying behaviors decrease for students who participate in moderate levels of afterschool activities as compared with those who do not participate in any afterschool activities.

Among students who didn’t participate in any afterschool activities in 2017, 18% were bullied at some point during the month leading up to the survey. Among students who participated in 1-4 weekly hours of afterschool programming, 15% were bullied; among students who participated in 5-9 hours, 13.5% were bullied; and among students who participated in 10 or more hours, 15% were bullied. The chart below depicts these numbers.

–> Students who participated in afterschool activities were also less likely to bully others than students who did not participate in any such activities. Among students who didn’t participate in any afterschool activities, 10% bullied someone at some point during the month leading up to the survey. Among students who participated in 1-4 weekly hours of afterschool programming, 7% bullied someone; among students who participated in 5-9 hours, 8% bullied someone; and among students who participated in 10 or more hours, 9% bullied someone. The chart below illustrates these data.

–> The data also show that participation in afterschool activities is correlated with decreased instances of electronic bullying. Among students who didn’t participate in any afterschool activities, 19% were electronically bullied at some point during the month leading up to the survey. Among students who participated in 1-4 weekly hours of afterschool programming, 15% were electronically bullied; among students who participated in 5-9 hours, 14% were electronically bullied; and among students who participated in 10 or more hours, 14% were electronically bullied.

Bullying, whether electronic or in-person is an all-too-common experience for nearly one fifth of high school students in Vermont. Participation in afterschool activities is positively correlated with reported decreases in bullying behaviors. But without the benefit of a controlled study, it is impossible to know for sure if afterschool participation is the cause of the decreased instances of bullying among high school students in Vermont in 2017. We believe that we can imply some level of causation due to the research.

In addition, we know that the informal environment of afterschool programming can provide supportive opportunities to allow youth to feel safe from peer pressure, build confidence and develop their social emotional learning skills. Does this mean that bullying never happens in afterschool programs? Of course not; we would be naive to think so. But certainly afterschool programs can be intentionally designed to help students develop specific skills for coping with bullying and perhaps refrain from bullying others.

For more information about trainings that Vermont Afterschool hosts with a focus on social emotional learning (SEL) content, contact Sara Forward at saraforward@vermontafterschool.org.

 

21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Application Open

Posted on September 21st, 2018 in: Blog

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Grant Application is now open for the purpose of providing high-quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities. Applications will due February 5, 2019 with a letter of intent due on November 14, 2018.

Applicant workshops for teams will be held on the days listed below from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Key information will be presented and there will be time after 1:00 p.m. for team planning and individual assistance. To register, please contact: Emanuel Betz, 21C State Coordinator.

  • Wednesday, October 10 at the Vermont Historical Society, Barre
  • Tuesday, October 16 at the Golden Eagle Resort Library, Stowe
  • Thursday, October 18 at VT Technical College, Langevin House, Randolph

To learn more and view application materials, including eligibility requirements, please visit here.
Contact: 21C State Coordinator, Emanuel Betz at emanuel.betz@vermont.gov  or (802) 479-1396

Data Digest #3: Screen time and physical activity

Posted on September 11th, 2018 in: Blog

This blog post, by our Research Analyst Erin Schwab, is the third in a monthly series unpacking data from the 2017 YRBS survey and making connections to out-of-school time programming in Vermont.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. It is intended to bring awareness to the public health crisis of childhood obesity: approximately one in six children in the US are obese. And according to the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), 22% of youth in Vermont ages 10-17 are either overweight or obese. These youth are at increased risk for developing chronic health problems as adults such as heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, bone or joint problems, and are more likely to be obese as adults — thus putting them at risk of further health issues such as various types of cancers.

Childhood obesity can be influenced by many factors — two of which are a lack of physical activity and insufficient sleep (according to the CDC). And in these days of tablets, smartphones, and social media applications that are intentionally designed to be addictive, it’s possible (and perhaps likely) for youth to lose out on both physical activity and quality sleep by spending too much time on their internet-connected devices.

Unsurprising to us, recent data show that participation in afterschool activities is a major way that youth in Vermont can both increase their physical activity levels and reduce their time spent in front of their addictive screens, thus decreasing their risk of obesity and its associated health problems. In the spring of 2017, about 20,000 high school students in Vermont answered questions about their levels of physical activity, screen time, and time spent participating in afterschool activities on Vermont’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). We correlated their responses on these items and found encouraging results.

Regarding screen time, students were asked about the amount of time per week they had recently “watched TV, played video or computer games, or used a computer for something that was not school work (counting time spent on things such as Xbox, PlayStation, an iPad or other tablet, a smartphone, texting, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or other social media).” Eleven percent of students responded “less than one hour per day,” 36% responded “1 to 2 hours,” 34% responded “3 to 4 hours” and 19% responded “5+ hours.” A total of 19,918 high school students answered both this question and Vermont Afterschool’s question about the amount of time they spent participating “in afterschool activities such as sports, band, drama, or clubs run by school or community groups.The correlated data show that as the amount of time spent participating in afterschool activities increased, the percentage of students who spent three or more hours per day using screens for reasons other than school work decreased. Among students who did not participate in any afterschool activities, 62% spent three or more hours on their screens; among students who participated in 1-4 hours of afterschool activities per week, 53% spent three or more hours on their screens; among students who participated in 5-9 hours of afterschool activities per week, 47% spent three or more hours on their screens; and among students who participated in 10 or more hours of afterschool activities per week, 45% spent three or more hours on their screens.

The survey also asked students how many days in the most recent week that they were “physically active for least 60 minutes per day (by engaging in any kind of physical activity that increased their heart rate and made them breathe hard some of the time).” Thirteen percent of students responded “0 days;” 15% of students responded “1 to 2 days,” 23% of students responded “3 to 4 days,” 24% of students responded “5 to 6 days,” and 25% of students responded “7 days.” A total of 19,895 Vermont high schoolers responded to both this question and to the question relating to their weekly participation in afterschool activities. As the number of hours of participation in afterschool activities increased, so did the percentage of students who reported that they were physically active for at least five days in the most recent week. Among students who did not report participating in any afterschool activities, 31% were physically active five days; among students who participated in 1-4 hours of afterschool activities, 42% were physically active five days; among students who participated in 5-9 hours of afterschool activities, 59% were physically active five days; and among students who participated in 10 or more hours of afterschool activities, 75% were physically active five days.

It is clear from these data that opportunities for students to participate in afterschool activities can help make a positive impact in fighting the obesity epidemic. When students have enriching experiences that allow them to be physically active and therefore have less time for “screen time,” it decreases their likelihood of experiencing the detrimental health outcomes related to obesity.

Vermont Afterschool receives $180,000 Community Foundation grant

Posted on August 21st, 2018 in: Blog

The Vermont Community Foundation announced that it has entered into a Cornerstone Partnership with Vermont Afterschool, a statewide nonprofit working to ensure that all Vermont youth have access to high quality out-of-school learning opportunities. As part of that partnership, the Community Foundation is awarding Vermont Afterschool a three-year $180,000 grant to strengthen afterschool and out-of-school time programming for older youth in Vermont.

The Community Foundation’s Cornerstone Partnerships are designed to help launch growth-phase statewide organizations whose work is critical to closing the opportunity gap to their next stage of development. The partnerships include multi-year grant funding and an invitation to inform the Foundation’s local grantmaking and community investment strategies.

“Over the last five years, Vermont has seen a steady decrease in the number of afterschool programs serving middle and high school youth,” stated Vermont Afterschool Executive Holly Morehouse. “We see a real need in the field and a partnership like this will help us to make significant gains on key state-level systems building work that we would not be able to do otherwise.”

Through the partnership, Vermont Afterschool will:

• expand and energize the out-of-school learning field,

• re-define quality standards for programs serving older youth, and

• work across the state to establish and sustain quality out-of-school time programs in some of our most persistently challenged communities.

This work is all about supporting broad cultural change in Vermont around how we think about youth, how we recognize and value this important time in a young person’s life, and the value we place on providing opportunities and supports for youth outside of the school day.

This grant and partnership are part of the Vermont Community Foundation’s commitment to closing the opportunity gap for children from low-income families. The Community Foundation believes that if Vermont doesn’t act now to equalize opportunity for children and families, we risk permanently destabilizing communities and diminishing the prospects for all.

The Vermont Community Foundation has prioritized afterschool, summer, and out-of-school learning as one of several issues most critically affecting the opportunity gap. It is also an area where philanthropy is particularly well-positioned to make progress at both a systems level and at the local level.

Research shows that students participating in afterschool programs, especially students who participate regularly, see gains in their math achievement and academic performance, improve their work habits, and have better school day attendance. Additionally, afterschool programs introduce youth to new activities, offer healthy snacks and meals, and are safe places to hang out with friends.

“Holly and her team share our vision for a more equitable and student-centered afterschool system in Vermont,” says Vermont Community Foundation CEO Dan Smith. “We choose Cornerstone Partners deliberately, in a way that brings organizations together instead of increasing competition for resources. Vermont Afterschool’s collaborative approach and deep expertise make them a natural partner for us in this work now and in the years ahead.”

Data Digest: Afterschool participation and academic performance

Posted on August 14th, 2018 in: Blog

This blog post, by our Research Analyst Erin Schwab, is the second in a monthly series unpacking data from the 2017 YRBS survey and making connections to out-of-school time programming in Vermont.

As summer winds down and students get ready to once again start the school year, teachers are busy planning academic lessons for the year. Students (and their parents) may be experiencing anticipation and anxiety, particularly about what kind of grades they’ll get this year. High school students that are beginning to think about college and other post-secondary education plans may begin to increase their focus on academic goals. In Vermont, data about afterschool participation and the academic performance of high school students was recently made available; and it supports what research has been showing for years: that participation in quality organized afterschool activities supports academic achievement.

For quality afterschool programs that foster academic gains in students, there are several possible reasons for this success. Some programs work to achieve this very intentionally by providing tutoring and homework help. Others provide lessons and hands-on experiences that correspond with academic lessons taught during the school day to help support learning. Afterschool participation has also been found to reduce absenteeism, which in turn helps students boost their grades because they can be more engaged in their day-to-day classroom learning simply by being present. And we also know from research that participation in afterschool activities makes students less likely to engage in risk behaviors such as fighting, having unprotected sex, and doing drugs. So it’s probably safe to say that students who are spending less time engaging in these harmful behaviors have more time and mental capacity to focus on their schoolwork.

In the spring of 2017, Vermont’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) asked over 20,000 high school students (grades 9-12) in Vermont to indicate whether their grades were “mostly A’s,” “mostly B’s,” “mostly C’s,” “mostly D’s,” “mostly F’s,” “none of these grades,” or “not sure.” Forty-three percent of students responded that their grades were “mostly A’s;” 37% said that their grades were “mostly B’s;” 11% responded, “mostly C’s;” 2% said “mosly D’s;” less than 1% said “mostly F’s;” 1% said “none of these grades;” and 4% responded that they weren’t sure.

The percentages shifted significantly for students who participated in at least some amount of afterschool programming. They were asked to respond to the question, “In an average week when you are in school, how many total hours do you participate in afterschool activities such as sports, band, drama, or clubs run by your school or community groups?” Among the students who responded that they participated in zero hours of afterschool activities per week, two-thirds (67%) also responded either that they earn mostly A’s or mostly B’s in school. For students who participated in between one and four hours per week of afterschool activities, this percentage increased to 84%. For students who participated in between five and nine hours of programming per week, 89% indicated that they earned mostly A’s or mostly B’s; and for students who participated in ten or more hours of weekly afterschool programming, 90% indicated that they earned mostly A’s or B’s in school.

The data point to a clear upward trend: as students spend more time per week participating in afterschool activities, the probability that they’ll earn mostly A’s or mostly B’s in school increases. But the most compelling part about this trend is the initial jump in the percentage of students who earn A’s/B’s between “0 hours” of afterschool programming and “1-4 hours” of afterschool programming. This is encouraging; it suggests that even just a few hours of afterschool programming can potentially make a huge difference for students in terms of their academic gains. We should focus on increasing the amount of quality afterschool programming for all of Vermont’s high school students, but increasing access to programming for those who do not currently participating in any afterschool activities will potentially have the biggest impact in terms of academic achievement.

LEAD: Training designed for licensed program directors

Posted on August 13th, 2018 in: Blog

L.E.A.D. = Leadership, Exploration, And Development

Leadership and quality in afterschool programs are inseparable; for programs to succeed and become sustainable, they need strong leadership at all levels. This four-part series is for leaders of licensed programs in the afterschool field in Vermont. The L.E.A.D. program will provide an advanced level group of afterschool professionals with the tools to hone their strengths and develop new skills to assume greater leadership roles in the future. Participants will also gain valuable perspectives from one another, as each leader brings their unique management styles to the table.

–>Register by September 10th to ensure your place; space is limited. Email Tricia Pawlik-York if you’d like to join or call us at 802-448-3464.

–> Specifically designed for experienced afterschool directors and site coordinators of licensed programs who are looking for that next level of growth and development.

–> Each session will include a training session, a guest speaker, lunch, and time to network.

Topics will include:
  • Staff culture and retention
  • Grant writing
  • Collaboration/Partnerships
  • Working with vulnerable children and families
Date and Locations:
  • September 21, 2018 at Lake Morey Resort
  • January 18, 2019 at Colchester
  • March 18, 2019 at Rutland
  • May 10, 2019 at Lake Morey Resort
16 TOTAL HOURS of professional development!
Cost:  $250

VTA’s Cassie Willner selected as a White-Riley-Peterson Fellow

Posted on August 6th, 2018 in: Blog

The Riley Institute at Furman University has selected Cassie Willner to participate in the White-Riley-Peterson (WRP) Policy Fellowship. A partnership with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the WRP Fellowship is a ten-month, national program designed to equip graduates with a real-world understanding of policy-making for afterschool and expanded learning.

Cassie is the Communications Coordinator at Vermont Afterschool, where she has worked since 2012 to increase awareness of out-of-school time programs. She also works with advocates, providers, educational stakeholders, and policymakers to develop strategies that will improve the quality of and access to afterschool and summer programs across Vermont.

In October, Cassie will travel to Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, to begin the program. As part of the fellowship, Cassie will develop and implement a state-level policy project in partnership with Vermont Afterschool and the national Afterschool Alliance. She is one of 16 individuals selected as a WRP Fellow this year. The number of WRP Fellows nationwide has grown to 106 in 49 states since the initiative launched in 2012.

“It is so important for young people to have access to high-quality academic enrichment opportunities during afterschool hours and in the summer – and we need policy leaders who can make that happen.  The White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellowship is leading the way in developing afterschool advocates, future policymakers and advisors across the country.  I’m so proud to welcome 16 more leaders to this outstanding program,” said former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

The WRP Policy Fellowship is named for Riley and for William S. White, chairman and CEO of the C.S. Mott Foundation, and Dr. Terry Peterson, national board chair of Afterschool Alliance and senior fellow at the Riley Institute and the College of Charleston.

Learn more about the White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellowship here.

 

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