Atlantic Philanthropies
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What We're Learning

Evaluation: First-Year Implementation of the Center for After-School Excellence Certificate Programs

Center of After-School Excellence

2 September 2008

A college-based, one-year certificate programme for after-school workers garnered positive response from U.S. participants who said the programme helped them improve their academic abilities as well as their knowledge about working with youth, according to this evaluation by Policy Study Associates.The Center of After-School Excellence at The After-School Corporation is a grantee of The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The mission of the Center for After-School Excellence, founded with support from The After-School Corporation (TASC) and the Atlantic Philanthropies in 2006, is to improve the skills, capacities, and knowledge of the staff who design, administer, and deliver after-school services to children and youth. As part of this mission, in Fall 2007 the Center launched a university-based program for staff who serve New York City youth in after-school programs, through a one-year certificate program in after-school studies offered in partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY). The Center contracted with Policy Studies Associates (PSA) to conduct a three-year evaluation of the implementation of its university-based programs and of the experiences and benefits accruing to program participants. This report describes the first year of implementation of the certificate courses and participant experiences in the program.

In its first year of implementation, the Center sponsored a one-year certificate program that provided an opportunity for after-school workers to gain a foundation of skills and knowledge in education and youth development through college coursework provided at five CUNY campuses: Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Medgar Evers College, and York College. Through extensive recruitment efforts and partnerships with community-based and government agencies that serve as provider organizations for after-school programming in New York City, the Center recruited 94 certificate program participants during the first year, of whom 75 completed the certificate program. According to Center staff, 49 completers registered to continue classes through the Center for a second year, comparable to the CUNY system retention rate for first-year students (66 percent).

On average, participants had seven years of experience in the after-school field and relatively little exposure to college-level classes prior to enrolling in the certificate courses. Thirty-three percent of participants had not participated in formal schooling beyond a high school diploma or GED, and the Center estimates that 50 percent of participants had previously withdrawn from college programs because of academic challenges. Certificate program participants enrolled in the program to improve their ability to be effective youth workers (67 percent), earn credits towards a college degree (55 percent), serve as positive role models for youth (46 percent), and advance their careers (44 percent).

Many certificate program participants entered the program with extensive knowledge about working with and motivating youth, but 46 percent of participants were concerned about their ability to succeed in an academic setting. To address these concerns and to enhance the overall participant experience, participants received incentives, support, and encouragement from several sources: the Center, their employer, the CUNY college in which they enrolled, and their peers. Participants were most enthusiastic about the suppor