From Our Team
Posted on May 18, 2021 by Bianca De León
If you think back on your childhood, chances are there was that one afterschool or summer program that was formative in your life. Maybe it helped you build your self-esteem, pick up new skills, or build a network of friends and mentors that stuck with you throughout your childhood.
For me growing up, it was more than 10 years of ballet folklorico. Perhaps you were a Brownie or a Boy Scout, belonged to a Boys & Girls Club, or attended summer science camp. If so, your life was also touched by an out-of-school time (OST) program, and you can appreciate why the BOOST Network exists in our community. Because few things can boost a child’s life like a quality OST initiative.
The BOOST Network is part of the Health Foundation’s Healthy Kids Initiative, which aims to improve a range of health outcomes by engaging disconnected youth in the Paso del Norte region in high quality programs during out-of-school hours. In 2020, the Health Foundation awarded more than $1.1 million in grants to several nonprofit organizations that offer OST programs and are part of the BOOST Network.
OST programs in the BOOST Network vary from after-school dance and arts workshops to soccer camps with an academic focus to STEM labs where kids can see their innovations come to life. But they all share certain core attributes.
For starters, BOOST members keep kids safe by providing a supervised place to go when their parents are working (or, in the virtual world of COVID, structured activities for youth stuck at home). They also give youth access to trusted adults to serve as tutors and mentors and provide somewhere to learn, play, and grow with their peers in a supportive, goal-oriented setting.
More importantly, OST programs provide health, education, and life skills development that positively impact youth and families across the Paso del Norte region. Just like yearly dental check-ups and doctor visits, enrolling youth in OST programs is an essential component to their overall development and can produce positive health and academic outcomes in their lives.
For decades, researchers have studied the impact of OST programs on participants, from elementary-aged students to high schoolers. They consistently find that quality OST programs produce kids who are less likely to skip school, do drugs or get in trouble with the law and more likely to succeed academically and to exhibit positive social skills and healthy behaviors. Talk about a boost!
For parents, enrolling your kids in an OST program is a bit like giving them a booster shot. It’s an essential component of their overall health and development. In fact, many OST programs explicitly promote wellness, from keeping kids active to teaching them about nutrition and healthy eating.
Another benefit these programs offer is socialization. We might have once taken this for granted, but in this post-Covid period, when many kids have spent months away from their peers, it is an essential part of reclaiming a “normal” childhood. The same goes for the academic support that most OST providers offer - after a year of interrupted schooling, our kids need all the help they can get to make up for lost classroom time.
For parents in the Paso del Norte region that are looking for a good way to ease your kids back into school and social settings, get them active again, or help rebuild their self-esteem, I recommend that you enroll your child in a summer OST program.
There is an OST program for every child, and many strive to ensure that no one is turned away. To see the range of quality local OST providers and register your child for summer or after-school programs, visit www.theboostnetwork.org.
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