Every day in the United States, as many as 15 million children leave school with no adult at home or afterschool plans. It is no coincidence that the highest juvenile crime rate across the country is between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. This trend profoundly affects the health and future of these children.
As a result, After-School All-Stars in Atlanta provides comprehensive out-of-school programs that are fun for kids during these critical hours of the day. It is not an extension of the school day, but it is an engaging environment to foster ongoing relationships with other children and staff members, and to reinforce knowledge and skills needed for all areas of students’ lives – in the home, school and community.
Programming falls into five highly-structured and organized categories led by a certified teacher: academic remediation and enrichment, cultural enrichment, technology, sports and recreation and parental involvement.
A typical after-school day includes a nutritious snack, homework assistance and tutoring. Depending on the day, there are extra-curricular programs, such as a special interest club, structured physical activity or field trip. At the end of the day, students have a hot supper meal.
After-School All-Stars is free to the student’s family.
The program began as a summer athletic program for inner city kids in 1994 as Atlanta prepared for the 1996 Olympic Games. Various tournaments were played all over the city, and organizers used these events to teach fair play, character and the negative consequences of juvenile crime. In 1999, the program shifted to become a sustainable afterschool middle school program, free to all participants, and focused on positive messaging. Their mission remains consistent today: “Provide opportunities for young people to participate in educational, sports, cultural and community enrichment programs; build self-confidence and self-esteem; encourage youth to say ‘no’ to gangs, drugs and violence and to say ‘yes’ to hope, learning and life.”
The After-School All-Stars program expanded to 10 urban middle schools in the Atlanta area, 11 City of Atlanta Centers of Hope, the City of Refuge, and Atlanta Mission, which offers transitional housing to women and their children.
“We developed the After-School All-Stars Atlanta program because we wanted to meaningfully impact the lives of children living in Atlanta,” said Dr. Walt Thompson, executive director. “With the help of many friends, we have experienced continuous growth and now have nearly 4,000 children in our after-school and summer programs.”
After-School All-Stars is a member of a nationwide network of 15 cities allowing for a free exchange of ideas, experiences and successful strategies. The program content is designed to meet specific local needs and interests. However, each of the sites is committed to providing a comprehensive afterschool experience that includes three components: independent learning, academics and enrichment. While independent learning and academics focuses on time for homework and engaging ways to teach core subjects, enrichment builds social, physical and emotional skills using sports, arts, culture and computer training. One program, Project CHEW (Choosing Health Experiencing Wellness) was developed over a decade ago to teach students about physical activity and nutrition in affordable, culturally relevant and age-appropriate ways.
Given the amount of diversity among students attending middle schools in the inner city of Atlanta, cultural appreciation is very evident at After-School All-Stars. Students are exposed to a variety of dance and visual arts from around the world, like Zumba. Once a quarter, family night showcases everything students have learned during After-School All-Stars and provides a venue for parents to meet their children’s teachers in a less formal setting.
Dr. Carolyn Huff, a retired Atlanta public school principal, said, "The After-School All-Stars program enables us to maintain a robust learning environment after school. It is an important part of enhancing academic productivity and promoting a lifelong interest in school and learning."
To learn more about After-School All-Stars visit their website.