Investing in the People who Invest in our Youth

After school and other Out-of-School Time (OST) programs are some of the best investments we can make to support young people. The more OST opportunities youth have, the better their outcomes are - across the board, but cumulatively black and brown youth are afforded around 6000 hours less OST learning opportunities than their white peers. The stakes are raised when you learn that OST sites are places where BIPOC youth actually feel more belonging, acceptance, and support than in their school classrooms. But OST isn’t effective because of the building - often just a converted duplex or corner of a shared gym - it’s effective because of the people.

Unfortunately, afterschool workforce conditions, primarily low-pay, have resulted in a ~40% annual turn-over rate, unfilled positions across the field, and a ~70% reduction in capacity to serve youth compared to before COVID-19. Retaining, understanding, and improving the workforce as a strategy to improve youth outcomes has been a key initiative of Madison Out of School Time (MOST) for over four years. Given the problem is mostly a function of low-wages, MOST has raised private funds to give unconditional or nearly unconditional cash to over 160 youth workers, and our evaluations have shown that it significantly increased retention and workforce well-being - results were even published by the National Afterschool Association. But our evaluation also helped us gain an even better understanding of what youth workers (adults who work with youth) say would increase retention. Overwhelmingly, the top three things are:

  1. Increased Compensation
  2. Making a Positive Impact on youth and families
  3. Good supervisor, work environment, and co-workers

To tackle this issue head on and address the root causes of an afterschool workforce retention crisis, MOST recently launched a paid 8 month MOST Afterschool Fellows pilot. The fellowship model is simple yet powerful. Select outstanding leaders in the field, convene, and learn from each other, nurture lasting relationships and develop shared professional identity, provide mentoring and support to an impactful project of their choosing, and give fellows a stipend that demonstrates the value we see in their work and helps make ends meet. We are proud to announce our inaugural MOST Afterschool Fellows Cohort. At our first session together, our fellows learned from one of their own, Ben Pate, who works at Maydm providing girls and youth of color in grades 6 - 12 with the skills, experiences, and connections to pursue careers in and change the face of STEM. Ben taught us all how to code, work together to solve complex problems, and it was a lesson to lean on each other’s diverse strengths as we got to know each-other for the first time. If the first meeting was any indication of the joy and impact that this crew will have, we’re on to something big.

To learn more about our fellows and faculty click here.

To hear directly from a few of our fellows click here.