Monday, May 9, 2011

Afterschool Programs Matter for Rural Youth

By Logan Robertson, guest blogger

The term “urban” is often conflated with “youth,” a practice that tends to diminish or even make invisible the distinct experiences of youth who do not live in “the inner-city.” The urban context is understood as standard, while the rural context is usually conceptualized in terms of myths of the idealized countryside and the idyllic childhood.

While the issues faced by urban youth often take center stage in academic research and popular media, rural youth must meet similar and unique challenges, though in decidedly different environments. Afterschool programs are crucial for older youth in rural communities – for many young people, the afterschool program may be the only safe place during non-school hours, the only chance to try new activities and skills, and the one chance outside of school to develop positive relationships with peers and role models. Afterschool programs create resources that help rural youth negotiate the transition to successful adulthood.

As such, youth practitioners and advocates must persist in their efforts to develop afterschool programs for high school students in rural communities, to make rural youth programs more visible to the afterschool field, and emphasize the important role that such programs can have, not only for rural youth, but for the communities in which they live.

To view a profile of one rural school-based afterschool program serving high school age youth, see an article that I recently wrote with Temescal Associates entitled “I Feel Like I’m Somebody: Older Youth and High School Afterschool Programs in a Rural California Town.” To view a recent publication from the Harvard Family Research Project entitled “Out of School Time Programs in Rural Areas” click here. To join a committee on afterschool programs serving rural communities sponsored by the California Afterschool Network, click here.

Logan Robertson, PhD, is Assistant Director of Community Services for Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District. She is also a member of the California School-Age Consortium’s Trainer Network, the Tulare County Youth Commission, and the California Afterschool Network’s Rural Programs Committee.

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