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New data to draw detailed portrait of Philly’s out-of-school time programs

A decade after he spent afternoons at a Mount Airy recreation center, Che Williams, 24, can still recall how much he enjoyed himself – and how he benefited from supervised homework and social time.

“I am a product of afterschool programs. They kept me out of trouble,” said Williams, who is a graphic designer and illustrator.

The program he attended included African dance lessons that were great fun and still memorable. “Those are the trouble hours, when school is out and your mom isn’t home yet,” he said.

Out-of-school time (OST) programs have long been the linchpin in efforts across the city to keep children safe, deter delinquency, and develop youth skills and talent. The numbers can dazzle: A plethora of programs run by the Free Library, the city Parks and Recreation Department, and numerous charities and private providers draw tens of thousands of children after school and in the summer.

Historically, this mix of programs was run with little coordination or sharing of expertise. For parents, finding the program to suit the interests of their children took research and luck. Some programs were top-notch, while others lacked in quality with ill-trained staff.

All that is changing. With support from the Wallace Foundation, OST advocates are attempting to map every out-of-school time program in the city, collect useful details about each program, and create a profile of the children and youth who attend. Eight other cities also have Wallace backing to improve out-of-school programing.

Read the full story at the Notebook.