Quality out-of-school time (OST) programs are universally recognized as a critical tool to help students boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviors and graduate on time, contributing to key performance indicators including attendance, engagement in learning, test scores and grades. Building Louisville’s Out-of-School Time Coordinated System (BLOCS) – a partnership with Metro United Way, Jefferson County Public Schools and Metro Government connects youth to programs, connects programs to one another, identifies gaps in service, works to build system-wide quality through community trainings, provides professional opportunities for youth workers and measures the program quality.
Currently, there are 30 certified Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI) Assessors that visit 81 OST program sites throughout the year to offer support, evaluation and immediate feedback on how to improve the quality of these programs.
“Doing these assessments is one of my favorite parts of the work I do,” said TJ Delahanty, Senior Manager, Out-of-School Time Initiatives at Metro United Way. “It is a way for me to get out of the office to see our OST programs in action and give them tangible supports.”
While observing an activity at one of TJ’s program visits, he witnessed a situation where a staff member put one of the youth, Kieron, in “time out.” After the activity, the children all went outside for free time and Kieron was not allowed to participate, but instead had to sit on the bench. It just so happened that TJ, who was still observing the program, decided to sit on that same bench. He introduced himself and Kieron responded saying, “Hi I’m Kieron. I’m having a bad day.”
Kieron seemed sad and disappointed in himself. TJ explained to him how people sometimes have bad days, but it is important to not dwell on one unfortunate moment. He posed a question to Kieron, “What can you do to make your day better?”
“Well, I guess I could apologize to Mr. Mike for disrupting the activity,” Kieron replied. “I suggest you give it a try,” TJ responded back.
Kieron walked over to Mr. Mike and apologized and was then allowed to participate in the rest of the activities. Kieron’s face immediately changed into a big grin and he darted off to the playground, but not without quickly veering out of his path to run by the bench and give TJ a fist bump and say “thanks.”
TJ took this as an opportunity to debrief with Mr. Mike and the rest of the staff on ways to give youth an opportunity to take control of their successes and educate them about how their actions can dictate their day.
By training highly skilled workers, reliable YPQI assessors and producing engaging activities to ensure quality is the standard in all of our OST programs, BLOCS continues to invest in our youth’s future and are equipping them with the right tools to help all young people excel in their community, school and in life!