Speak United

Youth Programs: Quality Matters to Make an Impact

October 25, 2017
Angela Ditsler

Angela Ditsler

Director of High School Graduation
Metro United Way




When you find something that works, you stick with it. That’s exactly what we’re doing with the out-of-school time (OST) partners we work with at Metro United Way! In 2014, through our partnership with BLOCS (Building Louisville’s Out-of-School Time Coordinated System), we introduced 38 local program sites to a process called the Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI). National research told us that adopting this method would improve the quality of youth programs. Still, we wondered: will it work here, too?

Three years later, I proudly and confidently share with the world that IT WORKS! For the past three years, data collected demonstrates that the quality of local programs that have adopted YPQI is consistently improving in all four measurement areas: Safe Environment, Supportive Environment, Interaction, and Engagement. In fact, our OST network as a whole has improved quality by an average of 13%, while individual measurement domains have experienced improvement by as much as 44% over this three-year period!

96% of direct service staff who participated in YPQI indicated that they believe youth were more engaged in the program and that youth developed skills as a result of the quality improvement intervention, and nearly that same number stated that the quality of instruction improved at their sites as a direct result of YPQI.

Since 2014, the BLOCS network of OST providers participated in YPQI has grown to include 81 sites at 39 different organizations. The David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality states, “BLOCS’ decision to implement the YPQI was a critical first step in developing a wide network of quality programs able to serve children and youth with the highest degree of effectiveness. As the network grows in 2017-18 the system will be able to establish a culture of continuous improvement and create new norms and high standards for the quality of programs for children and youth.”

BLOCS Program Summary Youth workers in these organizations share these same sentiments. One program manager commented, “I have learned that quality is not subjective. There are studied and recognized benchmarks that support youth development.” Another youth development worker added, “I am more aware of the importance of quality programming. While our program consists of holistic approaches, I was pleased to learn how to effectively incorporate social-emotional learning into all of our programming.”

As we look to the future, we hope to continue making YPQI available to more and more program sites across our 7-county Metro United Way region. Our data collection efforts continue to ramp up, as well. This fall, we introduced an additional tool that collects better social-emotional learning (SEL) data on the youth themselves so we can examine the impact these programs have directly on the youth they serve. In early 2018, BLOCS partners look forward to releasing its first multi-year data report that will demonstrate both the progress and impact our network of OST providers are having in our community.

To learn more about the importance of OST and how this work provides a stronger educational foundation to help decrease high school drop-out rates and increase college degrees, visit HERE.


Angie Ditsler is the Director of High School Graduation Initiatives at Metro United Way. She has been with MUW over 11 years, having served in several different positions. Angie began her youth development career working with youth in Guadalajara and Merida, Mexico before eventually moving to Louisville in 2005. She has a bachelors degree from Centre College and masters degrees from the Roehampton University in London, UK and the University of Louisville. Angie’s most important job however is being mom to three children under age 6. When she’s not chasing after her own kids Angie enjoys gardening, cooking, and cheering on her UofL Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals.