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After School Options: Which Clubs are Best for You?

National after school clubs and extracurricular programs, what they are and what they can do for you.

Jan 16, 2020

After-school clubs and organizations can provide great outlets through which you can make new friends, learn new skills, explore your passion for a subject, or discover a new one. Below are a few national after school programs. Which ones have you tried?

4-H 

“In 4‑H, we provide young people opportunities to develop skills and get hands-on experiences in everything from coding, to robotics, and agricultural science, bringing them a whole new perspective on possibilities for their futures,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4‑H Council. 

The goal of 4-H is to build the next generation of leaders to face the challenges the future will bring. This career prep-oriented organization focuses on empowerment and developing life skills. These life skills are enforced through STEM-based research efforts and community service. 

The organization, comprised of nearly six million young members, collaborates with 110 public universities across the country and is involved with independent programs in 50 countries. The organization’s members range in age from seven to 18 and benefit from 4-H’s informal educational methods. The instructors participate on a volunteer basis, organizing events and activities for the youth.

There are four types of programs within the 4-H institution: 4-H Science (which explores solutions to topical problems such as alternative energy, robotics, and sustainable agriculture); 4-H Healthy Living (which aims to encourage healthy eating, physical fitness, and social and emotional wellbeing); 4-H Citizenship (which encourages community-based leadership and communication); and Life Skills.

In tandem with these four programs, the 4-H emblem is a four-leaf clover -- the four H's standing for head, heart, hands, and health.

4-H is much more than just farming. Today's 4-H clubs engage students in activities like STEM, advocacy, outreach, and more4-H is much more than just farming. Today's 4-H clubs engage students in activities like STEM, advocacy, outreach, and moreCourtesy of 4-H

Boy Scouts of America

Every Boy Scout knows the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” These values ring true across all divisions of Boy Scout -- Cub Scout (Grades K-5), Scouts BSA (Ages 11-17), Venturing (Ages 14-20), Sea Scouting (Ages 14-20), and Exploring (Ages 10-20). Eventually, if successful, a Boy Scout can earn the high rank of Eagle Scout. In a controversial 2017 decision, Boy Scouts of America is now a co-ed organization. As such, Boy Scout entry is not limited to those who identify as “boys,” but the organization welcomes those of all genders. These young people, by joining the organization, can engage in various hands-on activities, from hiking and biking to boating and rafting. 

Education, too, is a large part of the organization’s mission. Boy Scouts receive lessons in history, safety, and community service, along with other important topics.

Local chapters of the organization exist across the United States, so getting involved is as easy as typing your zip code into the website’s “Find Scouting Near You” page and getting in touch with the Pack Leader.

Whether the activities are outdoor survival skills, sports, or earning badges, the Boy Scout focus is always on community and fun.Whether the activities are outdoor survival skills, sports, or earning badges, the Boy Scout focus is always on community and fun.Courtesy of Boy Scouts of America

Girl Scouts of America

The first Girl Scout of America troop was founded more than one hundred years ago in 1912. Now, the organization boasts about 1.7 million members. Despite the similarity in name to the Boy Scouts of America, there are a few crucial differences. First, GSA is an all-female organization; second, GSA is not strictly American -- there are Girl Scout troops in 92 countries. All of these troops embark upon journeys for various badges and awards, perform acts of community service, and get outdoors when possible, all vying for the final Gold Award.

The Girl Scout Law, familiar to all Girl Scouts is: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

Famous Girl Scout “sisters”  include Venus and Serena Williams, Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton, and Mariah Carey. Seventy-two percent of female U.S. Senators were Girl Scouts and fifty-eight percent of female Representatives were part of the organization, as well.

However, GSA is arguably best known for its annual cookie sale, which raises nearly $800 million, annually, for the organization. Members can sell to friends and family, set up booths outside local shops, or take orders at school, among various other creative methods of cookie sale. This practice teaches entrepreneurship and community service.

Scouting is so much more than earning badges and cookie sales.Scouting is so much more than earning badges and cookie sales.Courtesy of Girl Scouts of America

Girls, Inc.

More than thirty years old, the Girls Inc. organization boasts STEM classes for girls -- particularly those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to such programming. The organization often partners with schools, or might have its own, independent chapter. Girls, Inc.’s motto is: “The combination of long-lasting mentoring relationships, a pro-girl environment, and research-based programming equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.”

Girls Inc. supports future leaders of tomorrow through STEM education and advocacy all the way up to the government levelGirls Inc. supports future leaders of tomorrow through STEM education and advocacy all the way up to the government levelCourtesy of Girls Inc.

Outschool

“With live online classes ranging from Harry Potter, Fortnite, and coding to filmmaking, songwriting, and world languages, to academic tutoring—Outschool has a class for just about anyone! Kids ages 3-18 can learn on any device over live video chat with teachers offering classes and clubs that match your interests! Just log in, search for your favorite topic with your time availability, and sign up!” -- Amir Nathoo, Outschool CEO

Outschool offers classes for kids who love school and kids who don’t, alike, as the program provides education both to those seeking traditional and non-traditional educational supplements. The program’s tagline, “Where Kids Love Learning,” rings true as it provides the one thing all kids seek: freedom. With classes in art, cooking, world languages, etc., students truly have the freedom to command their own learning, drawing a parallel to college, in which students can choose their own classes from a far wider variety of subejcts than ever before. This collegiate-style freedom and independence allow students to feel mature and respected as they approach their education. 

Outschool is an educational platform that offers over 10k live, online classes for kids of all ages – all taught by qualified instructors. Outschool aims to offer fun and educational classes that are affordable for parents, and offered in the safety and comfort of your own home. All classes are conducted via video chat in small groups. 

Outschool’s classes are great for after school because they’re affordable (average $10-$15/class hour) and are offered by qualified teachers and experts in so many fields. From art classes, to science experiments, to Pokémon and Minecraft themed clubs, you’ll find a wide variety of classes that aim to get kids excited about learning. Plus, it offers variety for learners to try a whole slew of interesting topics without committing to one thing. 

What is Outschool?

 

 

Urban Debate Leagues

Debate is where it’s cool to be smart and is one of the most dynamic and beneficial activities a young person can do with their out of school time. Peer reviewed research shows that participating in debate helps improve a student’s grades, test scores, graduation rates, and more. Debate also develops key social-emotional skills like self-confidence, grit, and resilience. Debate, especially policy debate, is also one of the best ways to get a non-athletic scholarship to help pay for college, as many schools treat their debate programs like Division I sports. 

Beyond the benefits, debate is fun! It is a unique activity that allows students to discuss issues they are passionate about, and actually have people listen, engage, and help them hone their ideas and skills and develop their unique voice. Students usually programs at their local school, and compete in local, regional, and national competitions not unlike sports. Whether you are looking for a competitive outlet that won’t give you a concussion, or simply are looking for a community of engaged smart students at your school or in your community, debate is the activity for you. 

Debate programs are available nation-wide and generally don’t cost very much to participate, at least locally. Urban Debate programs in many major cities, such as the Washington Urban Debate League, make debate free and accessible for all students, regardless of socio-economic background. 

To find a local debate program near you, check out the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL), or the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA). (Special thanks to David Trigaux, Washington Urban Debate League).

Debate in My Life : Bay Area Urban Debate League

 

 

YMCA

The YMCA is not only a Village People coordinated song and dance played at weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, but also a fun after-school youth organization, in which about nine million children participate. The YMCA’s (The Y’s) mission is: “Every day, we work side-by-side with our neighbors to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn and grow.” Kids can take part in STEM programs, swim, and play sports, among other exciting activities. 

Learn to swim, get your game on, have a snack, find a friend... all through your local YMCALearn to swim, get your game on, have a snack, find a friend... all through your local YMCACourtesy of YMCA Gallatin Valley
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Which of these programs have you joined? What is your favorite after school program? Is it mentioned here? Share your experiences in the comments below.