Brandeis Evaluation: After buildOn, Students 30% More Able to Make a Difference

How does buildOn help students? In August of 2010 we partnered with an academic group, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, to develop more sophisticated and in-depth impact metrics—ways of quantifying the effects of buildOn’s afterschool youth service programs on participants. The group came up with this report. 95.9% of respondents to last year’s year-end survey claimed that buildOn had contributed to the feeling that they could make a difference. But we wanted a detailed picture of this contribution.

The team at Brandeis examined buildOn’s goals and current success measurements, as well as the impact metrics of comparable non-profit organizations. Then, with questionnaires and interviews, Brandeis studied a sample of buildOn members from Jane Addams High School, a low-performing public institution situated in New York’s Bronx neighborhood. (Only 32% of 2005’s freshman class graduated in 2009). The goal of this study was to discover not only the “how” of buildOn’s influence, but the “how much”.

100% of pilot survey respondents strongly agreed that because of buildOn, they have a more positive attitude about themselves. Others felt that the program’s focus on “communication skills” was particularly helpful: “I communicate with my teachers a lot more so I get higher grades,” reads one quote.

Indeed, data shows that 37% of buildOn students improved their attendance over the course of one year in the program, compared to only 7% of students in the control group. Furthermore, 64% of buildOn students increased their GPAs over the course of the same year. Students learn best in environments where they can take pride in their ideas.

Below is a chart showing the effect that buildOn’s youth service program has had on student confidence in specific areas. The students reported on, among other things, their ability to empathize with others before responding in disputes; to organize other students towards social projects; to participate in community service activities; and, more generally, to “make a difference”.

A recent Gallup Poll surveyed U.S. children in grades 5-12 on their level of hope, engagement, and wellbeing–the qualities experts have associated with “readiness for the future”. Only 34% scored high in all three categories, with the first receiving the weakest feedback (53% of students—barely a majority—are “hopeful”).

By contrast, 100% of the pilot survey respondents in our Brandeis evaluation “agree” or “strongly agree” that buildOn has provided them with a wider range of post-high school options. And Brandeis has identified that, along with hope, compassion, empowerment and self-worth are direct outcomes of participation in buildOn activities. We’re proud that our afterschool youth service programs are not only enhancing the day-to-day academic careers of our students but also instilling within them the qualities they require to succeed and lead their generation in the future.