Breaking the Cycle of Low Expectations: It Starts with Afterschool Programs

Teenagers living in urban areas face several challenges every day. When teens aren’t in school, many are confronted by gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and the risk of pregnancy. In the United States, 22 percent of children live in poverty and many families lack the tools to break the cycle of low expectations.

Students who aren’t in after school programs have four hours of unsupervised time each day.  That’s 15.1 Million unsupervised teens in the US. In Chicago, one of the cities where we work, teens living in impoverished neighborhoods such as Englewood live in fear of being one of the hundreds of victims who die from gang violence. The statistics of live for inner-city teens are grim.

Here are the facts

– Students who aren’t enrolled in extracurricular activities are 75 percent more likely to use tobacco or drugs, 37 percent more likely to become teen parents, and 50 percent more likely to be arrested.*

– Students who attend school in poor, urban areas have graduation rates of 15 to 18 percent behind their peers.

– Students who drop out of school are twice as likely to live below the poverty line; and in the U.S., high school dropouts commit about 75 percent of crimes.

Only one-third of teen mothers receive a high school diploma and only 1.5% have a college degree by age 30. Plus, nearly 80 percent of unmarried teen mothers end up on welfare.

buildOn is working to turn things around. Our Afterschool Youth Development Programs are designed to empower youth to lift their communities from low expectations through service. buildOn alumna Tierra Coleman, 21, is a testament to how service made her a better person. She struggled with anger management, and seemed destined to go to jail or asylum before joining buildOn her freshman year. Learn more about Tierra’s transformation here.

buildOn members learn about the issues facing their communicates and then do intensive community service to address these issues, from feeding the homeless to spending time with seniors to tutoring elementary school children. In addition, our students learn valuable leadership skills that build them up for success. A study conducted by Brandeis University found that 95 percent of our graduating seniors have gone on to college since 2000, and 64 percent of our students raise their GPA over the course of a year.

Afterschool programs are key

Participants in afterschool programs improve school attendance, their engagement in learning and have higher aspirations for the future.

– Students in afterschool programs have been proven twice as likely to continue their education beyond high school.**

– 83% of volunteer participants reported that they improved or developed their leadership skill, and 78% reported improvement in their communications skills.

With your support, buildOn’s Breaking the Cycle campaign will fund an afterschool program at one of the nation’s toughest high schools. Help us invest in the next generation of leaders. Make a donation to our Breaking the Cycle campaign today!

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Adolescent Time Use, Risky Behavior, and Outcomes: An Analysis of National Data.” Washington, D.C.: Author, 1995

**Taggart, R. Quantum Opportunities Program. Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America. Philadelphia, 1995