Workforce Support for Urban After-School Programs: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

Stacy L. Frazier*, Tommy Chou, Rachel R. Ouellette, Sarah A. Helseth, Erin R. Kashem, Kelly D. Cromer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Organized after-school programs can mitigate risk and build resilience for youth in urban communities. Benefits rely on high-quality developmental experiences characterized by a supportive environment, structured youth–adult interactions, and opportunities for reflective engagement. Programs in historically disenfranchised communities are underfunded; staff are transient, underpaid, and undertrained; and youth exhibit significant mental health problems which staff are variably equipped to address. Historically, after-school research has focused on behavior management and social-emotional learning, relying on traditional evidence-based interventions designed for and tested in schools. However, after-school workforce and resource limitations interfere with adoption of empirically supported strategies and youth health promotion. We have engaged in practice-based research with urban after-school programs in economically vulnerable communities for nearly two decades, toward building a resource-efficient, empirically informed multitiered model of workforce support. In this paper, we offer first-person accounts of four academic–community partnerships to illustrate common challenges, variability across programs, and recommendations that prioritize core skills underlying risk and resilience, align with individual program goals, and leverage without overextending natural routines and resources. Reframing obstacles as opportunities has revealed the application of mental health kernels to the after-school program workforce support and inspired lessons regarding sustainability of partnerships and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-443
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • After-school programs
  • Poverty
  • Public health
  • Urban
  • Workforce support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Applied Psychology


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