What if you could find out about safe, affordable, and accessible after school and summer programs for kids in one place, removing the hassle of endless internet searches and word-of-mouth inquiries? The Out 2 Learn website offers this very convenience to residents of the Greater Houston area with the click of a button.
Out2LearnHOU.org is a free, new resource that locates out-of-school time (OST) programs for youth ages 5 to 18 by zip code as well as several other filter options. “It is the first searchable database of its kind in Houston,” says Juliet Stipeche of the Mayor’s Office of Education, which is one of four founding partners of the Out 2 Learn initiative. Other founding partners include Houston Endowment, United Way of Greater Houston, and Harris County Department of Education – CASE for Kids.
Out-of-school time (OST) is a term that represents the time and space outside of regular school hours, and studies show that the way youth spend their time during these crucial hours has an impact on their overall health and well-being as well as school academic performance. Youth OST programs, including traditional after school and summer programs such as through the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Girl Scouts, thus offer enormous potential for encouraging positive and healthy youth development.
With the advent of social media and numerous competing influences in the lives of children in the 21st century, OST programs alternatively provide healthy, positive outlets for youth to “explore interests and passions in a safe and supportive environment,” says United Way program manager, Tiffany Echevarria, who oversees Out 2 Learn outreach efforts.
Alongside receiving valuable academic support, such as tutoring and homework help, OST opportunities also allow youth to learn and reinforce soft skills that are necessary for thriving and competing in today’s workforce. Commonly referred to as social emotional skills or 21st century skills in various industries, examples of such competencies include teamwork, conflict resolution, taking initiative, and demonstrating responsibility.
Houston Endowment, funder of the Out 2 Learn initiative and long-term supporter of education opportunities for youth in Greater Houston, brought together the foremost leaders of OST in Houston to establish Out 2 Learn. “We knew we would need the leadership and support of key stakeholders and system leaders working together,” says Tonyel Edwards, Program Officer at the Endowment.
If you are a parent looking for high-quality OST opportunities for youth, now is a prime time to search for after school programs on Out2LearnHOU.org as students return to school in the new year.
Alisha Sawyers, a mother of 5 daughters who resides in the Acres Home neighborhood in Houston, speaks highly of the YMCA after school program that her daughter, Diamond, age 9, has been enrolled in since September 2018.
“It’s been wonderful. My daughter loves it, and I love it. We don’t miss a day,” says Sawyers who enrolled Diamond into the program after seeing that she was struggling academically. After joining the program however, Sawyers saw Diamond’s grades significantly improve as a result of the one-on-one tutoring and homework assistance that her daughter received. Even Sawyer’s other two school-aged children, who initially did not want to join the YMCA program, are now on the waitlist to enroll after seeing the fun and exciting STEM and performing arts activities that their sister has been involved with after school.
Through Out2LearnHOU.org, parents can find out about a variety of after school programs as well as summer programs, spring break camps, and winter break camps. Pertinent program details such as fee and eligibility requirements are also conveniently listed. Additionally, parents can call the 2-1-1 Texas/United Way HELPLINE to receive the same information over the phone 24/7 in over 150 languages.