There are clear advantages to after school participation for middle-school youth.

Research shows that the 1.4 million children in grades six to eight who participate in after school programs gain immense support for their academic and social development. In addition, programs that provide activities aligned with students’ developmental needs—such as social interaction, physical activity and development of new skills and interests—inspire students and prepare them for the transition to high school.

In a series of four issue briefs, the MetLife Foundation and Afterschool Alliance examined critical issues facing middle-school youth and the vital role after school programs play in addressing these issues. Through their research, they identified specific ways that after school programs support middle-school students:

STEM: Integrating science, technology, engineering and math learning into after school programming gives middle-school students a fun, hands-on introduction to essential STEM skills. It also gives them time to develop an interest in STEM and inspires them to learn.

Health and wellness: After school programs provide activities that keep middle-school youth physically active, while also teaching them to make positive nutritional and lifestyle choices.

Service learning: Meaningful activities give middle-school youth the opportunity to use their skills and talents to impact the world around them. It helps them gain a sense of responsibility and see themselves as citizens as they make meaningful contributions to their communities.

Career and college readiness: Studies show that middle schoolers who have poor attendance, score low grades in a core subject, or fail math or reading are less likely to graduate high school and pursue secondary education. After school programs can help these students overcome barriers that may derail their future and can put them on track to high-school graduation, higher education and eventually a fulfilling career.

Middle school is a challenging time for students, but after school programs can provide support to prepare them for high school, college and beyond. To read the full issue briefs, visit the Afterschool Alliance website.