Across grade levels, afterschool programs are helping young people find their passions, express themselves, and develop the foundational skills that will help them thrive in and out of school. Afterschool experiences range from opportunities for kindergartners to work in teams and hone cooperation skills, to giving 12th graders real-world work experience through civil engineering design projects completed in conjunction with business leaders in the community. These programs play an integral role in preparing young people in the middle school grades—which for the purposes of America After 3PM are 6th, 7th, and 8th grade—for their transition to high school, providing a holistic set of academic and social, and emotional supports. The hours between 3 and 6 p.m. look different for middle school youth than for their older and younger peers. Middle schoolers are more likely to be alone and unsupervised after school than elementary school children, yet more likely than high schoolers to be enrolled in an afterschool program. However, similar to their younger and older peers, for every middle schooler in an afterschool program, three more would participate if a program were available to them.

In a nationally representative survey of parents (commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance in the fall of 2020 to supplement data collected before the schools and states began to close in response to the pandemic), 2 in 3 parents of middle school students reported that they were concerned about their child staying on-track in school. More than half of these parents (55 percent) reported feelings of stress thinking about continuing to provide learning support for their child if virtual school and distance learning continues. In the midst of the pandemic, parents continue to value the supports that afterschool programs provide, with a full 70 percent of parents of middle schoolers reporting that the experience of the coronavirus has made them appreciate school teachers and afterschool providers more than ever.

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