Boosting After-School Success

with Valerie Heron-Duranti of Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Every day in the U.S., 1.3 million school-age children are home without adult supervision after school. Research suggests that participation in structured after-school clubs can have benefits for children including emotional, social and academic development.

Valerie Heron-Duranti, Senior Director of Youth Development for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, joins Sheila Hyland to discuss the significance of structured, supportive after-school hours for children.

Posted on:

Aug 06, 2018

Hosted by: Sheila Hyland
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Hyland: Every day, 11.3 million kids are left unsupervised after school lets out, contributing to an escalation in violent crimes committed by juveniles between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Sheila Hyland. How young people spend their after-school hours can significantly impact their lives. Joining me to discuss this and more is Valerie Heron-Duranti, Senior Director of Youth Development for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Thank you for being with us. The first question I want to ask you is, how does the way a child spends his or her time after school impact their future?

Heron-Duranti: Thank you for asking, Sheila. Thanks for having me. So it really does make a difference in a young person´s life, depending on what they do after school. So Boys & Girls Clubs is a safe place, not only a safe place, but it´s a place where a young person can become an agent of change in their own lives. So we like to say what happens in a Boys & Girls Club is not a secret sauce, it´s a science sauce. So we know 90 percent of young people, if they regularly attend a club where they´re met with a caring, supportive adult who helps them with social/ emotional development skills, build that in their lives, they´re better equipped to have a great future.

Hyland: A lot of people have heard of Boys & Girls Clubs, of course, but we really don´t know what goes on behind closed doors at the club, so to speak. Take us behind the scenes and tell us what a typical afternoon looks like. What are the kids doing? What are they up to? -What are they learning? -

Heron-Duranti: Absolutely. So a club is that third space. You know, it takes a village to raise a child, so the club is that third space for young people to not only get to make new friends but really explore opportunities that they may not have had in other places in their lives. So the club is especially important for those at a lower socioeconomical status or those who have just not had those chances that other people have had. So the club is able to lower and level the playing field for these youth.

Hyland: What kids are most at risk of being adversely affected by being unsupervised after the school bell rings?

Heron-Duranti: So we´ve seen everything from, you know, more at risk to use drugs, increased risk of teen pregnancy. So the club, with these caring adults providing opportunities for young people to be those decision-makers in their lives, it reduces those risks dramatically.

Hyland: I know that the Boys & Girls Clubs has a proven track record. Tell us about some of the statistics behind the kids who attend a Boys & Girls Club after school and those who don´t, how much better they´re faring than the other kids who are left unsupervised.

Heron-Duranti: Yeah, so the statistics just go way up. I mean, young people, 90 percent that regularly attend are able to say that they would make good choices in their life even if they´re influenced negatively by a peer, and we´ve seen that number go up, especially with teens that participate in the clubs. They´re even more likely, around 98 percent, to choose positive behaviors instead of some of those risky behaviors in life.

Hyland: So talk a little bit more about how you´re really empowering these kids.

Heron-Duranti: So, it´s really about our caring club professional staff. So having high-quality youth-development practices and embedding these critical social/emotional development skills like perseverance, empathy, they´re able to really grow into the change makers that they need to grow into. So imagine impulse control. If a young person has poor impulse control, think of how many doors are closed for them as an adult. They may be labeled as a troublemaker or choose poor health -- make bad health choices for the future versus if they have positive impulse control, they´re able to grow their self-esteem, their confidence, develop leadership skills that will help them make a positive impact to tomorrow´s workforce.

Hyland: Teenagers can sometimes be a little finicky. -

Heron-Duranti: Yes. -

Hyland: How do you go about reaching out to them and getting them to come into the club?

Heron-Duranti: It´s really about leveraging their voice. It´s about empowering them to be the change that we want to see in the world and that they want to see in the world. So as long as you have those supporting adults that will give young people the voice, that´s what happens in a club every day. And these teens are saying the club saved their life or the club is their second home because they´re able to really be and develop who they want to be.

Hyland: So where can people go to find out more about the Boys & Girls Clubs and how they can help, too, as well?

Heron-Duranti: Yeah, so is our national website, and you can learn all about your local club and other programs and the great opportunities that happen in the club walls.

Hyland: All right, Valerie Heron-Duranti, thank you so much for being our guest.

Heron-Duranti: Thank you.

Hyland: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit I´m Sheila Hyland.

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