Like other Start Strong sites, we found that working in the after-school setting posed a larger and more varied set of challenges than when working in-school. Establishing any kind of programming—let alone serious discussions about healthy relationships—can be difficult when you don’t see the same kids every day and when they’re not required to enroll in your programming. It’s not hard to predict what a kid will do if given the choice between playing games and sitting down for a discussion on healthy relationships.
In order to grab young people’s attention among the competing activities and relaxed atmosphere of an after-school environment, you need to get creative. Some of our most successful efforts ended up being art projects and contests. We also had success inviting after-school programs to join larger community-wide events we had planned, like parades or concerts, where they could easily plug in. Whatever you do, don’t go into an after-school environment thinking you can just duplicate what you’re doing in classrooms.