Recruitment and Retention in Youth Programs


  • Ann Gillard
  • Peter Witt


Recruitment, retention, out-of-school time programs, youth


Out-of-school time (OST) programs frequently struggle with recruitment and retention of youth in their programs. Recruitment and retention in OST programs can be thought of as two sides of the same coin: after the initial decision to try out a program, youth need to be continually recruited to keep attending, or to be retained in the program. Youth decide to participate (and to keep on participating) in programs based on a number of interacting intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual factors. Several approaches to understanding these factors are discussed, and suggest that youth are “active agents” in their own development; are influenced by their “ecology,” or social surroundings; and consciously plan their behavior. Youth attendance in programs is also influenced by a combination of social and peer factors, psychological processes, program structure, and context. Some specific methods and recommendations for increasing the success of recruitment and retention efforts are also provided. These recommendations are based on several youth development assumptions: (a) youth have power and ability to make conscious decisions about their activities and behaviors; (b) youth experience multiple influences on their OST program participation; (c) youth desire the opportunity to engage in “voice and choice;” and (d) authentic representation and participation of youth is crucial to all recruitment and retention efforts.?