Processes and Outcomes of an After-School Program for Adolescent Girls


  • Cynthia Carruthers


youth development, programs, efficacy, adolescent girls


After-school programs are being increasingly recognized for their potential to contribute to the positive development of youth. Although many authors (Benson, 1997; Eccles & Gootman, 2002) have identified the physical, intellectual, psychological, and social assets necessary for positive youth development, it is also critical to understand the processes of developmental change from a theoretical perspective (Larson & Walker, 2005). The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the impact of an after-school program (SKATES) for adolescent girls, as well as understand the mechanisms of change that were related to the outcomes. The study participants were 25 girls, aged 14 - 18, who lived in a residential facility to which they had been referred by the juvenile justice system. During the day, the girls attended school and therapy sessions. They attended the SKATES program five evenings a week. The SKATES program consisted of computer instruction for instrumental and expressive purposes and developmental asset discussion groups. The girls also went on field trips and conversed with guest speakers, many of whom had backgrounds similar to the girls, which introduced them to a variety of leisure, educational and career experiences and opportunities. There were two mechanisms for collecting data. Every two weeks the girls answered questions on the computer about the SKATES program processes and outcomes that were most salient to them. For example, “What are the most important things that you have gotten out of the SKATES program?” Additionally, twenty interviews were conducted either when the girls were discharged or when the SKATES program concluded. Five themes emerged from the data, including exploration and goal setting; developing competence/past performance; vicarious experience; verbal persuasion; and self-efficacy for the future. The girls indicated that program exposed them to new leisure, career, and educational options and opportunities, and helped them to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their future goals. The girls also indicated they had received the adult and peer support and encouragement necessary for them to believe in themselves via verbal persuasion. Through vicarious experiences, they had been exposed to role models that had overcome adversity, thereby giving them faith in their own ability to overcome personal challenges. They had acquired competence in a variety of arenas and it signified to them that they could achieve in the future. Finally, through the exploration and goal setting, verbal persuasion, vicarious experiences, and competence building that they experienced in the SKATE program, the girls had acquired the self-efficacy belief that they could create a positive future for themselves. The characteristics of the program were similar to other successful programs discussed in the literature. The characteristics included supportive leaders and other adults who had high expectations, encouraged personal responsibility and decision-making, provided opportunities for developing self-awareness and competence, and modeled transformation through adversity. This study contributed to the literature by describing how these different program elements interacted theoretically to enhance the general sense of self-efficacy.