Guest Blog: Making room for flexibility in afterschool

by Robert Abare

Written by Rhetta Hunyady

When you walk into a fast food chain, you probably have a good idea of what to expect. The food, the service, the building’s layout – it’s all fairly predictable. Your experience at one location will be similar to your experience at another.

While that’s a great model for a restaurant franchise, it doesn’t work as well for youth programming. After all, many afterschool programs are offered at multiple sites – each with its own students, its own culture, its own strengths and its own challenges. One size does not fit all.  

At YouthQuest, each of our 15 sites follows the same framework – but how that’s carried out can look very different based on the school. Three key factors that impact this include:

  1. The needs of the students. One of our sites serves two children who are hearing impaired. Rather than offer only select programming to these students, we’ve partnered with the day school to provide interpreters after school. This has allowed the students to take part in all of YouthQuest’s activities, including violin lessons.


  1. The needs of the school. One of the schools we work with recently moved to a balanced calendar – which means that particular YouthQuest site did as well. A balanced calendar means a shorter summer and several short breaks throughout the school year. As such, YouthQuest has modified its program to match the day school’s schedule and will provide optional enrichment programming during these intercessions.
  2. Student voice and choice. Each YouthQuest site has its own advisory council, in which students make important decisions about program content, such as field trips and service learning projects. As a result, students feel ownership over the program, which is uniquely theirs.

That said, it’s important that the program remains consistent where it matters most. In our case, all sites support YouthQuest’s core curriculum, goals and mission. We have monthly professional development, share the same lesson plans and meet regularly to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

So while each site’s methods and program may vary, at the end of the day, we’ve all accomplished the same goal: providing students with fun, engaging programming that connects to the school day.

In what ways have you adapted your afterschool program to better serve your students and schools?

Written by Rhetta Hunyady, the Vice President of Education and Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which administers YouthQuest, a high-quality afterschool program serving more than 2,000 students each year in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan. For more information, visit

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