Afterschool Awards

Recognizing excellence in the afterschool field

Afterschool programs nationwide work tirelessly to advance literacy, STEM learning, and other critical subject areas. The Afterschool Alliance and our generous funders are committed to recognizing these efforts—learn more about our award opportunities and get inspired by past winners.



The Aim High Grant Program: Supporting Out-of-School Time Programs Serving Middle School Youth


On behalf of the New York Life Foundation, the Afterschool Alliance invites out-of-school time programs to apply for an Aim High grant, supporting and bolstering their efforts to prepare middle school students for success in high school, college, and beyond.

Why Middle School?

A large body of evidence indicates the pivotal role of middle school in shaping a young persons long-term academic trajectory. Enriching out-of-school time (OST) programs—such as afterschool and summer learning programs—are an effective means of helping middle school students successfully transition from 8th to 9th grade. Additionally, these programs provide holistic benefits to students that extend beyond academics, nurturing the cognitive, social, and emotional development of students. The New York Life Foundations educational enhancement grantmaking strategy aims to help middle school students thrive and become better prepared to complete high school and pursue college, providing them with a brighter future.

Why was the Aim High Program created?

The New York Life Foundation established the Aim High grant program to support local community-based afterschool and summer learning programs to provide the foundational skills and guidance that middle school students need to be prepared for the critical transition into high school.

The Aim High Grant Program

This competitive grant program includes both one- and two-year grant opportunities. Applicants can only apply for one of these grants. One-year grants will commence in June 2024 and conclude in May 2025. Two-year grants will begin in June 2024 and end in May 2026.

One-Year Grants:

Two one-year $15,0000 grant opportunities are available. One supports racial equity and social justice efforts, while the other will focus on youth entrepreneurship and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset.

Two-Year Grants:

Grants of either $50,000 or $100,000 focus on enhancing programs' efforts to ensure middle school youth transition successfully to high school. Grants may support direct service activities, technical assistance, capacity building, and more.

Eligibility requirements:

  • 501(c)(3) status required. Applicants for this competitive grant program must have 501(c)(3) status. You will be required to verify your EIN as part of the application.
  • Middle school youth (6th, 7th, 8th graders) served. This competitive grant program is targeted to programs serving middle school students in grades 6, 7, and 8. Organizations applying for funding may serve students outside this grade range but grant funds are specifically for middle school youth.
  • At least 75 percent of low-income youth served. Applicants for this competitive grant program must serve a high percentage of low-income youth. For the purposes of this grant program, low-income” is defined as students who qualify for the Federal Free or Reduced-Price Lunch Program (FRPL).

Read about previous award recipients: 






Congratulations to the 2017 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award winner, Columbus State Community College's ESL Afterschool Communities!

We are proud to announce that this year’s Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award winner is Columbus State Community College’s ESL Afterschool Communities (ESLAsC)! Thanks to the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the Ohio program is the recipient of the $10,000 award and is featured in a Dollar General afterschool literacy issue brief, Afterschool Providing Key Literacy Supports to English Language Learner Students.

About the winner

With a student population comprised of 100 percent English language learners, 99 percent of whom live in low-income families, the program stood out from more than a hundred nominations for its wraparound approach to supporting both students and families. In addition to individualized instruction and a diverse set of literacy activities for their students, ESLAsC performs home visits, provides social service referrals, and offers translation services to the families in their program.

Originally the idea for ESLAsC came from parents and community members who attend the community college’s basic English classes and expressed a need for similar programming for their children. Since 2002, the program has grown to serve four schools and one community center. It remains a central part of the communities it serves, performing a six- to nine-month community needs assessment before opening their doors and gaining the support and buy-in of school-day staff, community-based organizations, parents, and community members at the outset.

The program was recognized at the Afterschool Alliance’s annual Afterschool for All Challenge.


Learn more about ESLAsC in their Afterschool Spotlight, as well as five additional programs featured in the issue brief:



Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award Winners


The New American Pathways’ Bright Futures Afterschool Program, located in Atlanta, Georgia, was awarded the first-ever Dollar General Literacy Foundation and Afterschool Alliance joint Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award in 2015. Bright Futures focuses on ensuring that Atlanta’s refugee students are academically prepared to enter high school—providing targeted one-on-one support to students who are at the highest risk of falling behind academically, as well as offering a host of support services to families, including helping students’ parents understand and navigate a school system that is new to them.

The program was recognized at the National AfterSchool Association annual convention and Afterschool Alliance Afterschool for All Challenge.  Bright Futures’ education and youth manager Peter Epstein, middle school youth coordinator Mary Kathryn Tippett, eighth grader Bishal Mager and sixth grader Paler Mar accepted the award on behalf of the program.


Located in Corbin, Kentucky, 2016 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award winner Redhound Enrichment stood out among more than 150 nominated programs for its excellence in providing literacy support to its K-12 students during the school year and into the summer. The Dollar General Literacy Foundation presented the award to Redhound Enrichment’s executive director, Karen West, at the National AfterSchool Association’s annual convention in Orlando, Florida. West shared that the program will use the $10,000 award to provide professional development and literacy instruction for its staff.

Learn more about Redhound Enrichment, as well as other programs offering literacy-related programming to help students build on school-day lessons and take advantage of the summer months, in the Dollar General afterschool literacy issue brief, Taking a Year-Round Approach to Literacy.



From 2007 through 2014, the Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation worked together on the MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards to raise awareness about the innovative and exemplary work taking place in afterschool programs around the country. During the course of the awards’ six rounds, close to 100 afterschool programs in 30 states were featured in MetLife Foundation issue briefs, and the MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award was presented to 31 afterschool programs. In all, the Afterschool Alliance and the MetLife Foundation awarded approximately a quarter-million dollars in total awards.


The MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards were able to shine a light on the myriad of ways afterschool programs support their students, families and communities, addressing topics from keeping kids safe and supported in the hours after school to fostering parent engagement to helping students become more involved in their community. More than 20 MetLife Foundation issue briefs and half a dozen compendium pieces were written to delve into the critical issues facing children, schools and communities and the vital role afterschool programs play to address these issues.


In its final year, the MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award winners were honored at the “Breakfast of Champions”—a gala event in Washington, D.C., which is a part of the Afterschool for All Challenge. Hundreds of educators, parents, afterschool leaders and advocates from across the U.S. attended the event where the winners were each presented with a $10,000 check from the MetLife Foundation. Learn more about the award winning programs in the MetLife Foundation issue briefs and compendiums.

MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award Winners

From 2007 through 2014, the Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation worked together on the MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards to raise awareness about the innovative and exemplary work taking place in afterschool programs around the country. We continue to be inspired by these past winners who have made so many important contributions to the field over the years.

2014/2013: AS220 Youth (Providence, RI); Hope Street Family Center—Youth Center (Los Angeles, CA); The Baltimore Urban Debate League (Baltimore, MD); Big Thought’s Thriving Minds After-School program (Dallas, TX); BUILD, Inc. (Chicago, IL)

2012: Green Energy Technologies in the City (GET City) (Lansing, MI); The Wooden Floor (Santa Ana, CA); Latino Arts Strings & Mariachi Juvenil Program (Milwaukee, WI); Kid Power, Inc.-The VeggieTime Project, (Washington, D.C.); and Parma Learning Center (Parma, ID).

2011:  Kids Rethink New Orleans (New Orleans, LA); Higher Achievement (Washington, D.C.); Urban Arts/Project Phoenix  (Oakland, CA); 21st Century PASOS (Gettysburg, PA); and America SCORES (Chicago, IL).

2010: Cypress Hills/East New York (CHENY) Beacon Program (Brooklyn, NY); Junior ACE (Sacramento, CA); Learning through an Expanded Arts Program - LeAp 22 (Bronx, NY); San Antonio Youth Centers (San Antonio, TX); Science Club for Girls and C.E.L.L.S. - Career Exploration, Leadership and Life Skills (Cambridge, MA); and The Bridge Project (Denver, CO).

2009: Colorado MESA (Denver, CO); the Student Success Jobs Program (Boston, MA); Arizona ICAN (Chandler, AZ); the RiverzEdge Arts Project (Woonsocket, RI); Challenging Horizons Program (Columbia, SC); and the Ann Arbor Teen Center’s Neutral Zone (Ann Arbor, MI).

2008: LA’s BEST (Los Angeles, CA); Lincoln Community Learning Centers (Lincoln, NE); Native Youth Club (Sioux Falls, SD); and The After-School Corporation (New York, NY).

MetLife Foundation Issue Briefs

During the course of the awards’ six rounds, more than 20 MetLife Foundation issue briefs were written to delve into the critical issues facing children, schools and communities and the vital role afterschool programs play to address these issues.

Looking at the Data: Afterschool Programs Using Data to Better Serve Students (August 2014)

Keeping Kids Safe and Supported in the Hours After School (May 2014)

Afterschool Supporting Students with Disabilities and Other Special Needs (February 2014)

Afterschool and the Common Core State Standards (January 2014)

Digital Media & Learning in Afterschool (February 2013)

Afterschool: A Key to Successful Parent Engagement (October 2012)

Arts Enrichment in Afterschool (September 2012)

Afterschool: An Ally in Promoting Middle School Improvement (July 2012)

Service-Learning in Afterschool: Helping Students Grow and Communities Prosper (November 2011)

Literacy in Afterschool: An Essential Building Block for Learning and Development (November 2011)

Afterschool: A Strategy for Addressing and Preventing Middle School Bullying (October 2011)

Aligning Afterschool with the Regular School Day: The Perfect Complement (July 2011)

Afterschool: Supporting Career and College Pathways for Middle School Age Youth (January 2011)

Afterschool: Key to Health and Wellness for Pre-Teens and Teens (November 2010)

Afterschool: Middle School and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (September 2010)

Afterschool: Providing Multiple Benefits to Middle School Students (June 2010)

Afterschool: A Place for Older Youth to Mentor and Be Mentored (September 2009)

Afterschool: A High School Dropout Prevention Tool (July 2009)

Recruiting and Retaining Older Youth in Afterschool (April 2009)

Afterschool and Workforce Development: Helping Kids Compete (April 2009)

Afterschool: Supporting Family Involvement in Schools (March 2008)

Afterschool Fosters Success in School (February 2008)

Afterschool: The Bridge Connecting Schools and Communities (November 2007)

Afterschool: A Powerful Path to Teacher Recruitment and Retention (July 2007)

MetLife Foundation Compendiums

During the course of the awards’ six rounds, more than a half dozen MetLife Foundation compendium pieces were written to delve into the critical issues facing children, schools and communities and the vital role afterschool programs play to address these issues.

Afterschool in Action: Promoting Middle School Success Through Innovative Afterschool Programs (2014)

Afterschool in Action: Innovative Afterschool Programs Supporting Middle School Youth (2013)

Afterschool in Action: How Innovative Afterschool Programs Address Critical Issues Facing Middle School Youth (2012)

Afterschool Innovations in Brief: Engaging Middle School Youth (2011)

Afterschool Innovations in Brief: Focusing on Older Youth (2009)

Afterschool Innovations in Brief (2008)

STEM Impact Award

stem impact


In Spring 2013, the Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation invited applications for two $10,000 Afterschool STEM Impact Awards. As afterschool STEM programming grows around the nation, we wanted to recognize programs that are clearly demonstrating an impact on participants. Such programs highlight the power of afterschool programs as key partners in STEM education reform and also serve as best-practice models. We received almost 200 applications across the two award categories:

  1. Partnerships with STEM-rich institutions – highlighting partnerships between an afterschool provider and a science center, museum, nature center, university, government lab or STEM business.

WINNER: Science Club, a partnership led by Northwestern University with the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago and teachers from Chicago Public Schools.

  1. Engineering and/or computing content focus – highlighting afterschool programs that focus on the engineering design process to develop a solution to a problem, and afterschool programs that focus on technology creation like coding, programming mobile apps or games, etc.

WINNER: Project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically), a computer science afterschool program where middle school students use computer programming to solve complex, real-world issues.

It was a tough decision to choose just two winners from among so many excellent programs! The Afterschool Alliance promoted Science Club and Project GUTS nationally through a variety of opportunities. Both programs hosted their own Lights On Afterschool events and were featured in a special series of issue briefs, participated in webinars, co-presented at national and state conferences, and were continuously highlighted as model programs.