Many afterschool programs have difficulty in recruiting and retaining students, especially those in middle and high school. Challenges exist for a variety of reasons including a lack of student interest, transportation, prior family obligations, a need for paid employment and a preference to spend time with friends in a leisurely and less structured environment. The resources below offer practical research-based suggestions to help you overcome these challenges.

A summary of these suggestions include:

  • Recruit students (especially in middle school) in pairs or in groups.
  • Reach out directly to students and parents as opposed to advertising with just posters or flyers.
  • Solicit parent and school support during the recruitment process.
  • Hire well-educated staff who have demonstrated an ability to connect easily with students, especially those identified as “at-risk.”
  • Be sure to offer quality and interactive programs that link youth to real-world experiences.
  • Offer flexible attendance policies and accessible locations.
  • Uncover other barriers, such as transportation, and partner with others in the community to offer creative solutions or alternatives.

Feel free to reach out to your technical assistance provider to discuss ideas and possible solutions.

Resources*

Attendance Works

Finding the Right Hook: Strategies for Attracting and Sustaining Participation in Afterschool Programs

Middle School Students and Out-of-School Time: Barriers to Participation and Strategies for Recruitment and Retention (PDF)

* Disclaimer: The resources provided deal with arts-related programming in general and certain practices may not be applicable to 21st Century Community Learning Centers. If you are unsure if a recommended practice is permissible, please contact your program officer at the Pennsylvania Department of Education.