Two needs assessments of child well-being in Collier County commissioned by NCEF in 2005 and 2010 found a significant gap in out-of-school time program services, particularly for students in Immokalee. Out-of-school time programming has a very literal definition. If one thinks of the formal school day as seven hours delivered somewhere between 8am and 3pm, Out-of-School Time (OST) encompasses all programming that takes place outside those boundaries and is not part of the school system’s supported extra-curricular offerings.
The need is even greater in Immokalee where out-of-school programs are only reaching a fraction of the children most in need.
Child Trends reports that school engagement is on the decline. Researchers define school engagement in three domains: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. OST programs are actively identifying disengaged youth and developing specific programs and services to reconnect them to their school and community. Programs that offer sequenced, active, focused and explicit (SAFE) programming (Durlak & Weissberg, 2007) have been known to have significant effects on student engagement and other positive developments (Lippman & Rivers, 2008).
The Immokalee student demographic profile shows over 95% to be economically disadvantaged, 75% living in non-English speaking homes, 27% limited English proficiency, and 35% from migrant families. Immokalee families have a history of little academic or career success. Among adults 25 years of age or older, 56% have less than a ninth-grade education and only 16% have earned a high school diploma. Consequently, a lack of family support and a vision of a future outside the Immokalee community, the current school population struggles to meet Florida’s academic standards and fails to realize the education-career connection. Low performance levels discourage students, making them less likely to attempt challenging classes, and making graduation and matriculation into college or post-secondary training programs an almost insurmountable challenge.
Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a much higher number of “latchkey kids” in Immokalee compared to the national average of 25%. Unsupervised after-school hours and unoccupied weekends can lead to experimentation, risky and dangerous behavior. However, for Immokalee children, the need for OST programs reaches far beyond providing a safe environment. Without the additional time and resources for academic support (including summer when learning loss of children from poverty far exceeds that of their peers), their opportunity for success is greatly diminished. All students can learn; time is the variable.
The Out-of-School Time (OST) Initiative is a consortium of out-of-school time providers collaborating to address the needs of at-risk students by leveraging resources, expanding capacity, providing academic safety nets, and offering enrichment opportunities. The programs provide safe, nurturing environments for children to thrive, delivering homework help, focused academic support, and enrichment programming designed to battle summer learning loss. Organizations that provide out-of-school time programs are required to deliver high-level academic instruction with a blended culturally sensitive enrichment and personal leadership components. Motivated by overwhelming need, shared commitment to support healthy child development, and strong belief in the talents and resilience of Collier youth, NCEF identified a group of education leaders to develop these responsive strategies: Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, Guadalupe Center, Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) and The Immokalee Foundation.
To make high-quality, purposeful programs available to Immokalee at-risk students, the Out-of-School Time Initiative built a foundation of expansion and enhancement. The Initiative’s delivery system includes the following key components:
Since inception (2012), initiative partners have worked together, developed trust and redefined the way OST services’ are provided. As a result of the vision and expertise of the OST Leadership Team, the active participation of the Collier County Public Schools and NCEF’s commitment, the initiative has developed ways of working together as a collective impact.