Afterschool programs typically provide academic enrichment opportunities aimed at increasing school success, preventing antisocial behavior, and promoting positive youth development (Gottfredson et al., 2004). Most programs include multiple intervention components based on the assumption that overall program participation will reduce common risk and protective factors associated with childhood and adolescent problem behaviors. Youth attending afterschool programs may, therefore, participate in such diverse services as tutoring, mentoring, psycho-education, recreation, and skills training. Implicit in many programs is the assertion that degree of program participation is positively related to healthy development. However, the effects of program participation and the influence of differential exposure to specific intervention elements on key developmental milestones, antisocial behavior, and academic achievement are poorly understood. Tests of structured aftercare programs are necessary to understand the mechanisms that lead to positive outcomes for high-risk children and youth.
Authors in this symposium describe intervention research being conducted at the Bridge Project, a theoretically-based afterschool program located in four public housing communities in Denver, Colorado. The theoretical model used to define and implement intervention program elements is described in the first paper. In two subsequent papers, authors note the effects of Bridge Project interventions on a range of academic and behavioral outcomes. The symposium aims to increase awareness of the empirical evidence supporting afterschool interventions and raise important practice, policy, and methodological issues associated with designing and testing afterschool programs in urban settings. Findings and lessons learned from investigations conducted at the Bridge Project are used to advance existing knowledge of the efficacy of afterschool programs for high-risk children and youth.