Young people who participate in quality after-school programs are more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol, graduate from high school and go to college. Armed with this knowledge, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust is granting more than $1 million to fund a University of Arizona project aimed at improving after-school programs in Maricopa County.
The project, “Professional Development: A Key to Successful After-School Programs,” is the result of five years of intense study by a UA team of research scientists, program directors and program coordinators in the Arizona Center for Research and Outreach, a campus center dedicated to advancing our understanding and practice of youth development.
The team’s focus is on programs for youth in fourth grade through high school. Lynne Borden, director of the Arizona Center for Research and Outreach, is the project lead.
“What we know is if young people attend quality after-school or out-of-school youth programs, they are more likely to benefit from the experience,” said Borden, who is also a professor and extension specialist in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences within the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We decided to focus on how to improve program quality by working with the frontline staff as well as program managers and directors.”
Over the next year, Borden and her team will kick-off their five-year project by training master coaches who will provide support to professionals from participating youth programs. Using online technology, including video conferencing, these master coaches will assess the strengths and challenges of each program to determine what professional development strategies and tools would be most useful to them.
“If we want high quality afterschool programs for our youth, we must invest in the staffs that work directly with the young people attending after-school programs,” said Marilee Dal Pra, program director for Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “Piper Trust’s funding for this project will establish a professional learning community designed to improve staff practices, reduce staff turnover and create a workforce that is stable, prepared, supported and committed to the well-being and empowerment of young people.”
Added Borden: “It’s essential, critical and creative to go down this path, and we’re really thrilled and quite honored that Piper Trust is investing in this program.”
Support for the participating youth programs will focus on components identified by the National Academy of Science in 2001 as key to their success. Among the components is a need to create a positive environment that allows for young people’s skill development, including decision-making and leadership skills.
A private independent foundation, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust honors Virginia Galvin Piper’s philanthropic commitment to changing lives and strengthening community in Maricopa County (Arizona). By investing in nonprofits and encouraging strategic planning for the future, Piper Trust strives to make Maricopa County a stronger, more nurturing and vibrant community.
Since it began awarding grants in 2000, Piper Trust has invested $295 million in local nonprofits and programs. The Trust had total grants paid of $21.9 million in fiscal year 2012. Piper Trust grantmaking areas are healthcare and medical research, children, older adults, arts and culture, education and religious organizations.
The UA Foundation is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to advancing the UA. Managing an existing asset base of more than $600 million, the UA Foundation has helped generate more than $2 billion in private funding to support the University.