Closing the Gap: Providing After School Options to Underserved Students

ACT Center for Equity in Learning (CEL) is working in their own backyard to provide after school options for high school students at Iowa City High School. Although the Iowa City High School – After School Activity Program would be available to all students at the school, it is primarily targeted toward those who lack access to adequate transportation to and from after school activities. This effort is being spearheaded by Lew Montgomery, CEL’s program director of Strategic Programs and Community Engagement, who is working closely with United Way– a nonprofit that aims to bring communities and organizations, “together around innovative solutions.” The work that United Way focuses on, draws a large emphasis on “bigger picture” tickets – these initiatives, “translates into a safer, healthier, and more prosperous community for everyone.”

According to Montgomery, the core strategy of the CEL’s involvement in this effort is to, “address the needs of students who are underserved and typically rely on bus service to take them to and from school activities along with coordinating resources to help utilize their time after school more effectively.” This program is also driven by the wasted period of time between when classes let out for the day and when after school activities begin. ACT’s CEL is working to fill that gap with positive activities like after school mentoring, art activities, creative writing options, and tutoring. It also offers a great space to offer standardized test preparation. CEL could provide this program with access to ACT Online Prep, this includes a practice test plus individualized learning paths and lessons based on practice test results. Ultimately, these efforts would allow students to be prepared and confident when taking the ACT. Also, Montgomery is working with local companies to provide healthy snack options for this after school gap program. The idea behind this program is that by providing transportation options along with valued after school intervention activities, students who decide to stay after school will be better prepared for school the following day. They will also benefit from working on the academic focused activities afforded to them by this program.

When looking towards the future, the CEL hopes to expand this effort to Iowa City West High School and potentially create additional expansion into middle school. Programs like this are beneficial because they are proven to “boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health and provide a safe, structured environment for the children of working parents.” ACT CEL is opening the door to sports, events, and activities that were not previously accessible to students who lacked access to transportation and gap period activities.