Afterschool, youth development, and out-of-school time (OST) programs have existed for many years. In today's society, many children live in households with two working parents and/or a single parent or guardian. Many delinquent activities tempt teenagers between the hours of 3 and 6 PM. Children could be doing better in school or attaining better employment. For these reasons, the non-school hours are an ideal opportunity in which to nurture the academic, social, and personal skills needed to thrive in today's world.
Staff support and professional development have been consistently associated with increased student achievement in out-of-school time programming. However, the region is hindered by forced attention to other priorities (professional development is no organization’s primary objective), time constraints (no one has significant time to devote to these efforts), minimal access to resources (available resources need to be identified and cultivated), and limited expertise (staff development is a complex and specialized field). On a national level, effective OST professional development is hampered by serving workers with diverse backgrounds and needs, by the high cost of training, and by reconciling staff development with high rates of staff turnover.
The OSTRC was created in October 2003 to address these challenges by identifying, providing access to, coordinating, conducting research on, and evaluating OST professional development in the Philadelphia area. Through the generous support of the William Penn Foundation and additional funders, its scope and services have extended beyond the immediate geographic area to include state and national colleagues, consumers, and affiliates.
The Out-of-School Time Resource Center’s association with the University of Pennsylvania, and School of Social Policy and Practice, has been beneficial in areas including accessing research, partnering with other university schools and centers, procuring graduate student interns, and garnering national recognition. Its original location within the Center for Research on Youth and Social Policy (CRYSP) was very useful, since CRYSP staff had particular expertise in research, evaluation, and other areas critical to the OSTRC. In June 2007, the OSTRC became its own center within the University’s School of Social Practice and Policy, affirming its increased importance in both the university and OST community.