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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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FINE Newsletter, Volume VII, Issue 2
Issue Topic: Engaging Students in Afterschool Learning

Voices From the Field

While there are a number of well-documented benefits to youth engagement in afterschool activities, programs often struggle to recruit youth and sustain their participation over time. Teenagers have expressed a need for increased access, awareness, and interest in out-of-school time opportunities, and have described obstacles to long-term participation, such as safety concerns in getting to and from the program, difficulty receiving parental buy-in for participation, or trouble balancing activities with family responsibilities.

In this case study (PDF), Deepa Vasudevan and Jessica Fei provide a portrait of the Everett Boys & Girls Club (BGC) and explore what makes the Everett BGC a successful place of learning and development for young people. They show that through “intentional informality,” the program develops spaces so that teenagers feel that they have room to be themselves while also knowing there are caring adults around them when they need guidance or mentorship. The case study concludes with takeaway practices for other practitioners to consider when designing programming for adolescents.


This resource is part of the FINE Newsletter on Engaging Students in Afterschool Learning. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project