You are seeing this message because your web browser does not support basic web standards. Find out more about why this message is appearing and what you can do to make your experience on this site better.

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.

Terms of Use ▼

Program Description

Overview YouthNET is an effort to bring new after school programs to inner city youth in Waterbury, Connecticut. A collaboration of the Connecticut Community Foundation, the Leever Foundation, and the United Way of Greater Waterbury, this project was developed in response to the lack of after school programs located in the target neighborhoods; limited programs for middle school students; few academic enrichment, tutoring, arts, or cultural programs; reduced opportunities for girls; and a population of middle school youth unable to participate in programs of any type due to responsibility for younger siblings. YouthNET therefore provides after school programs for middle school students in the target neighborhoods, with deliberate outreach to female participants.
Start Date June 1998
Scope local
Type after school
Location urban
Setting public school, community-based organization, religious institution, recreation center
Participants middle school youth (ages 11–14)
Number of Sites/Grantees six target neighborhoods; 16 grantees in 1998–1999, 15 grantees in 1999–2001, 14 grantees in 2001–2002 and 2002–2003, and 12 grantees in 2003–2004
Number Served 464 in 2001–2002
Components YouthNET was originally designed to reach middle school students not currently involved in any after school activities. YouthNET programs consist of a range of after school activities including music, drama, computer instruction, and homework help. Activities are offered both through individual providers and through program modules, which are four- to eight-week program offerings provided through outside agencies and providers. These modules include activities such as computers, cooking, outdoor adventure, and basketball. Modules are offered to the agencies that run individual sites to diversify programming and to retain student interest and participation. Modules were introduced in the program’s second year. In its fourth year, the program modules were expanded to offer a Caribbean cultural experience, including instruction in steel pan drumming.
Funding Level $266,020 for 2001–2002
Funding Sources Connecticut Community Foundation, Leever Foundation, United Way of Greater Waterbury, State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, Best Buy Children’s Foundation, 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant, State of Connecticut Juvenile Justice Funds
Other The Connecticut Community Foundation is the lead convener of YouthNET. A “team” approach was the prevailing philosophy and strategy. The Foundation worked to meet with youth, parents, neighborhood groups, and youth-serving agencies among others in the neighborhoods and at various sites across the city, convene all players, listen to all views, and insist on a joint plan for moving a youth development agenda in the city of Waterbury.

To ensure that the programs are of interest to the target population, a youth council composed of youth representatives from each of the neighborhoods was supposed to suggest a variety of art, recreation, and enrichment activities, though due to technical difficulties, this council had not yet been convened at the time of this writing.

In order to provide technical and programmatic support to the participating youth agencies and to encourage coordination and the sharing of resources, a staff coordinator position (titled YouthNET Coordinator) was established at the Foundation. In Year 6 (2003–2004), the Foundation and United Way transitioned responsibility for the administration of YouthNET to Waterbury Youth Service System, Inc. (WYSS), the city’s youth service bureau. WYSS continues the YouthNET model awarding grants, monitoring implementation, collecting evaluation data, and supporting staff training.


Overview To ensure that YouthNET was meeting its goals, the three lead funding organizations devised outcome measures, which they considered key indicators of the program’s impact in meeting the identified community needs. They then collected data to look at the program’s success in meeting each of these outcome measures. YouthNET is now using the findings to improve the quality of after school programming. In Year 4, an evaluation tool was designed by Stephen Anderson and Ronald Sabatini of the University of Connecticut to assess how YouthNET was supporting youth development assets. The Graustein Memorial Fund supported this effort.
Evaluators Carol P. O’Donnell, Director of Programs, Connecticut Community Foundation
Evaluations Profiled YouthNET: 2001–2002: Findings and Lessons Learned
Evaluations Planned The program will continue to be evaluated on an annual basis.
Report Availability McGuirk, J., & O’Donnell, C. P. (2003). YouthNET: 2001–2002: Findings and lessons learned. Waterbury, CT: The Connecticut Community Foundation.


Evaluation Carol P. O’Donnell
Director of Programs
Connecticut Community Foundation
81 West Main Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
Tel: 203-753-1315
Fax: 203-756-3054
Program Carol P. O’Donnell
Director of Programs
Connecticut Community Foundation
81 West Main Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
Tel: 203-753-1315
Fax: 203-756-3054
Profile Updated October 20, 2004

Evaluation: YouthNET: 2001–2002: Findings and Lessons Learned

Evaluation Description

Evaluation Purpose To assess the project’s success in meeting its outcomes during its fourth year (2001–2002). These outcomes include attendance (goal of 70% participating at least three days per week), retention (goal of 70% participating at both the beginning and end of the year), acquisition of a skill, improved behavior, reduced truancy, homework completion, academic improvement, parental involvement, and juvenile crime reduction.
Evaluation Design Quasi-Experimental and Non-Experimental: Data were collected from site observations and school records. Pretest/posttest data were collected for as many participants as possible for the first and third quarters of the 2001–2002 school year, with a total pre/post sample of 59% of participants. Results were often compared to data from previous program years (i.e., the first through third program years).
Data Collection Methods Document Review: Program attendance, retention, and behavior data were collected from logs maintained by the individual program sites.

Interviews/Focus Groups: Two staff members were interviewed at each site (most sites consisted only of 2 to 3 staff members) about levels of youth participation (i.e., attendance, retention, turnover, and involvement in decisions), program activities and schedules, issues, challenges, and steps taken to address any of these issues.

Observation: Observations were made during site visits. Evaluators visited each site a minimum of three times over the 9-month program period. Site visits focused on youth participation, youth interaction with peers and staff, staff interaction with parents, involvement of youth (e.g., appearances of boredom or exclusion), physical safety, availability of snacks and supplies, and variety of program activities.

Secondary Source/Data Review: Students’ school records (math and English grades, unexcused school absences, and homework completion) were collected through school district report cards from the first and third quarter marking periods.
Data Collection Timeframe Data were collected during the 2001–2002 program year.

Formative/Process Findings

Activity Implementation All 14 sites provided a structured academic component consisting of homework help or basic tutoring. Given agency staff, resources, and mission, some sites were more successful in implementing the structured assistance and meeting each student’s individual needs. Others simply provided an established time to complete homework under adult supervision with the opportunity to participate in recreation and enrichment activities as the reward.

In many cases, agency staff reported that students welcomed the interest from the program in their report cards and in improving their academic performance. YouthNET agencies continued their methods for acknowledging and celebrating student academic achievement. These include small rewards (movie tickets) as well as public accolades (honor rolls).

The 14 sites provided a wide range of program opportunities including computer training, theater, choral groups, cooking, photography, chess, cultural dance, and drum making.
Costs/Revenues The YouthNET agencies operated on very tight budgets and agencies were forced to be creative and innovative in meeting needs for supplies and snacks. For example, some sites garnered in-kind contributions, made joint purchases from major suppliers, accepted donations, or garnered resources from other funding streams, such as United States Department of Agriculture snack programs. The lack of sufficient funding for transportation remained an issue for some sites.
Program Context/Infrastructure YouthNET was unable to organize the YouthNET Council composed of youth representing each of the 14 after school programs, due primarily to difficulty in scheduling convenient times for the youth and transportation issues.

All of the sites maintained youth involvement in program design and module selection. Several agencies established formal youth governing structures with elected officers. Additionally, the YouthNET Coordinator solicited youth input through site visits.
Recruitment/Participation YouthNET’s 2001–2002 enrollment of 464 youth represented a 2% decrease from the previous year. Given the loss of one site (a club that was unwilling to collect outcome data and therefore did not reapply for funding), this was considered a minimal change reflecting increased enrollment at other agencies.

More than 86% of the participants across sites attended YouthNET at least three days per week during the course of the year, a 5% increase over the previous year. Individual agencies encountered sporadic attendance by some youth, particularly as the weather turned warmer in the spring or if regularly provided transportation was unavailable (e.g., one agency’s van was unavailable for a period of weeks).

The retention rate of 77% during the fourth year was lower than the previous year (88%), resulting in a student turnover of 23%.

Based on student self-reports on initial student registration forms, 74% of the youth had not participated in any other youth programs (excluding YouthNET) in the past three years.

The proportion of students who attended YouthNET the previous year was 44%, a 17% decrease from the analogous figure one year earlier. Because YouthNET was in its fourth year, this change may have been attributable to students who “aged out” of the program. However, given the increase in high school aged students, these students’ higher mobility between schools may be the cause.

During the 2001–2002 program year, 62% of youth participants were middle school aged (10–14 years old). The median age of 11.5 years, however, reveals the large proportion of students falling into the lower end of the age range. Approximately 15% of participants were 14 or older, a substantial increase in this age category over the previous year, which may be due in part to retention of YouthNET students as original middle school participants aged out of middle school and remained in the program. Twenty percent of students were younger than 10 years of age, reflecting both the existence of sibling programs (programs for participants’ younger siblings, which are provided in order to recruit and retain older youth) and the willingness of some agency staff to take younger siblings in their regular programs in order to serve the older brother or sister.

In the first two years of YouthNET, female participants, who were specifically targeted by the initiative, outnumbered males by 2 to 1. In Years 3 and 4, the number of male and female participants was almost identical.

The ethnic composition changed slightly from the 2000–2001 program year to the 2001–2002 program year, with a 5% increase in African-American youth and a similar sized decrease in Hispanic and Caucasian students. This is consistent with trends from the previous year showing increases in African-American participants, and decreases in Hispanic and Caucasian participants. Although the ethnic composition still reflects that of the target neighborhoods with 64% African American, 28% Hispanic, 5% Caucasian, and 3% other, the continued decline in the proportion of Hispanic students is a program concern given the overall increase in the city’s Hispanic population.

Some YouthNET agency staff cited transportation as a participation barrier. Some programs were able to transport children directly from school using school buses, while others had to rely on agency vans, parents, or public transportation. Many YouthNET students walked to the program sites because the sites were located in their neighborhoods. However, safety was sited as a concern by some staff and parents. Some progress was made in the fourth year in coordinating with the school transportation department so that children could be bussed directly to the after school sites. In two cases, bus stops were added to make it easier for YouthNET students to get to programs, although some students still endured long bus rides from their school to the YouthNET site.
Staffing/Training Given the small amount of funding, agencies were forced to limit the number of staff who were often responsible for direct programming and supervision as well as grant administration.

Turnover in the YouthNET Coordinator position created some transition issues in dealing with YouthNET agencies and impacted program oversight and implementation.

Summative/Outcome Findings

Academic Of the youth participants on whom records were collected for the 2001–2002 school year, approximately 40% improved math grades, approximately 40% improved English grades, and 15% completed homework more often from pretest to posttest. There were also many students who maintained a high grade from the beginning of the year to the end. For instance, nearly 55% of the students who had an “A” or “B” in math had the same grade at the end of the year.

The number of students that improved in math and English in the fourth year was 8–10% less than the previous year.

Although the majority of YouthNET students completed their homework most of the time in the fourth year, 14% had lower levels of homework completion from pretest to posttest, compared to 12% in the prior year.

The percentage of students without any unexcused absences in the fourth year fell from 63% in the first marking period to 41% in the third marking period. Those with three or fewer absences rose from 29% to 37%, but students with four or more absences rose from 8% in the first marking period to 21% in the third marking period. Overall, the proportion of students whose number of absences increased was 20 percentage points lower than in the previous year. And unlike the previous year when absences tended to cluster in a few agencies, unexcused absences were evenly dispersed among the agencies.
Youth Development In the fourth year, YouthNET agency staff reported (based on their personal observations) that 11% of the students improved their behavior, while 74% remained unchanged and 9% worsened (no data were reported on the remaining 6%). The percentage of students whose behavior worsened declined by more than 7% from the previous year. Based on input from YouthNET agency staff, the decrease in the proportion that worsened in the fourth year can most likely be attributed to students with bad behavior either leaving or being removed from the program.


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