The long-term influence of out-of-school time for Latina/o students

By Alex Fine - October 2011


Nelson, I. A. (2009). The differential role of youth development program participation for Latina/o adolescents. Afterschool Matters, 8, 20–33.

This study explores the impact of out-of-school time (OST) programming, which if completed over a long period of time, may influence Latina/o adolescents’ trajectory towards college. The author considers the academic achievement of Latina/o students from varied learning backgrounds to better understand the relationship of academic progress with students’ culture, identity, and experience. This study is valuable for ISE educators because it is one of the few longitudinal studies that explore the role of OST specifically in relation to Latina/o students. The personal narratives it provides fills an important space in ISE research and underscores the varied influence of OST depending on the students themselves, their motivation and drive, and the support in their personal lives within their homes and from family and friends.

In this study, a group of 12 Latina/o adolescents are tracked beginning in eighth grade and again five to seven years later in early adulthood, allowing the author to pinpoint trends and patterns in the long-term influence of OST programming in these subjects’ pathway to higher education. The author, Ingrid Nelson, emphasizes the importance of investigating the “embedded role” of OST program participation in a Latina/o students’ path to college, a perspective which does not isolate influences of OST program participation from other influences in a students’ life. Since the subjects’ data was collected over several years, Nelson is able to explore the varying degrees of embedded influence OST programming had in these students’ lives, which she distinctly defines as auxiliary influence, distinguishable influence, and transformative influence. The author explains auxiliary influence as that which did not serve as a primary support system or bring about a personal transformation for the student, but rather, as influence that stems from both a parent or adult mentor and the students’ own determination. Those students for whom OST programming had a distinguishable influence credited some of their success to OST as the programming had encouraged them to maintain their direction on their college path by engendering a sense of belonging and a strong network of support with adults and like-minded peers. The students who experienced a transformative influence from their OST programming radically changed their life paths as prior to the program they had not been on a college track and oftentimes had records of delinquency, emerging ties with gangs, or other limitations towards pursuing college. For these students, OST programming inspired them to change their life path and goals by introducing them to strong and positive relationships with adults and peers that were previously unknown or unavailable to them. All of the students profiled did attend programs of higher education in varying capacities, suggesting the direct benefits of OST programming for Latina/o youth’s entry into college. For example, a participant had cited that the relationships she had formed during her yearlong OST program were a distinguishable influence in contributing towards her confidence and determination, in addition to her own drive and her parent’s positive influence, in pursuing a nursing degree.

The author also interweaves data collected from interviews with the students with her own understanding of the context of their achievement with larger nationwide statistical patterns. This helps to paint a portrait of the embedded influence of specific OST programming upon the students’ academic achievement. Although the participants were all Latina/o, Nelson did not directly address the influences of the students’ cultural background. Cultural and language barriers, immigration status, access to employment for parents and families, and various other concerns of Latina/o constituencies newly arrived in the United States were not elaborated upon, but would have been valuable in relating the specificities of the test group with their unique experience with OST programming.

The author provides the reader with various statistical data predicting low achievement patterns for Latina/o youth, which highlight the relationship between economic mobility for specific racial or cultural groups and access to OST programming. To further assess that relationship, Nelson introduces the reader to sociological theories, such as that of failure and success, deficit and structural explanations, and theories of reproductionresistancesocial capital, and role identity, to try and understand how and why many Latina/o youth fall into national patterns of low academic achievement and how OST programming is influential in changing those patterns. In articulating these differing theoretical perspectives, Nelson recognizes that none of these theories has been able to adequately predict why many Latina/o students follow larger national patterns of failure and low achievement, yet other Latina/o students have shown high achievement and not fallen into this trend. Nevertheless, this section of the paper is valuable in understanding how theory may be relevant to fieldwork.

Nelson concludes the paper in discussing the long-term value OST programs have for these youth, as exhibited by the students in interviews themselves, even after the program has been completed. The transformative impacts of OST programming in developing positive identities for Latina/o youth are cited through community, relationship and skill building, and participation that bridge the gap between home and school lives.

Nelson’s study is relevant for both formal and informal educators as it reveals the important gap longitudinal research may fill in determining how alternative, short term, and singular learning events and environments may impart long-term knowledge and intellectual growth. Nelson’s interwoven theoretical analysis with statistics and personal narratives provide evidence for the impact of short-term OST programming on long-term intellectual growth.