After-School Programs: Helping Educate Sacramento's Youth

Our agency operates more than 15 after-school programs in coordination with the Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Rivers Unified School District. We serve more than 1,800 school-age children and their families with the goal of improving academic achievement, increasing enrichment opportunities and family literacy.

Going Above & Beyond

Science, Technology, Engineering & Math


Youth must be prepared for life beyond high school and have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the 21st century.  High-quality STEM in out-of-school-time (OST) is a top priority for our leadership team.  The agency’s goal is to further develop the quality and scale of our STEM program, making it one of our signature enrichment opportunities offered to students throughout the Sacramento region during OST.


  1. 16 K-8 Schools
  2. 320 students
  3. 960 hours of STEM a year
  4. 12 STEM events a year
  5. 17 staff, volunteers, and mentors

STEM Information

In general, STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  STEM, in the regards to the economy, has a much more significant and refers to the ever-growing opportunity for emerging occupations in the fields of energy, health care, computer technology, national security, and environmental protection.

In the world of education, STEM signifies the skills and content knowledge students must acquire in order to be equipped for the 21st century. Educators are obligated to tap into a child’s natural curiosity and nurture their understanding about the fundamentals and importance of STEM (EdSource 2011).

As outlined by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the success of the nation, its economy, and its ability to lead the world in this century is dependent upon its capacity to develop innovative thinkers with skills in STEM (PCAST 2010).

The following are just a few of the many troubling facts.

  • Other industrialized counties are outperforming the United States in STEM education.
  • Less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in math and science.
  • Minorities and women are underrepresented in most STEM fields.
  • Most elementary school teachers only spend one hour per week on science instruction.
  • Students are not entering college with an interest in STEM or the skills to be successful in math or science.

Where Is the Opportunity?

  • Among all states, California is in the forefront of employing engineers, scientists, and computer specialists.
  • California’s fastest growing occupations are in STEM fields.
  • California hosts the premier higher education institutions, research facilities, and museums with a focus on STEM.
  • The California STEM Learning Network, California AfterSchool Network (CAN), California Department of Education (CDE), and prominent foundations are pioneering a statewide initiative for STEM education in out-of-school time.
  • There is bipartisan support for advancing STEM education.
  • There is a skill gap, leaving hundreds of thousands of STEM employment opportunities are left unfilled each year.
  • STEM professions pay more on average than other professions.

How We Will Get There

After much research and advise from multiple stakeholders, the Center has outlined the following objectives:

  • Intensity – Students do not receive sufficient STEM education during the regular day.  Our agency is committing to 30-60 hours of coordinated STEM education during out-of-school time.
  • Quality – Staff will be trained in curricula and instruction methods that incorporate multiple disciplines (math, science, technology, design, literacy, art, etc.), build STEM skills, encourage collaboration, and generate interest in STEM.
  • Curiosity – All activities will be inquiry-based and project-based.  Students will learn by imagining, designing, doing, building, and tinkering.
  • Equity – Students of all ethnicities, genders, and abilities will participate, collaborate, build, design, reflect, and redesign.
  • Family Inclusion – Families will be engaged through student work showcases, student-parent activity nights, volunteer and facilitation opportunities, and program evaluation opportunities.
  • Career & College Ready – Partnerships with STEM professionals, public institutions, and private enterprises will provide a foundation for career & college ready youth.  To connect concepts to the real world, students will collaborate with professional mentors, visit post-secondary STEM programs, and tour corporate facilities.
  • Common Core & Next Generation Standards – A new version of internationally benchmarked math and scientific standards are being developed with the goal of increasing students’ competitive economic edge, achievement, preparation for a modern workforce, and scientific and technologic literacy.  The project lead and staff will be trained in these standards to align OST with the regular school day instruction.
  • Staff Development – Staff will receive over 20 hours in professional development in curricula, teaching methods, material preparation, and data collection. 
  • Sustainability – It is imperative that this project remains sustainable over time.  To ensure solvency and scalability, cross sector partnerships with diverse stakeholders will be developed to secure funding, staffing, mentorships, and materials.

United Way STAR Reader Literacy


Students enrolled in STAR Readers attend our After School Education and Safety (ASES) program and are usually recommended by teachers and program managers based on the students’ performance in Language Arts.  Reading Coaches work with small groups in a 1:4 ratio.  The small groups are formed based on student levels, allowing instruction to target student needs.  Intervention sessions occur four days a week for at least 25 minutes per session.

Focus & Assessment:

Phonemic Awareness

Alphabetic Principle



Reading Comprehension

STAR Readers has used DIBELS benchmark assessments and progress monitoring tools to target these five components of beginning literacy.

Family Engagement

We highly encourage family members to get involved in our family engagement events to reinforce the importance of literacy with their child.  Throughout the year STAR Readers and their families get the opportunity to participate in events such as:

Family Literacy Night

STAR Readers Informational Night

Field Trip to Local Library

Annual Spelling Bee

Reading Coaches

All Reading Coaches are highly qualified and trained in big ideas in beginning literacy.  They specifically work on literacy techniques and skills, and target student needs through direct explicit instruction.  There are two to three Reading Coaches placed at each school site.

Health & Wellness

America’s obesity problem is no secret.  The Center aims to help Sacramento's youth trim down by promoting comprehensive lifestyle changes. To achieve this goal, the Center reaches youth and their families through athletics, nutrition education, tobacco education and control, drug & alcohol prevention, culinary arts, gardening and agricultural entrepreneurship.

Currently in every level of primary and secondary education, students learn and participate in grade appropriate programming centered on positive behavorial and healthy lifestyle choices.

Hiram Johnson High School, for example, was recently funded through the United Way to initiate an obesity prevention program.  The program incorporates a health and wellness support system staffed by volunteer doctors, nurses and nutritionists who provide a supportive environment for healthy choices at the school site.  Students are also paired with a personal trainer to help them develop a weight loss plan. Additionally, students at all four of our high school sites participate in workshops where older students mentor younger students in preparation of dance exhibtions.

The Center’s healthy lifestyle community partners include Fresh Producers, UC Davis, Sierra Health Foundation, Home Depot, California Department of Public Health, Yoga Across America, TCHAS, the United Way Health Impact Council and HealthCorps.

Career & College Preparation

The Center finds that by the time youth reach high school they are eager and ready to prepare for college and participate in the economy. To help them achieve their goals, the Center operates job training and youth employment programs, SAT & FAFSA workshops and partners with local colleges to offer free courses. Each year, nearly a hundred youth from Sacramento high schools are trained and employed in meaningful jobs. At four of our high school programs, 100ís of underserved youth take part in free SAT / ACT preparation, receive advice on the college application process and assistance with the Federal Aide application. In addition to the application process, junior and senior high school students are offered free lower-division classes at Sacramento State University, Sacramento City College and DeVry University where they earn high school and college credits.

Learning to Serve

Connecting youth to their communities through socially responsible projects is a win-win endeavor: communities are improved and students become better citizens. The Center achieves this by guiding youth through ambitious, long-term service learning projects and smaller community service activities. In the summer of 2010, for example, nearly 350 young adults participated in service learning projects across Sacramento. These projects included building community gardens, identifying contaminated watersheds, training first responders and educating the community about the benefits of green technology & renewable energy. Participants logged an astonishing 35,000 hours of service on their projects.

Visual & Performing Arts

With deep budget cuts across the state, often, the first programs to go on the chopping block are the visual and performing arts.  This is unfortunate because the arts teach children to think deeply.  In artistic expression, students consider abstract concepts and concrete subject matter.  Art becomes a vessel for youth to communicate their emotions in a positive manner through visual, musical or physical expression.  Creative thinking also encourages youth to develop unique solutions to common problems.  Because of the passionate requests of students and parents, the Center is pleased to bring visual and performing arts back to schools.  Across Sacramento, students can participate in drama productions, hip-hop dance, textile and sewing design, digital media arts as well as choir & opera programs.

Cultural Appreciation & Development

Sacramento has a complex and rich history of immigration and settlement, resulting in enclaves with unique ethnicities, languages and customs.  The Center values Sacramento’s diversity and works to include the myriad of ethnicities throughout the region.  Our mission is to work with local communities and assist them with social empowerment and cultural appreciation.  To work toward our mission, The Center’s ethnically diverse Board of Directors provides thoughtful leadership for our organization.  In addition, we actively recruit talented bilingual and bicultural employees who connect to the unique character of Sacramento.  Program Managers and Team Leaders help facilitate clubs, leadership programs, college conferences and cultural celebrations.  Student clubs include Hmong, Mien, Vietnamese, Polynesian and Chinese Culture Clubs as well as Latinos Unidos and Black Student Unions.  We encourage all community members to visit and take part in many of our community celebrations.

We serve K-12!

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