Despite researchers and policymakers’ great interest in after-school youth programs, there has been little to no consensus about which of these programs are successful or even on how success should be defined. While some see after-school programs as ideal spaces for developmental or arts-based activities, others see them as places for academic remediation and test preparation.
The authors in this section explore innovative youth programs and the experiences those programs offer young people. In the first essay, Victor Sensenig highlights connections between informal and academic learning in a public library’s “Wrestling Club.” Examinations of three additional exciting youth-driven programs follow: Laurel Felt and Ed Greenberg explore Laughter for a Change, an improvisational comedy club; Clara Waloff demonstrates how young people in an arts-based after-school program develop leadership; and Erika Kitzmiller explores the powerful role of an after-school girls’ choir in the lives of urban youth. Concluding this section, we offer an essay from Jennifer Vadeboncoeur and Louai Rahal, pinpointing the theoretical and methodological challenges faced by researchers focusing on informal learning and the nonschool hours.