Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Organizing activities during out-of-school time: Extracurricular activities are out-of-school time (most often after school) programs organized for school-aged children. While they may include an academic component, they primarily focus on non-academic activities, like sports, arts, or technology. Depending on their focus, they may aim to improve children’s social, emotional, or academic outcomes.

  • Varied program models: Extracurricular programs vary in their goals, structure, staffing, and funding sources. That said, virtually all programs involve structured activities for groups of students, are supervised by adults, expect regular attendance, and take place at a community-based facility (e.g., a library) either after school or over the summer. Two common types of extracurricular program are specialty and multipurpose programs.

  • Accessing non-academic enrichment: Specialty programs provide structured activities centered around a non-academic theme, like sports, arts, or technology. Typically, these programs are staffed by trained coaches or instructors. The frequency of program sessions varies, though they are typically offered on a regular basis (e.g., every Monday). Regardless, specialty programs aim to improve participants’ skills in the area of focus (e.g., coding in a technology program), though programs may also seek to impact participants’ social, behavioral, or academic development.

  • Providing supervision and varied experiences: Multipurpose programs offer multiple enrichment activities, like arts, sports, or homework help. These programs are often staffed by full-time youth workers and take place at a school, community center, or club house (e.g., Boys and Girls Club). During the school year, programs are offered 4-5 days per week for about 3 hours per day; if offered during the summer, multipurpose programs take place 5 days per week for up to 8 hours per day. Such programs aim to provide consistent supervision, expose participants to new experiences, and more.

Cost per Participant
$7-12 hourly per participant

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that extracurricular activities are a well-supported strategy for improving participants’ social, behavioral, and academic outcomes.

  • A 2016 research synthesis found that extracurricular activities were a scientifically supported strategy for improving children’s self-esteem and promoting prosocial behavior.

  • A 2010 meta-analysis found that extracurricular activities were associated with reduced problem behavior and increased positive self-perception, prosocial behavior, and academic achievement in children.

  • A 2008 systematic review found that extracurricular activities were associated with positive academic, social/emotional, and health and wellness outcomes.

Best practices in implementation

  • Support regular, sustained attendance: Participants who have frequent and sustained attendance at extracurricular activities show greater improvement across a range of outcomes than those who attend infrequently or irregularly. As such, programs should strive to develop supportive relationships between staff and participants, encourage cooperation between participants, and involve participants in shaping activities - all factors linked to students’ desire to attend an activity in the future.

  • Engage participants’ families: By engaging participants’ families, extracurricular programs can increase participants’ attendance and engagement in program activities. Ways to increase family engagement include offering activities that allow family participation (e.g., exhibits of children’s work), creating volunteer opportunities for parents and guardians, establishing a parent advisory board, and more.

  • Vary program offerings: Extracurricular programs should vary the activities they offer participants, mixing academic, recreational, and social activities. By adding variety, programs can increase student engagement and potentially improve participants’ academic outcomes.

  • Coordinate across programs: Coordinating across extracurricular and other after school programs can build capacity for recruitment, fundraising, evaluation, and other functions. To begin coordination, programs should cultivate support from the city’s mayor, create a coordinating entity, develop a multi-year plan, create a data infrastructure, and more.