Photo courtesy Boost

Op-Ed: OST programs are essential to children and are now easier to find

If there was ever any doubt that learning and youth development doesn’t take place outside of the classroom, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more real for parents.

As parents navigate distance learning, they often have to find resources to help their kids – whether it is online tutoring, programs to keep their kids active and healthy, or activities to stimulate their creativity.

Luckily, there are multiple programs that are available here in the El Paso region to help those parents, and now it is easier to find them with just one click of the button.

I know firsthand how youth programs can help young people flourish. After all, they have helped me navigate difficult times both in my personal life and my academic career. Growing up I was extremely shy and I felt that would hinder me from opportunities in the future.

But once I joined the Girl Scouts and the El Paso Youth Symphony Orchestra, I was given the opportunity to discover my capabilities and overcome this major obstacle in my youth. I was able to meet my Girl Scouts’ goals by developing confidence to speak to potential customers and perform orchestra music in front of a large audience. These experiences pushed me to discover my potential.

Out-of-school time programs, like the Girl Scouts and the El Paso Youth Symphony Orchestra, go above and beyond just offering help with homework. They offer a full range of fun and creative activities that benefit youth outside the classroom and help them discover their passions like music, sports or art.

Since these programs often take place afterschool, during the summer, or on the weekends when kids might otherwise be unsupervised, they help keep children safe. They provide a safe space with trusting adults and an environment for youth to engage with their peers while parents are at work. In addition, they guide children to be more connected with our community, build healthy lifestyles, and prepare them for college.

Through my participation in OST programs, I was motivated to continue my education at Texas Tech University and dedicate time to my community by becoming a Girl Scout volunteer and an ambassador with the UMC Volunteer Corps program.

The lessons I learned both in the Girl Scouts and El Paso Symphony – to stay organized, to be courageous, and to stay motivated – have helped me excel in my studies.

I encourage all parents to connect with an OST provider through the new BOOST website to find a life-changing program that will help their children to grow in a strong support network and receive the skills they need to become successful.

I’m not the only one whose life was shaped by OST programs. According to the Journal Research on Adolescence, youth who regularly participate in OST activities experience positive life outcomes including positive mental health, civic engagement and education attainment.

Decades of research by the YMCA of the USA has shown that teens who do not participate in afterschool programs are three times more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as skipping school, drug use and unsafe sexual activity.

It is this recognition of the transformative power that OST programs can have on youth, that is
bringing organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Creative Kids, the El Paso Youth Symphony Orchestra and so many more together as part of the BOOST Network.

As members of The BOOST Network, all of these programs share the same goal of ensuring that youth in our region are connected to positive activities when they are not in school. And now parents and guardians that are interested in enrolling their children in afterschool, spring or summer programs – be it virtual or in-person – can go to the BOOST Network’s new website to find the right program for their child.

Just like my participation in OST programs helped me overcome my shyness and set me on a journey that’s taken me to Washington DC where I am currently serving as an intern at the House of Representatives, the OST program you enroll your child in might spark a desire to go to college, to become the next Frida Kahlo or the next Khalid, or just help them build new skills and desires they didn’t have before.

It’s never too early or too late to tap into those dreams and that potential, you just need to find the one that’s the right fit for you.

Disha Ganjegunte


Author: Disha Ganjegunte

Ganjegunte is a graduate of Maxine L. Silva Magnet High School Academy and current student at Texas Tech University




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