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Starting an OST Program

There’s no definitive approach to starting an afterschool program – each community is different, and the process will vary depending on what kind of program you want to create and what goals you aim to accomplish.

Building a program from the ground up can be a difficult task, especially in areas where funding and organizational support are scarce. Still, there are several common resources that every new program can use to get started.

Research & Planning Tips

Talk to parents, guardians, grandparents, and neighbors.
Find out if others in your community are interested in having afterschool programs. Working in larger numbers can sometime provider great influence. Place a notice in your school’s parent bulletin, send an email to a parents’ newsletter, or ask teachers to place flyers in each child’s backpack. The notice can ask parents if they are interested in afterschool programs for their children and whether they are willing to help organize such programs. Attend a PTA meeting and ask participants if they are concerned about the afterschool hours.

Talk to your school principal and teachers.
School teachers and principals can be a great help in getting people together to start an afterschool program. They can also answer questions about the use of school facilities and equipment after school.

Contact other people in your community who might help.
Contact community officials and organizations for guidance or assistance with starting an afterschool program. Start with the local police, the mayor, city councilors, local YMCAs, the parks & recreation director, Boys & Girls Clubs, 4-H staff, Urban League, Cooperative Extension Service, labor organizations, arts organizations, museums, libraries, PTAs, the local chapter of NAACP, local businesses, community centers, and local churches, synagogues, and mosques. Ask each person if they could contribute ideas, time, or money to help start an afterschool program in your community. 

Call a meeting of the parents or other individuals who are interested in starting an afterschool program.
Your list might include educators, local police, organizations that work with children, local businesses, and elected officials. Talk about the benefits to the community and to families of a high-quality afterschool program.

Additional Resources

Afterschool Alliance – Starting a Program
The Afterschool Alliance – a national afterschool organization – has curated key resources to help you start your own afterschool program.

The Beyond the Bell Toolkit
This toolkit is a practical and easy-to-use guide to afterschool programming that contains great information for community-based and school-based program leaders who want to start or improve an afterschool and expanded learning program. The toolkit is divided into six stand-alone sections and contains 96 ready-to-use tools to support your efforts in program management, design, partnerships, delivery, evaluation, and continuous program improvement.

Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) – Provider Resources
The FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning oversees early childcare, education, and out-of-school-time programs in Indiana. They host a list of resources regarding how to become a provider, licensing information, consultant contact information, and much more.

Indiana Afterschool Standards
These data-informed standards outline a path for success for both new and tenured afterschool programs. They serve as a framework of clear expectations and guide program providers in assessing their own programming to help determine what they are doing well and what needs improvement.
Tips for starting, operating, and sustaining an afterschool program