WHAT WE DO
During the past decade, Kansas has made significant progress in promoting safe, healthy, and enriching afterschool programs for thousands of children. However, changes in the Kansas economy, political environment, and demography have created tremendous stress on the educational system, communities, parents, and students. We believe that these factors create substantial urgency for the establishment of a broader and stronger system of afterschool programs.
To further this goal the Center for Public Partnerships and Research at the University of Kansas created the Kansas Enrichment Network as a collaborative partnership committed to the children of Kansas through coordinated service. In the summer of 2022, Kansas Enrichment Network became part of the new Center for Positive Youth Development, a center with a dedicated focus on the Positive Youth Development framework.
The Kansas Enrichment Network helps build and expand school-based programs to enhance learning opportunities for students and provide technical assistance to new and established programs.
The Network envisions a state where all children and youth can participate in safe, affordable, and high-quality out-of-school activities that provide academic assistance and help working families. Out-of-school programs offer an opportunity to engage youth and help them learn, grow, and prepare for the future. The Network strives to raise awareness, build capacity and sustainability, and promote the importance of such programs.
Kansas Enrichment Network partners
Higher Education Institutions
Today, over one-third of American employers say that more than half of their applicants for entry-level positions lack basic science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. With STEM job growth outpacing that of non-STEM jobs, it is imperative that we equip our youth with the tools to join our workforce and build upon the technological and scientific achievements of the past. The last century gave us computers, cellphones, penicillin, and space travel—Imagine what the next one will bring if we afford our youth the opportunities to experience STEM in safe, fun, engaging environments.
In Kansas, around 90% of out-of-school time (OST) programs have found ways to implement STEM-based learning opportunities into their enrichment time such as robotics competitions, 3D printing, LEGO and KEVA blocks for structural engineering challenges, drones, coding, music production, hydroponic gardens, and rollercoaster design.
The Kansas Enrichment Network is dedicated to supporting, enhancing, and expanding these STEM-based learning environments through the provision of technical assistance, professional learning opportunities and trainings, quality assessments, and numerous other resources to the OST professionals in our state.
Additionally, the Network believes deeply in the relationship between positive youth development and the presence of accessible, high-quality OST programs in a given community. The Network strives, therefore, to facilitate partnerships between OST programs and community organizations and businesses to develop comprehensive and exciting approaches to STEM-based learning. Because OST and STEM-based learning opportunities have been shown to significantly improve student academics, behavior, and career readiness, the Network actively advocates at the federal, state, and local levels for policies that promote and prioritize STEM-based learning opportunities and out-of-school time.
Youth need to be exposed to experiences and opportunities that spark their interest and love of learning, motivating them to pursue a 21st century career. They need opportunities to develop, practice, and refine their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Out-of-school time (OST) provides the environment and supports project-based, hands-on learning that is exciting and engaging for all students. These opportunities can expose them to career options that were unknown or never considered.
The Network seeks to build relationships with businesses, manufacturers, corporations as well as professional organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, to generate awareness and excitement for OST and opportunities for Kansas youth. Additionally, the organization works to identify mentors and provide training for mentors who are engaging with youth.
Through real-world experiences, college and career engagement activities, and internships and mentoring opportunities in afterschool programs, youth in Kansas are learning how to think critically, communicate effectively, develop resilience, and work collaboratively. The Kansas Enrichment Network is excited to assist OST programs in creating these opportunities for youth across our state and contribute to the development of our future workforce.
Youth voice is valuing the ideas, concerns, and opinions of youth. Out-of-school time (OST) provides an environment for youth choices, promotes and supports student-initiated and youth-led learning activities, and offers leadership opportunities to students. When youth voice is made a priority, concepts such as self-reflection, communication skills, empathy, and an appreciation of diverse opinions and cultures have been shown to develop.
With the belief that youth voice is an integral component of positive youth development, the organization works tirelessly to ensure that OST in Kansas provides quality academic opportunities but also developmentally appropriate opportunities as well. Through professional development training and advocacy, the Network works to generate awareness and enthusiasm to advance the maximum potential of youth.