Keeping Youth at the Center in Thriving Minds After School

During the 80 percent of waking hours youth spend outside of school, after school programs keep up the momentum of learning. Creative exploration, academic support, and nourishment should continue after the school day – and for youth in Thriving Minds After School, they do.

At the core of Thriving Minds After School is a focus on keeping youth and families at the center. The program aims to provide after school care that goes above and beyond for students and families. This includes nutrition, homework help, and enrichment activities that tap into skillsets youth might not be aware they’re interested in.

Those enrichment experiences for youth vary dynamically, including specialties like dance, visual arts and theater. Local artists engage leaners to their particular craft, and the exposure results in new interests and passions.

In fall of 2022, multiple sites added (A)LIVE, Big Thought’s poetry and performance programming, to those creative opportunities.

(A)LIVE focuses on enhancing students’ interpersonal skills and empowering their unique voice in a welcoming, close-knit environment.

“The program connects youth with some amazing artists in our community,” says Creative Voices Support Daniel Crawford. “The teaching artists are the ones who are giving them that critical time, and that’s really all the youth need – someone who can encourage them to go for more.”

Those connections are making a difference.

When a new student, Sebastian, joined the program this spring, he jumped in without hesitation – not only participating in the writing activities, but sharing his poem in front of the group.

It’s also a space that cultivates student leadership. One learner, Sofia, is described as the first to offer discussion or share her poem. Recently, she led the daily check-in herself, which encouraged her peers to actively engage.

Program Manager Keila Williams says, “The students are sharing what happened after school with Big Thought first before sharing what happened at school.”

Relationships are a key component in Thriving Minds After School. Frontline staff form connections with both a student and their family. They listen to and communicate about each student’s unique needs, making changes and providing resources that will benefit families.

“Every student comes from somewhere, and that family component plays a key part in that student’s development,” Kendall Pidgeon explains. “We recognize that youth are part of a community that impacts how they develop, grow, and learn, so if we say youth are at the center, then so are families.”

To learn more about Thriving Minds After School, visit