In March, the New York Senate approved a $540 million grant for pre-K and after-school programs in New York City. The city will receive this amount each year for five years to fund, improve and expand these programs.

This is welcome news for New York's students, and it may be signaling the start of a new trend across the nation.

What started as a novel idea has now become an important development for parents and administrations alike. In the last two decades, after-school programs have mushroomed across the length and breadth of the country.

In doing so, quality after-school programs have shown how they have positively affected the youth of the nation. The after-school hours of 3-6 p.m. are ripe for juvenile crime, and the increase in these programs are a great way to keep the kids constructively engaged and under adult supervision.

The program have the added benefit of focused activities to spike students' interests in various fields and help raise their academic performance. Much like child care expenses, parents get tax breaks for the after-school program expenses for the tax year as well.

In its latest policy update, the Afterschool Alliance, an organization that works for providing quality after-school programs, has stressed the value that these programs can bring once again.

Calling for support of the After School for America's Children Act, they have highlighted how these engaging and constructive programs can support a child's development, lead to steeper learning curve and increase their creative potential. This bill (S. 326 and HR 4086) is slated to strengthen the mainstream curriculum with the innovative advances of after-school programs.

The evaluation of these after-school programs has shown educators and parents the range of positive outcomes possible and has clarified their importance to the policymakers as well. Hence, more headlines are popping up about special funding for after-school programs. Efforts are already underway to synthesize the mainstream curriculum with the after-school ones so that the intellectual progress of students will be more comprehensive.

The increasing popularity and importance is evident in the innovative ways after-school activities are being introduced across the country. According to the National Afterschool Association, STEM instructional training will be a strong focus for the design and themes of after-school programs in 2014.

  • In South Carolina, the Greenville County schools are focusing on new after-school programs that will lay down a strong foundation in engineering and science for elementary and middle school students.
  • San Diego is looking at an after-school tutoring program in 18 libraries if the budget proposed for them is approved and passed by the City Council. The innovative "Do Your Homework @ the Library" program will be spread across school districts that have been unable to score the target of 800 in standardized tests. They will actively engage students after school with focused learning activities that will lead to stronger skill development.
  • Apart from the state-run and other nonprofit efforts, there are also innovative private programs like SHINE, a novel after-school program for middle school girls in the Boston/Cambridge area. It combines the two spectacularly-different disciplines of dance and math, focusing on developing the innate math skills and intellectual potential of each student through various exhilarating and exciting dance moves and methods.

The 2013-2014 academic year also saw support from corporations for various programs in the country.

The MetLife Foundation recently approved a grant of $200,000 for the National 4-H Council so that they can enhance and expand the after-school programs in Georgia, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island for their underserved middle school-aged youth. Companies like Cognizant have opened up the scope for more grants for after-school programs that are aligned with STEM disciplines in a fun and hands-on learning manner.