Free and Cheap After-School Programs for NYC Kids and Teens
The school year is barreling toward us—we're less than three weeks away from the first day—and that means it's (past) time to start thinking about after-school classes, too. Families looking for reasonably priced, enriching, and fun after-school classes for New York City kids have tons of sports, arts, academics, and other classes from which to choose. In fact, a handful of high-quality after-school programs are actually free or inexpensive!
We've rounded up 12 local organizations offering free or cheap after-school classes for kids, tweens, and teens throughout the five boroughs. If you're looking for more options, be sure to see our guide to Classes and Enrichment Activities for New York City Kids.
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The Children's Aid Society – Locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island
This nonprofit offers after-school programs at centers and public schools throughout the city, primarily in Staten Island, Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx. Monday through Friday, participants do art projects, play sports, use technology, and also learn leadership values. Tuition varies by location. Some locations are 100% free; others charge reasonable rates, and financial aid is available. Space is limited.
DREAM Real Kids – East Harlem & the Bronx
Formerly Harlem RBI, this nonprofit runs after-school programs that go way beyond sports. Open to children in kindergarten through fifth grade, participants play and practice, but they also read books and learn about team-building and conflict resolution. Find application information on the org's website.
HEAF – Harlem
This program provides a host of virtual after-school enrichment opportunities for middle and high school students, including test-prep help, aid with high school and college admissions, and more. Candidates must maintain a 70 average and have recommendations from teachers and school counselors to be considered.
The American Museum of Natural History offers after-school classes and enrichment opportunities for middle and high schoolers. Photo courtesy of AMNH
American Museum of Natural History – Upper West Side
Each school year, AMNH hosts a wide variety of after-school classes for middle and high school students. Registration is currently open for a range of science enrichment classes for middle schoolers around topics like astrophysics, anthropology, and geology. Among the offerings for high school students are coding and computer science classes that explore the natural world. Financial aid and scholarships are available, and programming is planned to follow a hybrid model for the beginning of the school year.
Hit the Books – Harlem
The Harlem-based youth program offers a new, full-service after-school program, including MMA lessons, tutoring, mentorship, and meals. Founded in 2019, HTB offers additional educational resources to underserved communities through a sports-based development approach. Programming is free to students and available Monday through Friday afternoons beginning at 2:30pm. Kids can engage in a variety of stimulating ventures daily, including outdoor activities.
The Boys' Club of New York – Harlem, Flushing & Lower East Side
For just a $5 annual fee, members can hang out in one of the three clubhouses and get homework assistance, snacks, learn to swim, take music and art lessons, play sports, and more. Attendance is expected three days per week. Register in person at each clubhouse. Programming operates at full capacity for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. Details will be up on the website soon.
Good Shepherd Services – Brooklyn and the Bronx
This nonprofit provides free after-school programs at community centers and public schools. Contact the location nearest you for more information, including registration deadlines and how to apply.
Lower East Side Girls Club – Lower East Side
Housed in a state-of-the-art, 35,000-square-foot facility in the heart of Alphabet City, the Lower East Side Girls Club caters to middle and high school girls who live or attend school in the area. Membership and programs are free, but family involvement is a must. On-site amenities include a maker shop, biology lab, sound studio, rooftop garden, culinary kitchen, and more. Girls participate in various programs meant to "end the cycle of poverty by training the next generation of ethical, entrepreneurial, and environmental leaders."
Teens can drop in to the Whitney on Friday afternoons for Open Studio. Photo by Spencer Yeh for the museum
Whitney's Open Studio for Teens – Chelsea
The Whitney offers open studio time for teens each Friday afternoon. Teens can bring their works-in-progress or create something entirely new inspired by current Whitney exhibitions. Teaching artists drop in on occasion, too, and this is a great pathway to the museum's other teen programs, including a cost-free summer camp and paid internships. Tentative dates for 2021 are Fridays, October 15, November 12, November 19, and December 3. Teens need to provide proof of vaccination or a valid negative COVID test (within 72 hours) to participate in the in-person program.
Dorot Intergenerational Chess – Upper West Side
While not a full-time program, this chess program pairs young masters-in-training with seniors for an afternoon of gameplay. Actual chess masters are on hand to demonstrate moves, and refreshments are served. The program's application requires a phone interview. Details for the upcoming school year are coming soon. The spring program ran in a virtual format.
New York Junior Tennis League – City Wide
The NYJTL offers no-cost tennis lessons throughout the year in all five boroughs. Children may join at any location at any time during the season. Registration information will be online soon.
Police Athletic League – Locations Citywide
PAL offers after-school programs Monday through Friday from 3-6pm for students in first through eighth grades. Activities include sports, arts, and academics. Tuition varies by location. Contact the center of your choice for more detailed information.
Originally published in August 2011. Photos courtesy of the respective organizations