School doesn't have to end when the bell rings; there are plenty of free and inexpensive options for enrichment in Philadelphia's after-school programs. If you’re looking for a fun and educational way for your kids to spend their late afternoons and early evenings, you’ll be happy to hear that after-school programs don’t have to break the bank. The programs are a great way to help kids stay ahead of their schoolwork, and also hone in on their specific interests.
Police Athletic League (PAL)
The mission of PAL is “Cops Helping Kids.” Since its inception in 1947, PAL has aimed to provide a positive relationship between Philadelphia kids, their communities, and the police department. Tens-of-thousands of children have gone to their neighborhood PAL Center to play organized sports and engage in a variety of educational and cultural activities. All programs are free. Aside from athletics, there are also homework clubs, literacy programs, field trips, and a Positive Image program.
Fleisher Art Memorial’s Teen Lounge
Fleisher Art Memorial’s Teen Lounge is a free, drop-in afterschool program for students ages 13-19 who are interested in the visual arts. Teens work with teaching artists to develop a creative program. The projects help foster a group dynamic as teens work on clay, painting, silkscreen, and more. The program is available Monday through Wednesday from 4 PM to 6 PM. Teens don't have to register, just drop by.
Founded in 2001, SquashSmarts is a free program that combines academics and athletic mentoring for 6th-12th grade students. It's goal is to keep Philadelphia public school students in school, in shape, and on track for graduation. The program operates out of the Lenfest Center in North Philadelphia and the Daskalakis Athletic Center at Drexel. Students are selected based on commitment, effort, and attitude. Students in the program meet three days a week. SquashSmarts focuses on academic support, Squash instruction, fitness and nutrition, personal achievement, and leadership. Students also participate in community service projects, cultural outings, and special events.
Women in Natural Sciences (WINS)
Available to rising 9th grade girls at public and public charter high schools in Philadelphia, the after-school and summer science enrichment program is held at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Since its founding in 1982, WINS has provided science workshops, career, and college exploration and positive youth development opportunities to hundreds of girls. The program has resulted in 100 percent of WINS students graduating high school and more than 96 percent attending college. The nomination period is from January 1 to February 15.
The Free Library of Philadelphia
The Literacy Enrichment After-school Program (LEAP) offers homework assistance, computer literacy, and library skills for students in grades K–12. LEAP promotes traditional literacy, science, technology and cultural arts. One of the biggest perks of the program is Homework Help Online, a program that allows students at all levels to engage in live tutoring, specialized test prep, and a writing lab. Afterschool Leaders (ASLs) head the LEAP staff in each Free Library location under the supervision of the librarians and library staff. These are drop in programs with no pre-registration needed.
Photo courtesy of Taller Puerterriqueno
The Art Education after-school programs for children and youth at this center focus on Puerto Rican/Latino art, history, and culture. The Cultural Exploration Program is geared towards elementary and middle school students. The Youth Artist Program is for high school students. Program fees are based on a sliding scale and opened Monday through Friday.
Local YMCAs offer a variety of after-school programs for both children and teens, like crafts, dance, sports, wellness programs, child development, and child care. The Y's Creative Arts programs help children foster their creative spark, develop imagination, and gain social skills. The Y also offers unique programs to teens, such as mentoring and tutoring. Fees vary depending on the program. However, if you have a 7th grader, the Y will provide a free one-year membership as part of the 7th Grade Membership Initiative.
The free programs are aimed for kids aged 7-17 who are focused on improving their writing skills. Programs include daily after-school academies, themed workshops, mentorships, and scholars program for high school students. Mighty Writers also offers toddler workshops for kids 2-5 years old.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia
With several locations in the city, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia offers core programs in arts & culture, literacy, character & leadership, education & development, health & life skills, sports & fitness, and STEM. Membership is required, but is generally inexpensive.
Attic Youth Center
The Attic, Philadelphia's only independent LGBTQ youth center, has a Life Skills Center to provide programs to assist LGBTQ youth in building the skills necessary to succeed in school, their jobs or careers, and the community. Additional services include mental health counseling.
Parks and Recreation Centers
Many local centers offer free or inexpensive programs. For example, Cecil B. Moore Center offers free education workshops such as coding for kids 8-15. Free mentoring is available at locations such as the Athletic Recreation Center and Thomas I. Guerin Recreation Center. For $30 a week, Columbus Square provides high school readiness sessions for boys and girls ages 10-13.