ATLANTA—Participation in extracurricular activities improves educational outcomes among older youth transitioning out of the foster care system, research conducted by Georgia State University professor of social work Lionel Scott and his colleagues has found.
Their study, published this year in Children and Youth Services Review, examines whether participation in supplementary activities is associated with completing high school and starting college by age 19 for this population. Scott’s co-authors included Tony White with the Department of Behavioral Health, Washington, D.C., and Michelle R. Munson of New York University.
Their findings suggest students in foster care who participate in extracurricular activities increase their likelihood of graduating from high school with a diploma by age 19. These youth reported better grades and greater educational aspirations when they participated in activities outside of the core classroom curriculum.
However, extracurricular participation was not associated with college entry among this population by age 19. Neither was it related to obtaining a General Education Diploma (GED) by age 19.
“This finding is important,” Scott said, “as the child welfare literature suggests graduating from high school with a diploma versus obtaining a GED is more advantageous for vocational and post-secondary educational prospects of transitioning foster youth.”
Scott and his co-authors followed 312 young people over two years. They conducted interviews at three-month intervals to track academic performance and goals. Sixty percent of the young people reported they participated in one or more activities outside their school’s academic requirements.
“One factor that likely encourages higher grades is that many extracurricular programs, like sports, for example, require a minimum grade point average or level of academic performance for participation, hence encouraging students to maintain higher grades and disqualifying students with lower academic performance,” Scott said. “Some students may be more motivated to stay engaged with school and keep on the right path particularly because of their association with extracurricular activities.
“Our findings suggest efforts to make extracurricular participation a standard aspect of foster youth developmental experience are essential for their educational well-being.”
By Rashida Powell
Lionel D. Scott Jr.
School of Social Work
Dr. Lionel Scott’s research and scholarly work has focused on the psychosocial functioning and help-seeking behaviors of ethnic minority youth and older youth transitioning from the foster care system, racial disparities in specialty mental health service use, and race-related stress and coping among Black youth. Other areas of interest are the socio-cultural and interpersonal determinants of health. His research can be found in various scholarly journals including Children and Youth Services Review, Journal of Adolescence, and Journal of Black Psychology. His work on older foster youth has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.