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Out-of-school resource center leaves Penn for new home

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

After being housed at the University of Pennsylvania for almost 12 years, the Out-of-School Time Resource Center (OSTRC) has found a new home.

On July 1, the center moved most of its programming from Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice to Foundations Inc., an education nonprofit in Mount Laurel, N.J.

The OSTRC supports educators and programs serving out-of-school time, which is the lull between the end of the school day and when parents get home. The center moved because it did not have stable funding, according to its founder and former director Nancy Peter.

Peter said that it had become a struggle to make funding work in recent years.

“We needed to piece together grants, but with all that, we were not able to sustain [the organization],” Peter said.

Foundations will be a better financial fit, she said, because it has a more reliable network of financial resources.

“They have access to different kinds of funding systems, national funding sources, and a great relationship with the Department of Education,” she said.

While the center was at Penn, it worked to enrich programming during out-of-school hours by identifying and coordinating resources, conducting research and evaluation, and recommending changes in policy and practice to improve the use of out-of-school time.

At Foundations, the center will continue to provide many of its resources, such as its signature OSTRC Newsletter, peer networking meetings, a professional development calendar, and its document library. Policy work will also continue at the new location, but the research and evaluation components will not be offered at Foundations.

The OSTRC’s Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative and its STEM work also changed with the move. Peter said that “STEM work has been parceled out to other organizations.” The sports collaborative has not gone to Foundations, but the website remains.

The collaborative runs Sports for Juvenile Justice, a unique program that offers adjudicated youth the opportunity to attend its weekly two-hour sessions in place of community service. Peter said that plans to maintain PYSC are in the works.

Foundations CEO Rhonda Lauer said that at the new location, the OSTRC will maintain its Philadelphia ties and will be able to expand its outreach to a national level.

“The emphasis is to reach more kids, more families, more educators,” she said.

Lauer called the move to Foundations “a great marriage,” because enriching out-of-school time has been a priority for both organizations.

“Foundations began in the OST arena," Lauer said. "It was founded upon the belief that [the families of] kids who live in rich areas are able to provide [superior] learning. We believe that all kids deserve the same opportunities to learn. To us it doesn’t matter the time of day kids learn. We believe they can learn in their homes, in their communities.”

“What we’re really hoping to have an impact on is kids learning all day, every day. [Not just academic skills] but social skills, emotional skills.”

Peter said that maintaining the OSTRC brand won’t be difficult, because these two organizations share this same mission. Foundations has also brought in a former project manager, John Price, to help sustain the brand.

Price said that he expects his role to “bleed over into the advocacy space and policy space,” but he will also continue with the programming he had done at Penn. Price said he believes out-of-school hours are a crucial time for kids.

“OST is vitally important because of the opportunity gaps that exist during the school day,” Price said.

“Young people are not exposed to as much opportunity for creating impact in their world, for answering bigger questions. OST presents a great venue to fill the gap in terms of learning, enrichment, and logistically between the end of the school day and when parents get home.”

Price said he is concerned about continuing to have the face-to-face interactions with the center’s staff that he had at Penn. “The OSTRC has a good sense of the pulse of the people. Continuing to have personal encounters in an intimate way is a question mark.”

Overall, though, Price said that he sees the move as being positive. “I go into it with all the optimism in the world. We are really going to step it up.”

Peter agreed. “The University of Pennsylvania was able to incubate the OSTRC, and now Foundations will be able to sustain it.”

Michaela Ward is an intern at the Notebook.

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