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Boys and Girls Club Project Learn

Ages 7-18

Rating: Level 2


The Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) promotes health, social skills development, education, character building, and leadership in youths, especially those at risk. BGCA succeeds in this goal by offering a wide variety of programs designed to enhance the lives of children and adolescents. The Project Learn program involves enhancing the educational performance of economically disadvantaged adolescents who live in public housing. Program delivery teams consist of local BGCA staff, representatives from the youths’ schools, the housing authority, resident councils of the local public housing developments, and parent leaders. Each week the program engages youths in structured activities designed to improve educational enhancement:

  • 1 to 2 hours of creative writing
  • 4 to 5 hours of leisure reading
  • 5 to 6 hours completing school homework
  • 4 to 5 hours of discussion with knowledgeable adults
  • 2 to 3 hours helping other youths with school homework, projects, and skill acquisition
  • 4 to 5 hours of board games and other recreational pursuits that draw on cognitive skills and talents transferable to school lessons

Youths are given incentives such as school supplies, field trips, additional computer time, and special privileges within their local Boys and Girls Club. Parents are encouraged to become involved in the program by helping their child with homework; reading, discussing current events, and playing board games with their child; and taking part in other educational skill acquisition.


Project Learn was evaluated using a quasi-experimental, three-arm research design. Program youths who received the educational enhancement program are compared with youths in BGCA facilities and a control group in other community programs that did not receive the program. Comparison and control sites were chosen for their demographic similarity to program sites relative to size, youth membership, urbanicity, and service population. The sample consisted of 283 youths across 15 sites; 40 percent were female and 63 percent were black, 19 percent Hispanic, 13 percent white, and 5 percent Asian and other ethnicities, with an average age of 12.3. Participants were assessed at baseline and at 6, 18, and 30 months.


The evaluation reveals modest support for the value of Project Learn in nonschool settings for high-risk adolescents. BGCA youths who received educational enhancements—relative to youths in BGCA who did not receive the program and compared with youths in other community-based programs—made modest educational improvements. At 30 months, program youths reported significantly greater enjoyment and engagement in reading, verbal skills, writing, and tutoring. They also had better overall averages in reading, spelling, history, science, social studies, and school attendance compared with comparison and control youths. Program and comparison youths had significantly more positive reading skills, writing skills, game skills, overall school performance, and interest in class material than the control group.

Risk Factors


  • Dropping out of school
  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school

Protective Factors


  • Religiosity / Involvement in organized religious activities
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting


  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement


  • NIJ: What Works


Schinke, Steven P., Kristin C. Cole, and Stephen R. Poulin. 2000. “Enhancing the Educational Achievement of At-Risk Youth.” Prevention Science 1(1):51–60.


National Headquarters
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
1230 West Peachtree Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: (404) 487-5700
Fax: (404) 487-5789
Web site: