How Youth Programs Can Benefit At-Risk Youth

Posted by Laura Amendola on June 11, 2024

Today’s youth face many challenges that can put them at risk of not meeting their full potential. From bullying to struggles at home, a number of factors can ultimately impact academic performance, leading many young adults to fail to meet the demands of public education. The National Center for Education Statistics cited 2 million dropouts among people aged 16-24 in 2021. But, with more jobs now than ever before requiring a high school diploma, students who drop out of school may struggle finding work, impacting their lives – and society – significantly. So how do we decrease these dropout rates? Youth programs – and offering a pathway toward a high school education - can make a world of difference.


three girls smiling and having fun.

What are youth programs?

Youth programs are organizations that allow youths to engage with others in positive activities and environments. According to, “research indicates that young people who are surrounded by a variety of opportunities for positive encounters engage in less risky behavior and ultimately show evidence of higher rates of successful transitions into adulthood.”


Who are at-risk youths?

At-risk youths are those who, for one reason or another, are less likely to transition successfully into adulthood due to the circumstances they’re in or life choices they make. These adolescents often end up not graduating from high school or struggle to maintain jobs or careers.


Read more: Closing the Gap: How High School Class Alternatives Improve Graduation Rates


Factors that can make a child at risk

There are several factors that can contribute to a child or teenager’s future and whether they can be considered at-risk. At Rish Youth Programs highlight the following:

  • School life
  • Family life
  • The law and crime
  • Community
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Depression
  • Sexuality
  • Truthfulness
  • Illegal substances
  • Self-belief


Any one or multiple of these can have a larger impact on a young adult’s life than they may think at the time, and many of them are often beyond their control.


Read more: 5 Strategies to Help Learners Earn a High School Diploma


Statistics on at-risk youth

A Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) reports the following:

  • 40% of high school students were struggling with mental health.
  • 14% have reported abusing opioids.
  • 14% admit to binge drinking.
  • 5% have gotten behind the wheel after drinking.


The Guttmacher Institute reports:

  • 70 out of every 1000 teenage girls aged 15-19 became pregnant.


Read more: How is Education Changing in 2024? Educators’ Predictions on AI, Mental Health, and Student Engagement


Benefits of youth programs on society

The youth of today are the adults of tomorrow, so society must do its part to ensure they transition well into adulthood. Oftentimes negative life experiences lead students down a rough road, so ensuring there are enough opportunities for children and teens to get positive experiences can make all the difference. highlights some of the benefits of after school programs:

  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Academic Support
  • School Participation
  • Safety
  • Supporting Working Families
  • Nutrition and Physical Activity
  • Work-Based Learning


These benefits aren’t isolated to after school programs, however, and the benefits of after school programs aren’t the only ones. Youth programs that partner with training or school programs to help their members earn their education are huge benefits to those who may be at risk. Organizations like Youthbuild and Job Corps partner with Penn Foster High School to give students a second chance at earning their diploma.


Read more: YouthBuild Boston - Empowering Youth & Strengthening the Community


Why it’s important for youth programs to provide education opportunities

A huge factor that impacts what the transition from adolescence to adulthood looks like is whether someone completes high school. Activity based programs can greatly benefit students who need those positive experiences, but what about the students who already find themselves failing to graduate?


Youth programs that offer education opportunities go a step further in helping teenagers find success in their lives. Allowing students the chance to engage with others in similar situations while completing their high school education helps create safe spaces for those students who may feel like they made mistakes beyond repair. These types of programs often help students prepare and train for careers as well, making them invaluable organizations in many adolescent lives.


Read more: The Benefits of Offering Career-Focused Courses in High School


Open the door to online partnerships

With the clear benefits youth programs can have on the lives of at-risk youth, more organizations geared towards young adults can only help society as a whole. If you’re an organization serving today’s at-risk youth, it could greatly benefit you and your members to partner with an online school like Penn Foster to continue improving lives and helping students achieve success. To learn more, reach out to our training experts today!