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Almost every public school is over by 3pm, but for thousands of local students, the learning doesn’t end. Impact100 Philadelphia’s 2012 grant recipient After School Activities Partnership (ASAP) gets started when the final dismissal bell rings. They work with middle school and high school students in more than 100 public schools throughout Philadelphia to make sure afternoons are entertaining and enriching. In particular, ASAP introduces young people to the discipline and joy of debate and chess.

These activities, which are only two in a wide range offered by ASAP, can have a profound effect on students and their families. In last year’s debate team competition, students analyzed all aspects of gun control. Their “pro” or “con” positions were determined by a coin toss, thus ensuring they had a complete understanding of both sides of this divisive issue. According to Executive Director Justin Ennis, this process promotes constructive conversations and improved listening skills. Students have a chance to lead adults by their example of hard work, organized presentations, and thoughtful dialogue. This ASAP program has grown significantly since its founding in 2002. Debate has expanded from high schools to middle schools, and is also offered in community and recreation centers throughout Philadelphia. Although boys and girls participate in fairly balanced numbers, Ennis reports that the top performers in the Philadelphia area are girls. These young women are on a productive path for the future: 96% of senior debaters enroll in four-year colleges or universities.

Chess tournaments have become a community affair, spearheaded by ASAP, PECO, and the Police Athletic League through the “Checkmate Violence” program. Last spring, Police Commissioner Richard Ross joined hundreds of area students in a city-wide chess tournament. In particular, this program promotes strategic decision making for long term victory. A major part of learning how to play chess includes losing, learning from mistakes, self-reliance and self-improvement: an obvious roadmap for future success. In addition, the tournament creates opportunities for students and their families to have positive interactions with local police officers. The ripple effect can be powerful. Chess is also a means by which students can explore advanced educational connections. ASAP has recently partnered with Drexel University to encourage girls to stick with chess as a gateway to their Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum.

In the six years since receiving Impact100 Philadelphia’s funding, ASAP has almost doubled their capacity as measured by the number and location of programs and children served. Debate and chess are two of the most popular activities, but the organization provides more, from drama to scrabble to artists in residence. They even provide alumni with an opportunity to mentor through club leadership and tournament director programs. Individual members of Impact100 Philadelphia have maintained connections to ASAP, many of which were established from site visits during the grant application process.

Thousands of students from neighborhoods across the city look at 3pm in a whole new way, in part due to funding provided by Impact100 Philadelphia. ASAP is helping to create a generation of thoughtful leaders. We are pleased to have been part of their success.

To review a complete listing of ASAP programs, click HERE.

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