AfterSchool HQ helps more Indiana students enroll in after school programs
Growing up with two parents working in the local school system where I also attended, I couldn’t get up to anything out of the ordinary without hearing about it back at home later that evening. Even innocently going through the McDonald’s drive-thru with friends after school was reason enough for people to let my parents know they saw me. It was a bit suffocating.
Surprisingly, however, we never seemed to know when tryouts were for the summer travel soccer team or what to prepare and when auditions were being held for community theatre productions. Helpful information like that never made the rounds. It, apparently, wasn’t as juicy as learning that a 15-year-old teacher’s kid bought some fries and a milkshake.
Here we are—more than 30 years later (and in the middle of a global pandemic)—and despite all of the advances in technology and enhanced digital communications, parents are still struggling with figuring out how to get their children involved in after-school activities. In fact, according to data from the Afterschool Alliance, Indiana ranks among the bottom five states with only 11% of students enrolled in some type of program outside of the traditional classroom.
“On one side you have parents looking to put their children in the best programs and on the other you have a plethora of programs that are looking to take our students to the next level, but there’s no easy way to connect both sides,” said Darye Henry, CEO and co-founder of AfterSchool HQ.
With the mission of engaging students in activities that ignite their passions, AfterSchool HQ provides a web-based platform that connects students with programs in their community that offer both in-person and virtual activities. For parents, the database of programs provides a central location to discover, register, and even pay for activities for their children. And for after school program managers, AfterSchool HQ offers free profiles and access to management tools to promote activities, enroll students, communicate with parents and more.
To provide perspective on the scope of what AfterSchool HQ is undertaking, the Indiana-based startup recently partnered with MCCOY, the Marion County Commision on Youth, which represents more than 700 after-school programs in Indianapolis. While Marion County is the most populous of Indiana’s 92 counties, if the other Indiana counties had just 10% of the programs available in Marion County, there would be more than 6,000 after-school programs statewide. Only including community programs, this count doesn’t include after-school programs administered by the school systems themselves.
There’s a good reason for educators, parents, mentors and others to want to increase participation in after-school programs. According to the Harvard Family Research project, student participation in after-school programs have a measurable and dynamic impact on the overall success of our future leaders. After-school programs and experiences improve school attendance, standardized test scores and behavior. In addition, participation in extracurricular activities is linked to a decrease in crime rates among school-age children.
Darye was quick to point out that keeping kids out of trouble is a positive side effect of boosting participation in after-school activities, but that it wasn’t the biggest motivating factor for he and San Pathak (co-founder and COO) when they first started AfterSchool HQ.
“Yes, parents absolutely want their kids to be safe and to stay out of trouble. They want them to be good at math and science too. But students can’t be math or science, but they can be engineers and biologists. We believe students discover their future careers when participating in extracurricular activities,” Darye said.
For Darye, it was a program developed by Purdue University held on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis called MEAP (Minority Engineering Advancement Program) that first sparked his interest in technology. In the years that followed, he built Rube Goldberg machines, visited with professionals working at FedEx and Raytheon, and ultimately chose to attend Purdue University and pursue a career as a software engineer.
“I used to tell adults who asked ‘I wanted to be an architect’ because that’s what my brother said, but once I experienced engineering I was hooked,” Darye said. “By getting kids involved in after-school programs like the ones I did that introduce them to potential careers in STEM fields, especially girls and minorities, we can have a huge impact on the diversity we see in those fields in the future.”
AfterSchool HQ is currently operating in three states, Louisiana, Alabama and it’s home state of Indiana. Darye is the only full-time employee, but there are nine team members total who are contributing to the company’s continued growth. So far, AfterSchool HQ has raised $150,000 in pre-seed investment with plans underway to launch a $1 million seed round in the first quarter of 2021.
Fundraising will be critical for the growing startup now that there is a confluence of interest in keeping students engaged during pandemic-related disruptions to their education, as well as increased attention and efforts to address inequities among the opportunities available for minority students. According to Co-Founder and COO San Pathak, AfterSchool HQ is prepared to scale-up to meet the increased need for its platform in all 50 states, though he says the team is focused on growing in the Midwest and South before considering plans for a 50-state strategy.
Data acquired through their ongoing relationships with Indianapolis Public Schools Center for Inquiry School 70 and IPS Athletics shows that Afterschool HQ helped to increase student participation in activities outside of the classroom by 130% and 43% respectively. More information on the results AfterSchool HQ is delivering its customers and partners is covered in this recent article published by the Indianapolis Recorder newspaper.
“We’re getting inquiries from New York and other parts of the country where people are telling us they really need AfterSchool HQ in their communities,” San said. “We’re eager to grow wherever there’s a genuine interest in the platform, but we really need to hear from partners like MCCOY and school systems so that we can get some saturation with local programs and have a robust offering for students before launching.”
Ed-tech investors, after-school programs and potential partners are encouraged to contact AfterSchool HQ through its website or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.