Youth Programs

Oakridge Neighborhood

As schools struggle to meet federal achievement  standards, after-school  and out of school programs are increasingly viewed as a potential source of academic support for youth at risk of school failure. The experience in the Oakridge programs reveals that after-school programs, in particular those that offer both youth development activities and a strong academic component, lead to gains in academic outcomes.  Oakridge provides a continuum of K-12 after school and out of school programming that focus on the academic, social, emotional, and enrichment needs of our students.

Project OASIS (K-5th Grade)

Project OASIS — Oakridge Achievers Successful in School — is the educationally based after school  program for students grades K-5  which focuses on increased math and reading proficiency, increased school attendance, decreased suspensions (in and out of school) and system involvement.  This is accomplished through literacy/reading and math classes, individualized homework assistance, school visits, plus one-to-one and group tutoring sessions. Students are provided instruction by certified teachers, as well as enrichment activities and other social and emotional supports by academic intervention specialists.

BE REAL Academy (6th-8th Grade)

The BE REAL Academy — Building and Enhancing Relationships – Enriching Academics and Learning — is designed for middle school students ages 13-16.  Focused on literacy skills, BE REAL engages students through participation in a book club called Chapters  – A Book Club for Young Achievers which promotes and encourages literacy.  BE REAL also focuses on equipping and preparing middle school students and their parents for the transitions that will be experienced during their middle school years.   BE REAL is intended to create opportunities for parent and student engagement and training focused specially on the notion of transition – both academic transitions and life transitions – that are experienced by middle school students.

Youth Summer Employment Program (YSEP)

The Youth Summer Employment Program (YSEP) provides subsidized employment opportunities for low-income high school-age youth each year. YSEP provides eight weeks of paid part-time (20-30 hours) work experience at non-profit and public agencies throughout the community  in conjunction with job skills workshops, career exploration, and development opportunities. The goal of the program is to support the positive development of youth by engaging them in meaningful employment, career exploration, leadership, and community involvement opportunities. YSEP is designed to create a supportive learning environment for all participants. Students come away with an understanding of the direct link between academic achievement and future career aspirations, the basic skills needed to find and keep a job, and the value of giving back to their community through service learning projects.

Individual data is collected for each student through their home school to include quarterly grade reports, attendance and behavior reports, and other information necessary in tracking and monitoring student performance and progress toward outcomes.

Program data reveals that participation in the Oakridge after school and out of school programs in grades K-12  is indeed  influencing academic performance in a number of ways, including: better grades, better attitudes toward school, higher school attendance rates, lower tardiness rates, deeper engagement in learning and higher graduation rates.

For more information, please contact the youth department director, Vernon Johnson, at 515.244.7702 ext. 139, or email

21st Century Community Learning Center

Oakridge was awarded a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant (21st CCLC) in 2014.
Through the 21st CCLC grant, Oakridge expanded its after school / out of school
programming to offer even more extended learning opportunities for students grades K-8.

21st CCLC programming includes the use of evidenced-based academic support, educational
enrichment, parent engagement, and family literacy activities, and focuses on improving
academic outcomes and performance in the core areas of reading, math and science.

All Oakridge 21st CCLC programing is aligned with classroom instruction using evidenced-based
academic supports and interventions with licensed teachers retained to provide the academic
components of the program.  The program partners with Edmunds Elementary School and
Callanan Middle School, the neighborhood elementary school and regional middle school
serving the students that reside in and around the Oakridge Neighborhood, as well as
Holy Family which also serves a number of Oakridge students.  A total of 175 K-8 students are
served at three sites.

With 21st CCLC funds, Oakridge Neighborhood Services has increased the rigor of after school/out
of school academic supports, the frequency of student contacts, provided an expanded portfolio of
educational enrichment activities, and also increased the emphasis on parental engagement and family
literacy.  This rigorous programming is facilitated through a 6-day/week “high touch” model aimed at
meeting the academic and educational enrichment needs of high poverty and ELL participants.

For more information about our partners and other resources relating to the 21st CCLC, please
contact the 21st CCLC Program Coordinator:

John Spinks – 21st CCLC Program Coordinator
Oakridge Neighborhood Services
1401 Center Street
Des Moines, IA  50314



Youth Summer Sports Academy

In collaboration with key corporate partners, the Youth Summer Sports Academy is a chance for our middle and high school age kids to participate in highly competitive basketball and soccer programs, plus receive intense academic enrichment instruction. In order to be eligible for the sports component, youth must remain in good standing in the morning academic classes and outreach workshops. In the afternoons, qualified and certified coaches lead student athletes in sport-specific training sessions and competitions. These culminate in season-ending championships in August on National Night Out–typically the first Tuesday evening of August.