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After School Programs Mayor with NAZA students

Numerous national studies have shown that active participation in high-quality after school programs during the middle school years improves attendance and student performance. Given that success in middle school is also a strong indicator of whether or not a student will go on to succeed in high school and eventually graduate, Mayor Karl Dean organized a review of out-of-school activities for Nashville's public middle school students in 2008 led by a team composed of school representatives, private donors, and local nonprofits. 

The team discovered three key findings: 

  1. fewer than 10 percent of the city's 21,500 public middle school students were participating in structured after school programs; 
  2. high-quality providers have long waiting lists and most programs are designed more for elementary students and are not appealing to pre-adolescents; 
  3. reflecting national data, juvenile crime and child victimization for this age group peaks in the after school hours. 
Program fees and transportation were also found to be significant barriers for Nashville's most at-risk students.

Nashville After Zone AllianceNAZA logo

In response, the Mayor's Office created the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA), a partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools to develop a coordinated system of free after school programs for middle school students. NAZA after school programs are organized by several geographic zones with a particular focus and mission. Each After Zone, or Z, provides Metro Nashville middle school students access to after school programs that offer meaningful enrichment activities in a safe and structured environment. 

Each Z is unique in the programming offered, but all programs in NAZA have a common commitment to: 
  • Helping students succeed in school;
  • Providing activities and experience that enrich students' lives; 
  • Providing high quality programming utilizing a Positive Youth Development approach and the 5 Principles of Positive Youth Development;
  • Eliminating transportation and financial barriers for students and families who want to participate; 
  • Using a continuous program quality improvement process, including professional development provided by NAZA; and
  • Manifesting a belief in the value and potential of every student

NAZA is funded through a combination of public and private funds. In early 2012, The Wallace Foundation awarded a grant of $765,000 to continue the program's expansion. NAZA is projected to serve over 1,000 students in 2013. 

Participating middle schools have reported more participation in federally-mandated after school tutoring when it's embedded in the NAZA program. In one particular zone, students in the program increased their reading ability by 1.5 grade levels on average. An independent annual evaluation has shown that 97 percent of participating students feel program staff and leaders care about them, 96 percent feel challenged to do their best, and 97 percent find the program interesting and engaging. 

For more information, visit the official NAZA website at