Newly emerging yet persuasive evidence in the late 1990s confirmed that young people tend to engage in the highest levels of health-harming behaviors - including sexual activity, substance abuse and crime - during non-school hours. In response to these findings, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created the After School Project in 1998.
The Foundation allocated $16.9 million in grant funds to the Project for a five-year, three-city demonstration aimed at connecting significant numbers of young people in low-income neighborhoods with responsible adults during out-of-school time. After surveying practitioners, researchers, policymakers and funders in several cities, the Foundation's goal to increase the numbers of children served in quality youth development afterschool programs included the following objectives:
- Support for programs of varying types, sizes and philosophies that provide an array of developmental opportunities for youth including physical activity and sports, educational, social, and recreational programs.
- Creation of local organizations with the necessary resources, credibility and political clout to bring focus and visibility to the youth development field.
In selecting cities for funding commitments, the After School Project assessed the following characteristics:
- History of support for youth development afterschool programs;
- "Political will" toward a common agenda of serving young people at scale;
- Supply of programs of varying types, sizes and philosophies ready for expansion;
- Potential to create or expand a high-visibility intermediary organization to serve as a catalyst for change;
- Capacity to collect and analyze data.
As a result of this selection process, the Foundation provided grants to three organizations that shared its objectives: $5 million over five years to After School Matters in Chicago and Team-Up for Youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Foundation awarded grants totaling $3,099,850 to Boston's After-School for All Partnership. In March 2005, The Partnership merged with the City Initiative, Boston 2:00-to-6:00, to become Boston After School & Beyond. In September 2005, The RWJF grant was transferred to Boston Beyond.