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This project was submitted by an applicant to the Digital Media and Learning Competition.

Pathways for Lifelong Learning



PASA’s mission is to expand and improve quality expanded learning opportunities (ELO) for Providence youth by organizing a citywide public/private system that offers multiple pathways to learning. PASA’s middle school initiative—the AfterZone—knits together a network of partners from the public and private sector including the city, school department, community providers and businesses, and serves nearly half of the city’s middle school youth.  By maximizing cross-sector strengths and resources, PASA engages middle school youth in a varietyofELO that spark their curiosity, connect them to real world experiences, and allow them to explore their interests. 

Building on the success of the AfterZone, PASA and 10 community partners including the Providence Public School District (PPSD), created a similar after-school system for high school youth called The Hub. As a system, a program space, and a web tool, the Hub connects Providence youth to opportunities throughout the city, hosts new programs and builds policies and processes with PPSD that provide course credit for ELO that occur after school.  

Recognized nationally for its innovative, replicable approach to coordinating systems to better serve youth, PASA’s collaborative spirit has engendered a commitment to share its practices and materials with cities across the country building systems and youth ELO. As a result, nearly 20 cities are implementing elements of the AfterZone model.

There remain challenges, however. There is no uniform way of documenting, tracking, and validating ELO experiences from middle through high school graduation. PASA’s Pathways for Learning badges would address this and target three audiences:

1)    Youth in PASA’s after-school system

2)    Program providers

3)    Cities interested in replication

Youth badges would be introduced first, followed by program badges. As these badge ecosystems are refined, they could expand to systems-level badges for cities.

Learning Goals

A comprehensive look at PASA’s youth learning goals, outcomes, and impacts is in the attached logic model. Among the youth learning goals PASA has for its Pathways for Learning badges are:

  • Increased participation in AfterZone and Hub programs for multiple years
  • Improved school attendance and behavior
  • Improved learning engagement
  • Improved social/emotional competencies
  • Improved grades
  • More youth attaining on-time promotion to 9th grade
  • More HS youth completing ELO credits
  • More youth graduating on time

Program level learning goals include improved program quality, more and varied ELOs, a better trained workforce, and better connections with school curriculum.

System level learning goals include building a strong practice model that formal and informal educators could share, support, and deliver; creating better integration between the AfterZone and The Hub so youth enter a direct pathway to graduation starting in 6th grade; better integrating programs between PASA and PPSD.


Pathways Badges

Pathways For Learning Badge system and badge design brainstorm        Brainstorm for Pathways For Learning Badge functions within the badge system

Youth are "graduating" from the AfterZone in middle school looking for ways to connect to dynamic ELO in high school. By thetimeAfterZone participants reach 8th grade, they have taken programs ranging from environmental science, to sports, video game design and more. Some youth explore multiple interests or take part in leadership opportunities, but many repeatedly take the same “types” of programs, reflecting an interest in a particular learning pathway. Badges that reflect and enhance ongoing behaviors in middle school programs—passion, perseverance, etc.—will act as goals and guides along learning pathways extending through high school and beyond. As 8th graders and high schoolers attain certain badges they would receive special privileges—8th grade-only programming, paid internships through The Hub, personalized tutoring, etc.  As the badge ecosystem develops, opportunities and privileges would expand significantly, supporting healthy behaviors, college access, leadership development and more.

Badge branding is critical to adoption. PASA used youth input and voice to design a respected AfterZone brand and The Hub Youth Team co-created The Hub programs, logo, website and collateral materials.  Similarly, badge design competitions in PASA’s after-school system could build badge designs incorporating elements of AfterZone and Hub branding.

Group of Hub youth brainstorm logo ideas                          A large sheet of paper used to brainstorm logo ideas on shows how Hub youth interpreted the Hub's mission                         Image of a Hub youth showing one of the final round Hub logo design ideas

With support from Badges for Lifelong Learning and the MacArthur Foundation, PASA would be able to leverage its successful brand into an orchestrated, replicable system of learning pathways for Providence youth and beyond.


Sample image of the Quality Standards PASA uses

PASA uses the Rhode Island Program Quality Assessment (RIPQA) tool to set consistent standards for good youth development practice and to engage all AfterZone program providers in a continuous quality improvement process. For daily management and participant tracking, attendance, and monitoring participation trends, PASA uses a web-based program management tool——in boththeAfterZone and the Hub.

 Using the RIPQA to conduct regular program assessments, offering aligned professional development, and holding providers to high attendance/enrollment benchmarks ensures that PASA’s program providers continue to offer rigorous, high-quality content. As such, each provider would be qualified to set badge benchmarks and nominate youth for badges, while could easily log progress along a pathway. By making some simple changes to how youth data is entered into the system, PASA could note benchmarks, run reports to track participation trends, and identify repeated interests for each student, enabling us to assess possible pathways and privileges.

At the high school level, would integrate with to automatically update youth profiles when they qualify for a new badge within their field. Badge opportunities and accomplishments could be shared as “news items” on HubProv’s home page and other online networks.


Badge Administration

PASA would identify and administer most badges.  However, some would be administered by youth or program providers. Youth seeking “Program Reviewer” badges, for instance, would only qualify following feedback from the program provider and peers.

Developing a badge system that reflects, motivates and validates learning interests of youth beginning in 6th grade creates a seamless system of program pathways that usher AfterZone participants through middle school, to high school and the Hub, and onward to college and career. An online badge system that allows youth to capture their learning when and where it happens will also provide a systemic, replicable model for cities that want a systems approach to building engaged learners.


​Hub ELO Film Transcript

​"An ELO provides students, community members and teacher to work together to really help a student learn beyond the classroom and have some hands on experience in an area of expertise or in areas for which they know nothing about. Its an opportunity to grow and learn beyond the calssroom walls. Learning happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, weherever you are. Our first pilot was incredible. We had 4 students from PAIS. They worked with a very experienced web developer.  trained them on web development. These students knew nothing about web development. No, I didn't know nothing about html, CSS, or none of that stuff. I learned to build a website using html. It doesn't limit students. Students could be interested in photography, biology." 








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