The novel coronavirus significantly impacted the lives of people worldwide. In the United States, the lives of children and youth were disrupted with school closures and lack of access to afterschool programs they previously attended. African American and Hispanic boys attending an after-school program in Franklin County, Kentucky, called Please Call Me Mister, were among the young people affected. A study was conducted to assess the impact of the afterschool program. The boys were surveyed at the start of the program in November 2017 and again in November 2020 to assess their injury risk, substance use, future orientation, resilience, and exposure to cyberbullying. It was anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated stay-at-home orders would negatively impact program outcomes. Program participants showed outstanding resilience and resistance to most negative behaviors with the exception of marijuana use that increased though not significantly. Their level of depression decreased, but remained at a level that warrants concern. The data collected suggest that the Please Call Me Mister program that continued remotely throughout the pandemic had an overall, long-term, positive impact on program participants.

Key Take Away Points

•Afterschool programs offer benefit for improving behavioral outcomes among African American and Hispanic male program participants.

•Long-term participation in after-school program may positively impact participants’ resilience.

•The potential negative mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic were lessened due to African American and Hispanic males’ involvement in an afterschool program.

Author Biography

Dr. Herman Walston, a professor of childhood development and family relations at Kentucky State University, is the founder and director of KSU’s Promising Youth Center for Excellence that has been offering programs since 2004. Dr. Walston has over 40 years of teaching experience in addition to extensive experience as a mentoring project administrator for children and youth. He has developed and administered model demonstration projects funded by the agencies including as U.S. Department of Education, Youth and Families, Kentucky Cabinet for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Office of Minority Health. Dr. Angela Meshack is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, College of Education, at Texas Southern University. She has over 30 years of teaching experience with both children and adults and has led various behavioral health research programs. She has also served as the evaluator of various community-based research projects. Ms. Ashlie Smoot-Baker is project director of the Please Call Me Mister program at Kentucky State University. She was previously the Extension Program Coordinator at Kentucky State and helped with coordination of virtual Implicit Bias Cultural Competency Training provided by the university. Ms. Smoot-Baker is actively involved in the community and currently serves on a Kentucky executive committee review board aimed at support of children in the region.


The Please Call Me Mister program was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Minority Health.