Leaders @ Play is a park after-school program for urban middle school youth designed to leverage recreational activities for social emotional learning. Mental health and park staff co-facilitated sports and games to teach and practice problem solving, emotion regulation, and effective communication. Additional practice occurred during multi-family groups and summer internships as junior camp counselors. We examined feasibility and promise via an open trial (n = 3 parks, 46 youth, 100 % African American, 100 % low-income, 59 % female, M = 13.09 years old). Improvements in social skills and reductions in problem behaviors lend support to after school programs as a space for mental health promotion.
Keywords: After school; Early adolescence; Risk and resilience; Urban poverty.