Free 21st Century Afterschool Programs for Public School Students Living in Communities of Concentrated Poverty- Transforms Communities

Giving the opportunity for students at risk who are (1) malnourished (2) struggling in school, to get free 21st century afterschool programs

Photo of Jaton Zulueta
0 0

Written by


  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Jaton Zulueta

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative’s representative gender

  • Man

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Philippines

Where are you making a difference?

Makati, Manila Tondo, Manila Hopefully we can open a few more this year

Website or social media url(s)

When was your organisation founded?

May 2009

Focus areas

  • Helping people adapt to technologies of the future
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce
  • Creating digital tools

Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $50k - $100k

Organisation Type

  • Non-profit / NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

When I was 19, I was volunteering as an english tutor at a public cemetery, where so many families lived. I only found out later that most education interventions targetted either only high performing students, or specific student years. We started AHA Learning Center after 6 years of volunteering, as a last-ditch effort for struggling kids who came from low income backgrounds, to catch up with their studies, develop healthy mindsets. At our 8th year of AHA, we realized that we needed to pivot from having a "healthy mindset" to a "successful mindset" which led us to start studying 21st century competencies and how it applies with children at risk and low income areas.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

26% percent of currently enrolled public school students in primary school have trouble reading. Only 12% of the grade 2 class, actually graduate. The students that are left behind, have to struggle with crowded classrooms, shortened school days, and like our students in Tondo, crippling poverty (where a family of 5 barely survives on $3 a day). There's a need to create pockets of effectivity, that will become basis for education reform.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We localized 21st-century skill sets in 3 major ways (1) doubling down on foundational literacies through our reading, math, financial literacy, and now programming classes (2) started teaching problem-solving skillsets that addressed the issues that affected their community (a) gender equality and childrens' rights (b) climate change and disaster risk management (c) community organizing (3) championed values of worthiness, integrity, collaboration, grit. We believe that AHA can only support part of the problem, and to truly create meaningful change we'll have to learn how to partner with local stakeholders and innovative solutions. Some of our partners include allies in tech (Batang Tech), plant-based feeding programs (Mesa ni Misis), and arts education (Aspace) have added so much value to our students- giving them what many consider to be the best free afterschool program in the country, while also making sure that the center becomes a vibrant and dynamic place for collaboration. Our key strength however is our community engagement- we post highs in community volunteering, parent involvement, and student engagement, as we have a team whose focus is empowering our partners.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Our student-led AHA SK (Sanguinang Kabataan) was active in the relief operations of the recently erupted Taal volcano. These kids, many of whom have spent most of their lives availing some financial support from the government, planned and executed an outreach program at an evacuation center. The values taught in the center really shone when the students started playing with the other kids, they were cognizant that these children were undergoing trauma, and needed to feel happy. After, through design thinking, the students recommended trauma kits for families, child-friendly activities for those who missed school, easy ways students can gain access to materials. Students are then able to practice empathy and service leadership.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Our team always talks about how our ideal AHA alumni should handle a job interview. Graduating from a four-year college along with volunteer experience in their local community is a given. What we're trying to build is the ability of that AHA alumni to express himself/herself confidently, the ability to answer questions thoughtfully and concisely, and the empathy to switch gears if the conversation calls for it. More than anything, we hope this AHA candidate understands that wherever position they might land, is an opportunity to help and transform the country for the better. We believe that every person, if given the opportunity to be the changemaker, can be. And that there are too few interventions in the Philippines that give opportunities for the poor to be changemakers, for the poor to truly collaborate and serve, for the poor to lead themselves and to lead others.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

With servant leadership, we've cut this into 4 parts (1) volunteer hours at the center, most specifically the amount of time they help other people in the community (2) depth of the reflection in their assessments (3) number of books lent out of the library (which will hopefully lead to more independent study later on) (4) the content of their TED talk which focuses on the issues they have in their community. So far, our students have shown high marks in the first two points (helping others and reflection) and currently struggle with the practice of reading books and the content of their ted.

6. Financial capability: how is your organization or project creating innovative solutions that arm people with ability to optimize their current and future financial health

We have only started our financial literacy project again with the moms and the students for savings. We will start a tie-dye business with the moms in our Tondo branch, and we have started an honesty store (which is made up mostly of donations), and a water filtration business at our makati branches. In June, we plan to teach for grades 5-7 how to sell things online. Currently, our most successful financial capability programs have centered around advocating for plant based diets in our feeding program for our Makati center, which posts significant savings for their households. In Tondo, where our partner Rise Against Hunger runs a food bank, the importance of minimizing food waste has led to small but significant food savings also.

6a. Please describe what aspect of financial capability your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress.

For the children, we have focused on the relationship of buying healthy and green and savings. We have again, yet to truly dive back into the project, but for now, we, through our parents meetings, have started to measure savings from household expenses once they make greener choices.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Currently, Husay Kapwa seems to have a similar mission but their focus is more on art; the Contentment foundation is focused more on schools while we put up community centers near schools, and Fundacion exit deals with older kids. In a perfect world, we would all be part of the same ecosystem. Really this question leading me to all these interesting initiatives was the best part of this exercise :)

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

-3,000+ students served since 2009 -We give the most number of free comprehensive after school hours in the country with almost 3 times more time than the average afterschool program -3/5 students improve in their math and english grades in school -95% of our students have said that they have experienced gains in confidence and improvement in their social behavior -Just last year, we have had almost 2000 volunteers come into the two centers -Parents have said that they have saved at least 15% more a month in their household budget because of AHA from the savings of the payment for afterschool programs, school meals -Students have said they have found the most value in the TED talk classes, and the programming classes so far

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

In the short term, our project is being funded through corporate sponsorships where companies can either sponsor (1) a room in the center which represents a class (2) the tuition of a learner. In the medium term, we are looking to cobrand and put up community centers with large NGOs or companies. We have already started it with our Tondo branch which is partnered with one of the Philippines' largest corporations. In the long term, we found that there's opportunity in the center as a content creator since we have hundreds of modules in development. The lease of the content to school districts should be enough to sustain the free tuition of the public school students at risk.

10. Team

Currently, we have 12 full time staff, 2 part time staff, 10 volunteer consultants, and around an averge of 50 regular volunteers that go to the centers. Majority of our teachers came from public schools, and represent 6 different cities all over the Philippines. Our new board, to be installed later this year, will consist of former education ministers, labor secretaries, and edtech professionals. We plan to hire more subject experts in terms of reading, programming, and climate change.

Help Us Support Diversity! Are you a member of an under-served , under-represented, or marginalized group in your country of residence? (yes/no) (this question is optional – if you choose to fill it out, the response will not be shared with your fellow contestants)

  • Gender
  • Political belief
  • Disability (including: physical, intellectual, and/or mental disabilities)
  • Age
  • Socioeconomic class

If you selected “yes” to any of the categories above, please explain how being a member of this group has impacted you and your work?

Most of my staff are outliers- young people who are not too different from the people we serve. We found that these groups of people are underrepresented in nation-building interventions, and provide valuable insight into program design. Much of our success, more so when it comes to what our core target beneficiaries must be going through, can be attributed to the diversity of our team.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Ashoka page or contact


Join the conversation: