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Most high-quality complementary learning activities and programs build capital within their participants. Capital refers to resources, experiences, and assets that develop and extend each participant's capabilities and sense of power. The various types of capital are cultural, financial, health, human, personal, polity, and social (Gordon & Bridglall, 2005).

Some high-quality complementary learning activities and programs may focus specifically on one or two types of capital while others may build a wide variety of capital within their students. Following are descriptors related to each type of capital. Activities and programs can focus on these descriptors to build the respective capital.

Cultural Capital

  • Students are exposed to various and relevant diverse cultural activities.
  • Activities and programs help students to identify and explore their own cultures.
  • Respect and knowledge of all cultures is encouraged.

Financial Capital

  • Activities are designed to help students become skilled at managing money through the use of budgets.
  • Students gain knowledge of how to save and invest money for their futures.

Health Capital

  • Adequate nutrition is provided.
  • Healthy eating and physical activity are promoted.
  • Program space is free of harmful chemicals.

Human Capital

  • Community members are surveyed for their expertise and interest in the program.
  • Activities offer guidance to students from experts in the field.

Personal Capital

  • Activities build on students' assets and skills.
  • Students are encouraged to build on their strengths.

Polity Capital

  • A sense of membership and belonging is established.
  • Students identify with the goals and values of the activity or program.
  • A collective responsibility for program is shared.

Social Capital

  • Students value the program network established.
  • The importance of making connections is emphasized.
  • Students are aware of resources around them.


Gordon, E. W., & Bridglall, B.L. (2005). The challenge, context, and preconditions of academic development at high levels. In E. W. Gordon, B. L. Bridglall, & A. S. Meroe (Eds.), Supplementary education: The hidden curriculum of high academic achievement (pp. 10-34). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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