By LCHS Assistant Principal, Ms. Mary Hazlett
“It’s the best part of my day.”
As someone who’s been supporting school activities for 20 years, I’ve heard this sentence hundreds of times from students. At LCHS this could refer to playing an instrument with bandmates, supporting trusted friends in Bridge, performing in theater, practicing with the football team, just to name a few. What many students look forward to every day is the connection they have with like-minded people who gain fulfillment from the same things they do. Be it involvement in choir, sports, drama, or one of the over 90 clubs LCHS sponsors, their participation in activities brings home the feeling that at some point in the day they’ll feel connected. Countless studies have shown that students involved in clubs, groups or teams are more likely to come to school, be successful, have fewer discipline issues and perform better academically. Why is that? The sense of community? Obligation to the group? Participation requirements?
Many activities such as athletics require minimum grade and citizenship performance in order to participate. CIF, the California Interscholastic Federation responsible for all things involving high school athletics, has strict policies involving attendance and grades. Students must attend class or they’re unable to participate in games. Coaches must track their athletes’ progress and sometimes do so weekly or even daily. If there are discipline issues in a classroom, teachers often call or email the coach to inform or get advice on how best to work with the student. The “student-athlete” term is taken very seriously by CIF, our LCHS Athletics Director, our coaches and our teachers. When a student is engaged in a club or a team, the vibrant teaching and meaningful instruction at LCHS has increased effectiveness.
Speaking with students about their experiences in activities, one student shared that she loved her team so much, that she felt like they had become a second family. Participating with this group challenged her physically and rewarded her emotionally. She felt empowered to grow and improve, inspired by the skills her older teammates demonstrated. The team gathered around her like a tribe, celebrating her successes and supporting her through frustrations. On game days, she bounded out of bed because she knew she was needed by her team.
Another student shared how his experience with a new group on campus exposed him to a whole new set of friends. These new friends outside his elementary school clique, people he never considered he would have anything in common with, broadened his perspective. He was surprised by their wit and kindness and shared that they have made him a nicer person. “I realized I was mean. My friends growing up were mean, to each other and to outsiders. But once I was around people who didn’t treat each other that way I realized I wanted to change my friendship group.”
Students often come back to share with their coaches, advisors, and teachers about how their experience with the group prepared them for future employment. Some of my conversations have been with students who say “I got a job! Within a few weeks, my manager was complimenting me on how capable I was, how I seemed to learn faster than the others, and how he wanted to promote me! I told him it is because of all of the experience I had with you, planning, making phone calls, delegating responsibility, following up with my classmates, etc.”
Colleges and universities, like employers, want to know what kind of skills or experience a candidate has. What have they done? Many students feel participating in as many clubs and groups as they can will win over the college admissions teams. What universities often want is depth of commitment rather than breadth of commitment. They want to see leadership versus membership. Rather than serving as president of 5 clubs, colleges and future employers want a student to find their one or two passions and then to focus on those and make a difference. Students often spread themselves too thin by being involved in too many activities. Encourage your student to initially explore, and then to narrow and target their energies, thriving with a select few extra-curricular activities.