Being involved in school activities significantly influenced my journey throughout grades K-12. It really helped me build my character and allowed me to pursue my interests. In 5th grade, I saw a poster on the wall titled “Run to represent the People,” and I was intrigued. It was my second year in the U.S., and I was still learning my way around. School clubs were a new thing to me.
This poster put an idea in my head that is still there: I want to be a person of the people. So, I told Mr. Edmunson, my 5th-grade homeroom teacher, that I wanted to do it.
I ran and won! I became an Assistant District Judge. I was so happy I won—I had a smile on my face all day.
I continued to be involved in student government throughout my K-12 education, and I would say it has made me a better person! It allowed me to put my passion into hard work. Alongside student government, I have been involved in other activities. In high school, I developed a love for law and litigation and was able to join Apollo’s Mock trial team. I was able to get a better understanding of what the procedure in a courtroom was like. I was also able to make some amazing new friends.
I am proud of my participation in extracurricular activities. They have allowed me to explore my passion for law and government and create a positive impact on society, and they have allowed many other students to do the same
However, looking at who is involved in these activities shows a huge disparity at Apollo High School and in ISD 742 as a whole. Both Apollo and ISD 742 have a very diverse student body, but this diversity isn’t demonstrated in extracurricular activities. I was usually the only black person or even the only person of color in some activities. That’s why I think this district needs to do a better job of increasing diversity in extracurriculars.
If you were to walk the halls of ISD 742 schools, you’d see the diversity, but as soon as the bell rings, releasing students from school, most of the people who stay for extracurriculars are white students. This disparity exists for many reasons, but it’s commonly because students of color have jobs or are taking care of siblings at home. Most of the siblings are school-aged kids who could also attend after-school activities to keep them preoccupied.
Parents may be concerned about how their kids will get home after extracurriculars. There is a solution to that. The district could provide busing for these low-income families to ease concerns about transportation after school.
Studies have shown that involvement in extracurricular activities has a positive outcome on the life of students. A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that “…extracurricular activities provide a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom, offering students the opportunity to apply academic skills in a real-world context, and are thus considered part of a well-rounded education. Recent research suggests that participation in extracurricular activities may increase students’ sense of engagement or attachment to their school, and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out,” (Lamborn et al, 1992; Finn, 1993).
School spirit is another point of disparity. Most students of color don’t partake in activities outside the classroom, which doesn’t allow them to connect with their school as much as someone who participates in school spirit activities. I loved my time at Apollo and all the activities I was a part of. I was able to develop and pursue interests in a wide variety of topics. I want other students of color to have the same opportunities.
There are simple things the district and schools can do to expand access to extracurricular activities. A couple of my ideas are:
- Use breaks, like summer, to go into these communities and talk to parents, getting them excited about how extracurriculars can help their children
- Have an extracurricular activity fair at the beginning of the school year to showcase students’ options
- Have teachers give students recommendations on extracurriculars based on classroom performance
- Make extracurriculars more accessible
There are many other ways of encouraging an accurate representation of ISD 742 in extracurriculars. Extracurricular activities have had a huge impact on my life. I was able to explore all the different career paths I dreamed of as a kid. All students dream of fulfilling a dream career, and extracurricular activities allow them to explore their opportunities.