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School Participation Boosts Academic Achievement

OAKHURST — School leaders everywhere are often asked by parents and students how to increase the likelihood of academic success, especially during high school.

The simple response, and one that should come as no great surprise, is for students to participate in as many co- and extra-curricular activities as possible during those four critical years of a child’s schooling.

Abundant research supports the conclusion that the more vested a child (and family) becomes in school, the more likely the student will earn higher grades, have outstanding daily attendance, encounter few (if any) discipline situations, develop greater degrees of self-confidence, and experience heightened senses of happiness, civic responsibility, and emotional well-being.

A greater sense of student ownership in school is also a by-product of participating in a school’s athletic, music, drama, student clubs, mock trial, academic decathlon, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and/or student government and leadership programs.

SuperQuiz 2013 Kenny Jeffris Gregory Royse Tasha Dragoo Mark Friesen Christen Cogdell Ericka Smith Angela Du Matthew Whitecotton Steve Browning coachCo- and extra-curricular activities are among the most common strategies to virtually guarantee a student’s academic success. They are an integral ingredient to whole-child education. Unfortunately, they are also too often cut in the wake of tough economic times, or in the name of pursuing enhanced high-stakes achievement assessments in English language arts and mathematics, especially in elementary schools.

At Yosemite High School, a tremendous number of co- and extra-curricular activities options abound for students. In fact, the Badger Steering Committee, the school’s academic policy leadership body that includes teachers, department chairpersons, directors, and school leaders (principal, vice principal, counselors, et al), established as one of the 2013-2014 school year goals to establish and maintain at least an eighty percent (80%) student participation rate in the school’s co- and extra-curricular programs.

Lance Litten and Stephanie Brown in Love of Three OrangesSchool personnel are currently gathering participation data to calculate student participation for the fall semester in student clubs, music programs, leadership, athletics, and all of the other activities.

While the committee would actually like to see every YHS Badger student participate in at least one activity, understanding exists that some students simply cannot participate in additional school activities due to family obligations, work, injury, or disability. Still, the number of students who fall into this category is likely quite small. The key is to offer programs that appeal to our students. And a challenge for us all is to further create a school/community culture in which students and their families create excuses to participate in these high-quality programs, instead of finding reasons not to participate.

Instead of students asking a question like, “Why would I want to participate?” we want students to inquire, “Why wouldn’t I want to participate?” The latter question shows a default toward participation, while the former illustrates a reluctance to become involved.

YHS Band Camp percussionists practices on field 2013 - Photo by Virginia LazarAnalysis of the programs at YHS shows that the school actually provides an overall program that one would find at a school double the size of YHS. In fact, despite rapidly declining enrollment and severe financial constraints over the past several years, YHS and Yosemite Unified School District leaders have worked diligently, often with community booster organizations, to prevent cutting existing program offerings so that Badger students would continue to be afforded every opportunity for access to a first-class and well-rounded educational experience.

The Badger Band and Percussion team is an outstanding program at the direction of music director Randy Hyatt. They travel throughout Central California participating in parades, festivals, and field shows. For students who enjoy theater arts, the Badger drama program is slated to perform two plays this year, including “Almost, Maine” during the fall semester, and Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” in the spring. The Yosemite Choral Singers is a group of students brought together for their love of singing and perform each year in regional competitions.

YHS Swim Meet 3-21-13 Molly Casey Tori Ellsworth Julia Mcconville Emma Madsen - photo by Kellie FlanaganCurrently, YHS offers 25 varsity athletic offerings. Badger students may choose to participate in cross country, girls volleyball, football, golf, tennis, water polo, cheerleading, basketball, soccer, wrestling, baseball, softball, track & field, swimming, and diving. But students may also choose to participate in other student activities as well.

For students interested in activities that are more closely aligned to academics, the Badger mock trial and academic decathlon teams have long been established and renowned among the region’s and state’s competitive elite. Still, other students enjoy being active in the YHS student leadership class. In fact, YHS continues to offer a wide variety of options for student club participation, including Art Club, California Scholarship Federation, FFA, Future Homemakers of America, Interact, Key Club, GSA, International Club, New Life, California Cadet Corps, Yearbook, Snowboarding, Spanish Club, and the Yosemite Running Club.

YHS Graduate Molly Casey 2013 - Photo by Clara BrileyYet, for all of the options, students regularly inquire about the possibility of adding new clubs to appeal to even more students who may have different interests. Recently, for example, students and staff have begun researching the feasibility for the addition of a new equestrian club at YHS, one that would allow students with a passion for horses and related competitions opportunities to participate via extra-curricular activities affiliated with the school.

Earlier this year, the Badger Business Club was brought to life via the Future Business Leaders of America for students interested in entrepreneurship and self-employed business. New ideas and suggestions regularly develop, and so long as enough interest exists and an adult/staff member agrees to serve as an advisor, new clubs and teams will continue to develop.

Garrett White working on EAST appAnother area to which YHS is dedicated to further enhance is in the area of career technical education (CTE). YHS currently offers courses in fields of student interest (as measured by annual surveys) to better prepare students with skills and knowledge necessary for immediate employment upon completion of requisite coursework. These courses include culinary arts, small animal veterinary science, athletic training, automotive technology, agricultural welding, computer technology, criminal justice, and multimedia/digital video, among others. It is through these types of courses that meaningful partnerships are formed with the community’s business and industry sector that lead to a larger pool of qualified employee candidates locally.

YHS Principal Randy Seals and counselor Greg Hill - 2013 - Photo by Clara BrileyIn short, the greatest factor that could well determine the degree of academic success for students, especially at the high school level, is participation in co- and extra-curricular activities. Parents and students alike are urged to become more deeply invested in YHS through participation in at least one additional sport, student club, or program. YHS is deeply committed to offering programs and activities that meet the interests of every student, and will continue expanding opportunities as necessary. The more involved a student is in school, the more likely they will achieve success, not only in school, but later in their life’s pursuits as well.

And best of all, this is being done not at the expense of greater academic achievement, but rather in the name of it!

Visit the Yosemite High School page on the District website.

(Randall Seals is the Principal at Yosemite High School)

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