One of the amazing parts of conversations with retiring teachers is hearing stories about the non-curricular areas they helped to sponsor or coach. It is not uncommon for 40-year veterans to list 10 or more activities, both paid and unpaid.
Educators understand the value these programs have for the success of their students. Our principal frequently reminds the student body that there are extra and co-curricular programs for everyone at Chesterton High School and that there is no excuse not to get involved.
Many Chesterton High seniors understand this message, and next year we will see students heading off to Harvard, Columbia, Penn, the U.S. Naval Academy, and possibly MIT, West Point and the Air Force Academy, as other seniors wait on decisions. For those at the top of the academic rankings, extra and co-curricular participation is a given.
You have to go well down the class rankings to find a student not involved in sports, clubs, musical groups, plays, student government, speech and debate, or one of myriad other activities offered at Chesterton High.
For those at-risk students, however, participation in an extra or co-curricular activity can be a lifeline that ties them to the school in a way that leads to a diploma and much more. Besides the fact that students must have a passing grade in at least five classes in order to participate, extra-curricular activities can keep students interested enough to hang around school until they realize the importance of a high school diploma. In the meantime, these teenagers are kept off the streets after school and become part of something that is bigger than themselves or their circumstances. Ultimately, these clubs and activities can serve as a springboard to expose the country’s most valuable assets, our children, to skills, ideas, and situations that will help to guide them throughout adulthood.
It is the job of educators to enable these students to get involved in extra-curricular activities that can inspire them to fulfill their potential. One of the most successful programs at CHS is our Bridges program, which essentially takes the 10 percent of incoming ninth graders deemed most at risk of not graduating and gives them extra help and encouragement, including a deliberate push to get involved in extra and co-curricular activities. Two of the Bridges students joined our highly successful Speech and Debate program, and this year were two of our five national qualifiers.
Teachers, administrators, and students believe in the impact that programs at Chesterton High School can have on our students. It is not uncommon for staff members to escort students to our coaches and sponsors for an introduction, encouraging these young people to sign up and commit to a program that could be the exact motivation to stay in school, obtain that diploma, and move on to bigger and better things.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion.