Being involved in activities results in higher success rates for students compared to those who are not involved.
That is the approach of McPherson USD 418 administrators, at least.
Ever since the beginning of their Citizenship, College and Career ready initiative in 2010, the district has placed added emphasis on student participation in activities, whether that be organized by the school or not. This focuses on the citizenship portion of the C3 initiative, where students develop leadership skills, teamwork and time management.
“It is one of the measures we look at in being a well-rounded citizen,” Superintendent Randy Watson said.
In turn, this also contributes to their successes after they graduate — thus the college and career pillars.
Watson said their sense of belonging, responsibility and achievement results in improved grades and also leads to greater sense of satisfaction as they become adults in society.
A study of high school students during the 2008-2009 year in Kansas (by Angela Lumpkin and Judy Favor) showed athletes earned higher grades, graduated at a higher rate, dropped out of school less frequently and scored higher on state assessments.
Watson said this carries over to other activities as well, such as music, forensics, debate, drama, and even non-school related activities such as 4-H and youth groups.
“I think being a part of an activity makes students feel part of a group,” Watson said, giving an example of professional athletes and their reluctance to withdraw from their team.
“They feel like a family.”
Watson said there is something special about being a part of a group of like-minded people doing something they love.
“We find that brings out the enjoyment in students,” he said. “They take something they're interested in, and they get to spend a lot of time on it, and spend it with people that like it. It's usually a good combination. That's why kids and adults are happier when they find those things. They will tell you those are some of the happiest times in their lives.”
Just the right amount
McPherson USD 418 suggests students participate in two to five activities, the mark were studies have shown they function best. While doing so, they also stress the importance of being in leadership positions.
“We're in constant search of what activities we can offer to students that can be beneficial to a new group,” Watson said.
This pulls in some who were otherwise completely uninvolved. Bowling, for example, added about 30 students, the majority of which had no other activities on their plate.
Seventh-grade sports also were added this year, to be made available for students starting next fall.
“It's my hope we're going to see an increase of students being more active,” Brandon Simmelink, assistant principal at McPherson Middle School said of the future.
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Kansas has about 108,000 students involved in Kansas State High School Activities Association activities every year.
MMS has a total enrollment of 562, with about 90 percent of eligible students expressing interest in participating in KSHSAA activities.
Simmelink said McPherson students are generally very involved in and out of school, and he has seen those who are maintaining better grades.
McPherson High School has 687 enrolled, with 520 currently participating or planning to participate in a KSHSAA activity. In addition to this 76 percent, McPherson High School
Assistant Principal Shane Backhus said non-school related activities could bump that percentage to 80 or 85 percent.
“The students that we have struggle with attendance are overwhelmingly uninvolved in school activities,” he said. “The biggest thing is you're involved in your school, and when you do that, you're more likely to take pride in what you do.”
For many students, this means effective time management.
Senior Abby Steiner — involved in National Honor Society, the McPherson County Community Foundation Youth Advisory Council, and softball, among other activities — said she has developed leadership skills, teamwork and improved time management skills.
“I think (activities) have made (time management) better,” she said. “It can be overwhelming. The busier I am, the more productive I am.”
Senior Meredith Hess — in cheer, track, church and others — said she enjoys the community.
“It really gives you a sense of belonging,” she said. “You always have people to turn to when you need help with something. (Without it) I would probably be bored. I wouldn't have as many friends.”
Senior Alex Bahr — in football, basketball, student council and others — said being involved is an investment for his future.
“I just like to know what's going on and helping out wherever I can,” he said. “The more people you meet, the more connections you can make, and down the line, that's going to help you.”