Location: Springfield, MA
Goal: Get more students involved in extracurricular activities
Date started: 4 October 2017
Goal Completion Date: January 2019
Situation Description: The high school graduation rate in Springfield, MA is 75 percent. This means a quarter of the students in the public school system will leave school without a diploma. Considering how important it is to have a high school degree to be able to find a job and to do the things one may want to do with their life, this should be a troubling statistic.
Studies have shown that extracurricular activities can play an important role in improving academic success, largely because of their role in improving class attendance and school-parent interactions.
However, due to budgetary constraints, the range of extracurricular activities offered in Springfield is usually quite narrow, and the focus tends to be on sports. While athletics are certainly a worthwhile activity, they can be somewhat exclusive, as they do not appeal to all students.
As such, to help improve school performance and graduation rates, it is important to give students the chance to participate in activities that interest them.
This is not the first time this issue has been addressed by people in the community. The link between extra-curricular activities and school performance is well-known by both school administrations and policy makers, yet it is often difficult to find financial backing for these programs. Some of the things that need to be done to try and accomplish this goal are:
- Lobby local government to increase funding for extracurricular activities by finding and employing the most recent research about the link between out of school participation and academic performance.
- Encourage volunteers to run alternative extracurricular activities. The purpose of this is to demonstrate how funding non-athletic activities can help increase extracurricular participation. By doing this on a volunteer basis, the financial burden will be minimal but the results will be the same. Some examples of lower-budget, engaging activities are shooting and archery practice using air rifles, chess clubs, book clubs, sewing and knitting clubs, coding and programming clubs, etc. Activities would vary depending on the skill set of the individuals running them.
- Raise community support for extracurricular activities to provide pressure to elected officials to follow through with this initiative. Some efforts could include door-to-door fundraising, social media campaigns, op-eds in the local papers and so on.
The road to accomplishing this goal is long, but with the right coordination and investment, it can have a meaningful and long-lasting effect on the children of Springfield and subsequently the community as a whole.