As Athletic Director of BFA Fairfax I am immensely proud of the number of our students participating in various co-curricular offerings.
Over the course of a school year, most middle and high schools would be pleased to report that approximately 40% of their school’s student body participates in a co-curricular offering of some sort.
At BFA Fairfax we consistently experience 65-80% of our middle and high school students participating in at least one of our numerous co-curricular offerings over the course of a school year. Being a member of one of our multiple athletic teams or clubs, the Dramatic Arts Ensemble, GeoBee, Scholars Bowl, YES (Youth Empowering Students), Coffee House, or High School Friends, is one of the more meaningful and empowering experiences available to our student body. In an era of rising school costs and budget cuts, I am often presented with the question “With so many students wanting to participate, why don’t you make cuts? Most of the other schools do.” The rationale behind this question frequently ranges from the minimization of expenses, to the perceived potential for improvement in the quality of our drama productions or athletic programs. It is indeed true that the number of students seeking to take part in our offerings, specifically drama and athletics, often exceeds the numbers at some of Vermont’s largest schools. And yes, the larger schools frequently make cuts. At BFA Fairfax, however, we pride ourselves in our somewhat alternative approach to our large participant numbers.
Co-curricular participation involves a much bigger picture than winning championships, Scholars Bowl titles, or putting on incredible dramatic productions.
Research has demonstrated that when adolescents feel cared for and connected to their schools, they are less likely to use substances, engage in violence, or initiate sexual activity at an early age. (Journal of School Health. 2002; 72(4): 138). The benefits of co-curricular participation, even at the youngest levels, are poignant:
- Participation creates a sense of confidence that often translates into more confident performance in the classroom.
- Participation builds relationships by increasing opportunities for strong adult relations, mentoring, and positive peer interaction.
- Participation teaches life lessons around the value of practice, time management, cooperation, and commitment.
- Participation keeps students supervised and safe during after-school and weekend hours.
With these obvious benefits, why would a school NOT make every effort to allow participation opportunities for as many students as possible? Anyone who has viewed the numerous championship banners hanging in the
Richard A. Brown Gymnasium, attended a production of the BFA Dramatic Arts Ensemble, or observed the talents of our students in any of our co-curricular activities can attest that the quality and success of BFA Fairfax programming does not suffer from this all-inclusive approach. If anything, our success rates are improved by the vast participation numbers we are fortunate to have.
Through co-curricular participation our students are confident, empowered, and successful young individuals who will undoubtedly make meaningful contributions in any and all of their future pursuits. Allowing opportunities for as many students as possible may create unique challenges at times, but those challenges are far outweighed by the intangible benefits.
So the next time I’m asked why we do not make cuts, my response will be simple: “It’s co-curriculars, the BFA way.”
Holloway, J. (January 2000). Extracurricular Activities: The Path to Academic Success? Educational Leadership. 57(4), 87-88.
Geri-Lyn Witalec is Assistant Principal/Athletic Director at BFA Fairfax and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @GLWit .