COLUMN: Extracurriculars promote student achievement, growth and pride

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 31, 2022

At Niles Community Schools, we focus on the well-being and growth of the whole child. While academics remain key to student success, we have widened our scope to include the social, physical and mental needs of students.

Studies have shown that offering engaging and compelling extracurricular programs increases student happiness and academic performance. To that end, we have worked closely with our school community to create a robust roster of extracurricular activities, including athletics, theater, band, clubs and volunteer groups. The diversity of our offerings contributes to the success of our students’ journeys at Niles Community Schools.

Our dedicated teachers and staff meet students where they are by asking the question, “What would help you get involved in extracurriculars?” If there is a desire by students to have a sports team, club or activity, we do what we can to create those programs. A perfect example of this is our Future Farmers of America program, which was revived a few years back after a long hiatus. This was directly requested by students, and since then, our FFA program has won state championships and received national recognition.

Students are also using their clubs to make an impact in the greater Niles community. Students Against Destructive Decisions aims to encourage others to make positive choices. The group helps organize fundraisers throughout the year, including holiday drives, Red Ribbon Week, the Thanksgiving Day Run and more. Most recently, SADD hosted a number of fundraising events as part of its annual Pink Week, which is dedicated to raising awareness for cancer. With the help of clubs, athletics and the Niles community, SADD raised more than $4,000 to be donated to the Brian Parker Foundation and Hope Grows. I am constantly amazed by our students’ willingness to go above and beyond for our community, all while balancing their school and home responsibilities.

We offer a wide range of athletic programs to students, featuring mainstays like football, baseball and soccer, as well as activities that not every school offers, such as bowling and equestrian programs. We continue to hire exceptional Niles Athletics staff, with the hiring of Matt Brawley as Athletic Director last summer and Sam Zimmerman as the varsity volleyball coach this spring. We love having such an incredible athletic program that provides an outlet for socialization, achievement, growth and pride for both our students and the Niles community.

On the field, court or track, students are learning valuable life skills, such as teamwork, confidence and responsibility. However, like all our extracurriculars, our athletics program works hand-in-hand with students’ academic careers. In order to participate in any extracurricular, students need to meet the expectations set by their teachers and the administration, including turning in coursework and maintaining their GPA. Even though extracurriculars are a privilege, we work closely with students to provide additional support so they can continue to meet the academic eligibility and take advantage of these opportunities.

With graduation on the horizon, we are beginning to look ahead to next school year. For families interested in enrolling for the 2022-23 school year, we have upcoming on-site kindergarten registration events at Ballard Elementary, Eastside Connections and Howard-Ellis Elementary from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 18. We encourage you to plan ahead for kindergarten and pre-school enrollment.

As always, thank you and Go Vikes!