By Chuck Ballingall
The primary purpose of high school attendance for a student is to receive an education. In a conventional sense, this education consists of learning about a series of subjects that will prepare a student for college, and for the world beyond college. But while much of what a student will learn towards these ends takes place in the classroom, a great deal of learning also takes place outside the classroom, through student participation in extracurricular activities. In fact, for many students, the most important and memorable lessons learned in high school will come as a result of being a member of a sports team, the school band, the debate team or a club devoted to a student’s interests.
Several studies conducted in recent years have shown that extracurriculars are beneficial to students’ academic achievement. These studies have shown a positive relationship between participation in extracurriculars and school attendance, as well as the desire to continue education beyond high school. Additionally, extracurriculars promote academic success through eligibility requirements that students must achieve in order to be able to participate. These factors and others correlate strongly with the academic success of students. In fact, a Columbia University study claimed that students who took part in school-sponsored activities for at least two years were 97% more likely to attend college and almost three times as likely to graduate from college!
The social benefits of extracurricular participation are even more obvious. Students who participate in after school activities develop greater self-esteem. They learn to work for a common goal as part of a team, and many develop leadership skills that wouldn’t necessarily be called upon in a classroom setting. Extracurricular activities can stimulate and broaden students’ interests, and give students who are quiet in class a chance to participate in something that engages their imagination and provides them with a sense of belonging.
At Damien, we fully agree that extracurricular activities are a vital part of our school community. In the area of athletics, Damien fields teams in 16 sports, including ice and roller hockey, as well as mountain biking. In the more traditional sports, Damien has achieved great success, and this year will be defending a CIF State Championship in basketball as well as a CIF Southern Section Championship in volleyball.
In addition to athletics, students have many other outlets for their interests. We have a strong music program which includes a Marching Band and Drumline, nationally competitive programs in debate and robotics, and literally dozens of clubs, running the gamut from Aviation and Bowling to Sports Medicine and Ultimate Frisbee. By making these opportunities available to our students, we hope to help them develop as students and as well-rounded individuals.
Chuck Ballingall, Dean of Curriculum, Damien High School