What to cut? Where to eliminate?
During the months-long debates over what should be cut from local school district budgets, extra-curricular activities — whether arts, music or athletics —seem to be the one thing most parents and students agreed needed to be saved.
student athlete Nick Wagner spoke of the dedication of the coaches, and gave a heartfelt plea to the board and administration to save the athletic programs during budget talks. “Being a student athlete at John Glenn, we represent our community and it means so much to us all," he said.
Glenn student John Badlato said being involved in the district's music program helped him cope with being bullied.
In the end, in response to public outcry, Elwood's arts and athletics were not cut. Instead, positions were eliminated when its $53.9 million budget was adopted.
senior and football player Richie Lewisy, Jr., said that being part of a team can be beneficial in many ways.
"I think being part of a team helps kids feel like they fit in, there's a place for them and helps sculpts you as a person," he said. "You also learn morals and responsibility and teamwork."
Assistant Principal Chelsea Brown, herself a graduate of Northport High School where she explored many interests, said that the benefits of after-school activities are invaluable.
"These activities keep students engaged in healthy and safe activities outside of school hours," she said. "That is incredibly important."
Parents have strong feelings about the benefits of co- or extra-curricuar activities, as well.
Northport parent of three Becky Wallis said that she thinks it's important for kids to find a place they can belong outside of the classroom.
Her son Jonathan is autistic and she said participating in theatre has changed his life.
"This is a kid who was non-verbal until he was five," she said. "Now he has found his niche. He's accepted. He performs on stage. And he's gone on to shine. It's completely opened him up."
Wallis said that, as important as it is for parents to let kids explore activities, they should really try to help kids figure out what works for them.
"I see some parents push kids to do something and when the kids are old enough to decide for themselves they don't' want to do it anymore. Then the parents are like, 'Why did I stand on the sidelines for all these years watching you play?' And the kid says, 'I don't know. Why did you?'"
Northport parent Joann Lanzilotta said that her three children have been involved in many activities but it became easy to tell what they were truly interested in.
"You know when you have to tell them, 'it's time to get ready' for this or for that and you have to push and prod them, maybe it's more about what you want than what they want," she said. She sad when her youngest son became involved in stage crew, she saw that enthusiasm. " "Not saying he doesn't love other activities but when it's time to go, he's ready to go. He's ready to work hard. We're out until 10:30 at night sometimes with this. He's just in to it. He doesn't complain. He loves it."
Joe Gutierrez, parent of two Northport students, said that he thinks extra-curricular activities help prepare children for the world as much as academics.
"I think activities enrich the entire educational experience," he said. "It makes a well-rounded kid and helps them learn to work with others."
For a Scholastic guide to helping kids navigate age-appropriate after-school activities, go here.