Our world emphasizes teamwork, doing a job well, and being able to lead and follow—all skills students can learn and develop through extracurricular activities. Students who participate in extracurricular activities at my school in Montana have significantly higher GPAs and graduation rates than students who do not. Here are five reasons I encourage students at my school to participate in extracurricular activities:

Extend the Learning Day

With the influences of social media and video games, having students voluntarily extend their learning day by a couple of hours while doing something great for the body and mind is a definite win. A student who feels connected at school is going to enjoy being there and have a more positive experience.

Achieve Common Goals

Being part of a sports team, a pep band, or a comedy team in drama teaches students the value of working together and being accountable to one’s teammates. If even one team member doesn’t do their job, all are affected. I can’t think of another program in the country that can convince students to volunteer a couple hours each day after school (plus all day Saturday) to work hard​ together​ and achieve common goals.

Build A Sense of Belonging

Students who are part of a team also have a connection to their school and community that gives them a stronger sense of belonging. Belonging to something that is bigger than oneself is simultaneously fulfilling and rewarding. I see this as especially important for students who are attending a new school. Having a group of teammates that you spend time with outside of the normal school day can create an instant social network.

Foster Added Accountability

Students who participate in extracurricular activities also have another layer of accountability for maintaining good grades and attendance. In Montana, for example, the Montana High School Association has a set of guidelines that participants must follow. Most schools, like mine, have even higher standards. Coaches at my school check students’ grades weekly, sometimes even daily​,​ to make sure these ​student athletes are performing well in the classroom, as well as in their activity of choice.

Create More Accessibility

Along with encouraging your students to participate in extracurricular activities, do what you can to make them affordable and accessible to all students. Our school holds an annual auction to accomplish this goal.

Joel Graves is the principal of Lincoln County High School in Eureka, MT, serving 260 grade 9–12 students. Joel has been the principal at LCHS for 13 years and is the 2019 Montana Secondary Principal of the Year.

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