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Extracurricular activities make well-rounded kids

By Keryn Page

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Extracurricular activities not only give children something to do in their free time, but involvement in these activities promotes a positive sense of self and decreases the chance a child will drop out of school.

"Extracurricular activities offer children an academic safety net and provide a sense of positive school connection," said Larry Alexander, 4-H youth development professor with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Extracurricular activities also provide an opportunity to excel for students who don't participate in traditional sports."

Children who aren't interested in or suited to playing football, basketball or soccer have many other opportunities, Alexander said.

"4-H clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Scouts are organizations that provide a variety of activities that may be of interest to 'non-traditionalists,'" Alexander added. "4-H projects are covered from A to Z, which allows children from all walks of life and interests an opportunity to get involved."

Parents can encourage their children to take part in extracurricular activities by getting involved themselves. Alexander said most organizations welcome adults who want to serve as volunteer leaders.

"When adults serve as volunteer leaders, children can make that positive connection with society," he said. "The critical link that is missing in many children's lives today is parental love. Many young people are reaching out for two simple things: love and attention."

Getting involved with children's extracurricular activities is one of the best ways to give children the things they need to succeed in life, Alexander said.

Another good reason to get involved with extracurricular activities is that future prospective employers know these activities develop a sense of teamwork and foster leadership and decision-making skills.

In information provided online, Oklahoma State University gives students tips for getting involved with extracurricular activities. The first step is to make a list of favorite activities and pick the top five.

Next, find an organization that fits those interests. School counselors or the local Chamber of Commerce may be able to recommend an organization or group that would welcome new members or volunteers.

After finding an organization to join, students should get involved in activities from the beginning. Remember that the goal is to have fun and develop skills, and neither of these goals is possible without effort. Even after high school, students can remain involved in activities at different levels.

Ask questions before becoming involved in an activity or club. Many clubs or organizations have age and grade-point average requirements. Fees for various uniforms, costumes or outings are often required, and members may need to participate in fund-raisers.

Before joining an organization, students should find out how much time and energy is required and decide if they are able to commit themselves. Some clubs meet as infrequently as once every other week, but others meet every day after school and on weekends.

"While involvement in extracurricular activities is a great way for a student to learn new things and meet new people, it's important not to get in over your head," Alexander warned. "Remember that school work is the No. 1 priority, and if your extracurricular activities are stressing you out, you're probably doing too much."

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Released: July 7, 2003
Contact: Larry Alexander, (662) 325-3350

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