Clubs do more for the schools than most people realize. For one, they get the students off the streets for that extra 42 minutes a day and give them something to look forward to each day - something to go to school for. Clubs are a refuge for most students and shelter them from the stresses of the school day.
They teach students how to be social and interact with other students, as well as teaching them how to work together. Clubs also are a great way for people who don't have a lot of friends or are shy to make some. Especially for freshmen and transfer students, clubs are a great way to be able to find a group of people that share interests with them. Joining a club is like making instant friends: just add water. These clubs are not only a great way to form relationships with other students, but with teachers as well. Personally, some of the teachers that I am the closest to - that I know I can trust completely and go to with any problems - are ones that I bonded with through co-curricular activities. I honestly do not know where I would be today if it were not for those teachers. They have guided me through my entire high school career and taught me two important lessons: that to be a leader means never giving up and that it's okay to be myself.
I know I'm not the only one who has special relationships with teachers like this, and I am very thankful to have them in my life. Many of the clubs also do good things for the school and the community. The Sachem Cares Club, for instance, runs all the blood drives, the bone marrow drive, the breast cancer walk, etc. There's also the Buddies Club, which gets students to befriend special needs students and form bonds that neither "buddy" will ever forget. Envirothon started both the plastic and paper recycling programs at North. Multicultural club brought together all the different ethnicities and religions to both educate and unite the students with multicultural day (in which students put on a "talent show" of sorts representing their culture). Senior-freshman mentor club is something that I personally would have loved to have had when I was a freshman.
It helps the incoming freshman to adapt to high school and have someone to guide them through that scary first year. There are tons more clubs that are beneficial to the students, district, and community and the loss of them has really affected us negatively.
Another concern - especially for me as a senior - is the college admission aspect. I currently have all eight of my college applications done and ready to go (can you tell I'm an overachiever?). However, under 12th grade activities I have had to leave it relatively blank and therefore cannot submit them. The same goes for all Sachem seniors right now. We cannot send our applications without knowing if we're doing clubs this year or not. Personally, I was hoping to be president of one of the clubs I partake in, because having an officer's position is usually something reserved as an honor for seniors. This affects all of us because now we do not even have the chance to show our leadership skills if this was the only thing we were relying on.
Speaking of leadership skills, I'm a member of Sachem North's very first Covey Committee, which focuses on establishing and promoting the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens throughout the school and hopefully the district by the end of the year. It's student run, which makes it a lot less annoying for students to hear about, and has really been an enriching experience so far. As a new-found expert on the subject, I can easily say that by not having clubs, we are unable to fulfill any of the 7 habits.
Clubs help us to be proactive (take charge of our lives), begin with the end in mind, put first things first (prioritize), think win-win (find a solution that allows all sides of an issue to benefit), seek first to understand and then to be understood (empathize), synergize (work together), and sharpen the saw (take time for ourselves to make sure that we are the best we can be and able to exercise the other six habits). If I have learned anything from being honored this position in the committee it is that these habits are really important in being successful in life--and clubs help us to fulfill each and every habit.
When I first found out that clubs were being cancelled at the end of last school year (2010-2011), I made a point to send e-mails to the board members, talk with my principal, and give a speech at the Board of Education meeting on July 6. In that speech, I addressed all of these things. Upon returning to school in September and receiving the news that clubs were still being cut, I worked even harder. My main mission, though, was to find out what the students thought ... what their favorite club/activity was, why they liked it, how it's beneficial to them, the school, or the community, and to raise awareness on the matter.
To do this I made up a Facebook page for students to access. It was a huge success, in my opinion, and many students went on there to express their concerns and discuss their feelings. It ended up being a place that parents went to discuss the effects of the cuts as well. This page really opened my eyes to how important the clubs truly are. Before, I had an idea and I also had experience. But now, now I have an understanding. Clubs are one of the most important activities for students.
We are sincerely grateful for everything the board, the administration, and the teachers union (especially Mr. Heslin, the president, who sat down with me and explained every last detail. He was a fantastic help throughout this whole process and us students are truly thankful) have done in trying to get the clubs back. Now that teachers are allowed to volunteer, we are hoping that they are able to start stepping up to the plate and getting things going, because this is honestly something that students are passionate about. It's something so important that we would do anything to get them re-instated. Hopefully we will be able to find a better solution, and all we can do is sit here and cry for help, because we've done everything else.
Thank you very much for your time,
Senior, Sachem High School North