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Publish Date: 2/6/2007

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Retired Westview Middle School teacher Pete Ross loses the ball after being pressured by, from left, students Joe Cinea, Tory Hargash and Sam Goldstein during a faculty-vs.-students basketball game on Dec. 15. Times-Call/Joshua Buck

Making school theirs
Students involved in activities develop skills, motivation

 LONGMONT — Katie Judge, 13, just finished her basketball season at Sunset Middle School, where she was a point guard.

Earlier in the school year, the eighth-grader played volleyball. She also plays flute in the school band program and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society.

Extracurricular activities are an extension of her school pride, she said.

“Oh, yeah, I’m really proud to be a part of this school,” said Judge, who noted she’s experienced good sportsmanship and community service opportunities through Sunset Middle.

Student involvement is a school’s lifeblood. Clubs, athletics, music programs and student government depend on student participation.

“Our co-curricular program is important to the entire program here,” said Greg Tafel, a Westview Middle sixth-grade social studies teacher and coach for track and girls basketball.

Tafel said Westview’s intramural sports program sees “a good turnout.”

“This year, for example, we have 150 girls playing volleyball and 140 boys playing basketball,” he said, adding that in past years, the track team drew at least 200 students.

“What I see as the greatest benefit is that the sixth-graders feel like they can approach the eighth-graders in the halls, because they’ve had that social contact,” Tafel said. “It self-perpetuates itself. The sixth-graders feel well treated, and by the time they’re eighth-graders, they remember that. It’s a nice cycle.”

But just as each new generation of students passes through the halls, participation levels can ebb and flow.

Heather Brubaker, Longs Peak Middle School’s art teacher, also is the sponsor for the student council, which has 16 representative and head officers.

The council, formerly a part of the academic school day, is now an after- school activity.

“We’re kind of in a rebuilding year,” Brubaker said. “We’re still trying to tweak it and make it work with sports and other commitments (the students) have.”

She said student council members sometimes find themselves in a commitment crunch.

“The head officers really struggle, I think, because they’re also so highly involved in sports. So during the season, they’re torn between student council or going to basketball practice,” Brubaker said. “They’re making the best of it, and I’m very proud of how dedicated they are, telling me, ‘I can only stay for 15 minutes because I have a game.’”

At Sunset Middle, Myron Whisman serves as director of bands. Even he was surprised to see how many students participate in the music program there.

“We have 631 students in our school right now, and 80 percent of those are in yearlong performing music groups at Sunset,” such as orchestra, band and choir, he said.

The three teachers interviewed for this story credited “word of mouth” among the students, overall school pride and continuity of the adult moderators involved in the programs as factors for student involvement.

They also said extracurricular activities can serve as motivation for students to do well in the classroom.

Tafel said he has pulled students from games if they weren’t hitting the books.

Whisman said involved students can bring that motivation into their studies.

“Kids that are involved with athletics, music and art programs have a distinct edge on self-discipline, communication skills and problem-solving,” Whisman said.

Brubaker said student involvement gives a glimpse into a school’s personality.

“Without student participation in any club or activity or extracurricular event, then you don’t really have a school,” she said. “That really shows the pulse of the school and how much the kids care about the learning community they come to every day.”

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at msidwell@times-call.com.

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