Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Extracurricular Activities Help Latino Students Prepare for Higher Ed

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Extracurricular Activities Help Latino Students Prepare for Higher Ed

Article excerpt

Priming the Pump...

The dismissal bell rang at a high school largely serving Latinos and other minorities, and I watched, stunned, as the students were shooed off campus. Only those in football practice or tutoring could stay. For all other students, school was over and they were told to clear out. Go home. Go anywhere. Get off the campus so security could lock up and adults could go home.

It was considered a failing school, with high dropout rates and low achievement scores. Hardly welcoming, most students knew that it was where they were required to spend their time, but it wasn't their place.

Switch scenes to a college campus. Ask a random sample of students what they enjoyed most about high school and many will name time spent with friends and extracurricular activities. Athletics, leadership organizations, community service groups, and scholastic competitive teams are the carrot at the end of the academic suck for many students: complete your schoolwork and you can enjoy what you choose outside of class.

While a high school student selects extracurricular activities because she is good at them and they are fun, those activities will also help her become well-rounded in preparation for higher education. For many Latino students, extracurricular activities are the most appealing part of school, outside the classroom where they might feel compelled to do work for its own sake. Through extracurricular activities Hispanic students build new relationships and access a broad menu of possibilities. By voluntarily attempting something new in an extracurricular activity, a Latino might discover his talents and build lifelong, useful skills.

Why are extracurricular activities such a draw for Latino students?

Whether students are in sports or on the student council, taking pictures for the yearbook or thinking on their feet in debate or mock trial, they are learning goal setting, determination and perseverance. As contextual learners, Hispanic students can see classroom principles applied in the "real-life" situations of extracurricular activities. Writing well or making and executing plans suddenly make sense because they serve a clear, self-determined purpose.

Of equal or greater importance than goal- attainment in extracurricular activities for some Latinos, though, are the interpersonal relationships developed on teams or in clubs. Working with others toward a mutual goal, spending leisure time in fun conversation and learning together adds an important, lasting dimension to the school experience. …

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