clubs Ec_D

Why clubs are worthwhile

It seems like every other day I’m hearing about a school club or organization hosting an event, anything from fairs to blood drives, field trips to seasonal concerts. Oftentimes, these events promote classic filler advertisements: “so-and-so sport will create lifetime healthy habits,” “this arts organization promotes collaboration” and “this club will form skills that you cannot learn in your classes.” Many are led to doubt the credibility of these arguments because they are made everywhere, whether a student is on or off campus. As our commercialized world rushes to sell as much as possible, we often find similar announcements outside of school to be widely exaggerated and misleading.

However, I still believe that the advertisements for clubs and organizations are not deceptive. In fact, these extracurricular activities are often effective in developing useful skills. My experience in Speech & Debate Club has changed my outlook on public speaking; likewise, Publications has taught me how to work in a professional, student-run environment. What I feel is the most valuable, though, is that I have established a sense of initiative by involving myself in certain positions. As high schoolers, it is important that we hone our leadership skills. Not only do they prepare you for potential careers down the line — that require professional skills and educational backing — but it also helps bolster self-confidence in your studies and personal life. In summary, I definitely feel that clubs and organizations have created a positive impact by supplementing my high school curriculum with necessary skills.

Even studies back up the efficacy of clubs and organizations in schools. Conducted by researchers Jacquelynne Eccles and Bonnie Barber, an investigation of 1,200 working class children near Detroit reported that students in arts organizations liked school more, had higher grade point averages (GPAs) and were more likely to attend college full-time. The same study also found that adolescents in academic clubs increased their GPAs after joining. A separate study on adolescents in athletic clubs even demonstrated that members are more likely to believe that they are “in better mental and physical condition” and that “they can succeed in other areas such as their studies” (Ericsson et. al, 2013).

When defining the effectiveness of extracurricular activities, we should also look holistically at their emotional and social effect. To club or organization members, it is obvious that a feeling of inclusion comes with being in their respective establishment. Overall, this encourages unity among those who may carry similar interests and goals. In fact, according to a study of 300 adolescents who participated in Boys and Girls Clubs of Americas, 74 percent referred to the club as a “home.” In other words, most members emphasized the psychosocial benefits of being involved. Similarly, when many of us join clubs and organizations, we tend to make questions that lean toward the intangible benefits of membership: What will I learn? Am I going to belong? And, ultimately, can I be a part of something greater than myself and make a contribution to society?

This next question brings us to the next point. When Walnut students think of societal good, we often think of volunteering events, food or toy drives and various fundraisers for those in need. In particular, we associate these activities with the “Big Three” volunteering clubs: Key Club, Interact and National Honors Society. Yes, members in these clubs do use their individual efforts in order to contribute to a whole group. However, when considering lasting societal change, they fall short.

That is because they are just that — clubs. Without ample school funding, the events are often limited in resources or influence. For instance, most clubs operate within the sphere of their community rather than on a national or global scale. In most high schools, moreover, it seems that clubs and organizations purely for societal well-being are simply hard to come across.

Additionally, some may contend that the club benefits are over exaggerated. The skills “only” learned in clubs and organizations are really taught and reinforced in the school curriculum: as an example, any group project underscores the value of teamwork. Also, for those who feel left out, there appears to be no inclusive benefit. Others may go so far to say that leadership from clubs is limited by the member’s ultimate lack of experience in a real world setting or suggest that clubs simply do not prepare students for anything.

The variety of social groups and skills included in organizations and clubs disproves the first two claims. The average curricular class does not teach improvisation skills or cooking; to address the second claim, those who feel left out can satisfy shared interests because of the sheer selection of activities. Further, the last two statements are unsubstantiated. Age does not determine a lack of experience or an inability to prepare fellow students. Instead, it demonstrates potential areas of growth.

As a whole, clubs and organizations are effective at developing useful skills, uplifting the emotional state of members and grouping individuals with similar interests. However, claims made about their holistic effect on society stand dubious because of the lack of attention to these types of clubs and organizations. Clearly, a person looking to incite societal change should be aware of the limits involved on campus.

The next time you see an advertisement for a club or organization, do not look away. Rather, consider the vast opportunities to step out of your comfort zone. Who knows? You may find your next best passion.

By Landon Park, News editor
Editorial cartoon by Daniela Marquez