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Clubs Offer Benefits Outside The Classroom
By Rhonda Whitmire
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Summer coming to a close means homework and early mornings for students, but extracurricular clubs and activities can take the gloom out of school days.
Numerous organizations can fill students' after-school hours with entertaining and educational experiences. Clubs also can allow students to reach out into their communities.
"Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H and Big Brothers/Big Sisters organizations are just a few youth activities offered in some communities," said Harvey Gordon, 4-H youth development specialist at Mississippi State University. "Some churches also offer activities for children after school and on weekends."
Even schools offer extracurricular activities to fill free time on afternoons and weekends.
"Students can become involved in 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Future Homemakers of America and Future Business Leaders of America, all of which offer activities in and out of the classroom," Gordon said. "Schools also have organizations such as Spanish, math and science clubs."
These provide educational activities that help students choose a college major or vocation after graduating high school.
"Many activities in 4-H are career-driven," Gordon said. "For instance, if a student becomes involved with showing livestock or judging, this could lead to a career in agriculture or animal science."
Planned outings, such as camps, conferences, trips and competitive events, are designed with career decisions in mind. Assisting the students in decision-making is someone Gordon calls a "significant other." This is an adult volunteer who helps guide young people in making the right choices.
Extracurricular activities help students develop skills they need to become productive members of society.
"Students learn leadership, responsibility, record keeping and social skills they will use in all aspects of their lives," Gordon said.
He said parents should encourage children to become involved in more than one youth organization. This gives them knowledge and experience on a wide range of subjects.
However, Gordon emphasized that school work is more important than club activities.
"Youth today are involved in several extracurricular activities, but school work should always be their primary focus," he said.
"Extracurricular activities should compliment and enhance school work," Gordon said. "Skills gained through 4-H and other organizations help prepare students to excel in their education."
Even though volunteer leaders or teachers manage clubs and direct project work, Gordon said parents should become involved in their children's interests.
"When parents get involved in the activities, the child excels," Gordon said. "Parental support benefits the child as well as the parent, because it increases the time spent together."
"The No. 1 thing parents need to do is spend quality time with their children and to be good listeners," Gordon said. "Parents also need to be available to assist the child as needed and be a channel or source of information for their children."
Contact the local county extension office for a list of clubs or activities in the community. To learn of available organizations within the school, contact local school officials.