Alex Cloud: Balancing education, extracurriculars is key

If you have children, your evenings are often as busy as your workday.

We encourage our children to participate in activities, whether sports or fine arts or something else. Is all this extracurricular participation benefiting the students in school, or could it be harming their academics?

In this day and age, there are so many activities for children to choose from that being engaged on a school night is not rare. The National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin states there is a positive correlation between student involvement in extracurricular activities and success in nonacademic pursuits following high school and college.

But it’s important to remember that a student’s education is the first priority, said Southern Ute Indian Tribal Councilman Alex Cloud.

“Education should be a priority and other activities should be a privilege, and those values come from the home,” Cloud said. “My grandparents used to tell me that I shouldn’t be playing basketball if I had bad grades. Education should be the No. 1 priority, and those activities should be a reward.”

Cloud, a big advocate of extracurricular activities who ran the tribe’s Recreation Department for more than 15 years, has also been involved in the public school as an assistant coach for the boys’ basketball team. He constantly encouraged his players to do well in school so they could continue to play.

There are benefits to participating in extracurricular activities outside the classroom setting, he said.

“When you get that participation, it helps the student communicate and develop social skills. You interact with peers in a different way than you do in the classroom,” Cloud said. “It also gives an outlet from outside of school so when graduation comes, the student might find something that they really enjoy and take that path in their career.”

Extracurricular participation shows a positive correlation with GPA. Participation is associated with higher GPAs. Reasons may include encouragement to excel in academics, parents’ influence on their children’s participation, and students choosing to participate because of interest and achievements.

“Parent involvement is extremely important to the success of the child. In K-6 activities, the tribe has parents involved and they are always at practice and games. When they get to junior high, we tend to lose those kids,” Cloud said. “When the child is younger, the responsibility is put on the parents to get their kids to practice, and when they get to the junior high level sometimes that stops and it becomes the school’s responsibility.”

Cloud said with all the programs and activities available, the potential for involvement in an academic or recreational realm is vastly greater than what was available to youth in the past.

“Back in the day, Recreation was the only program. They may have had a reading lesson here and there, or some arts and crafts, but if you didn’t live on a farm then our only options were to utilize programs like Recreation and the learning lab,” Cloud saud. “The values that we were taught a long time ago aren’t taught as vigorously as they used to be. When we were young, our parents didn’t give us a choice on what we were going to participate in, they said ‘You will do this.’”

When it comes to leadership, Cloud said the Tribal Council can improve youth participation in extracurricular activities, whether academic or athletic, by identifying whether programs are working.

“We can help our departments formulate their budgets and help them develop ideas to bring kids in. For me, a lot of it goes to knowing your tribal members and being able to outreach and utilize the membership,” Cloud said. “There are a lot of people out there who would be willing to help, but have never been asked. Times have changed so much that some of the younger people may not know the people who can help. Programs need to know the membership.”

Cloud recalled numerous tribal members who are now tribal elders who helped out the youth when he was young. He said it was something that he would always remember because they were local people, people who were from the community and tribe, people who knew local families.

“We had people from the boys’ dorm that came and did activities with us,” Cloud said. “Erv Taylor used to come and teach us baseball and Lily Frost used to come and do arts and crafts with us.”

Cloud said there’s always room for improvement, but everyone from the top down should be involved.

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