In an academic setting where everyone is constantly being bombarded with homework and assessments and when long afternoons and evenings are spent writing essays or completing practice problems, it may seem impossible to fit in extracurriculars into an already packed academic schedule, especially considering their physically and mentally draining natures. But there is also constant pressure to reach out and seize every opportunity presented to you. The RHS administration stresses the importance of not leaving school right at 3:15 PM, and events such as the club fair try to attract freshmen to take up many various clubs and activities — many of which siphon precious time away from schoolwork. Whether you believe that after school activities provide positive or negative effects, choosing to enrich your high school experience with extracurriculars proves to be a complex decision that each student must make for his or herself.
If you have a passion or interest, chances are RHS boasts an extracurricular that will satisfy you. Do you want to become an entrepreneur? Join DECA. Do you love playing the trumpet outside of class? Try jazz band or brass ensemble. Do you love defining rubrics for the pizza you eat? Join the famous RHS Pizza Club! Extracurriculars are a great way to relax during or after a stressful day at school, perfect a skill that you have, or achieve a goal relating to your passion. You’re also able to meet new people and create relationships with individuals with whom you may never have crossed paths. RHS Junior Cem Spicer spoke about how extracurriculars can enrich the high school experience: “I think that extracurriculars are important to the school atmosphere because they bring you together with your peers… You get closer with these people by bonding over a shared interest that came to be through school. Also, the amount of time that [extracurriculars] take away from you working is dependent upon your time management skills. But I think extracurriculars are a really good outlet for either someone who wants to express [his or herself] through a passion or for someone who’s just trying to make new friends and acclimate to a new crowd.”
But with these benefits come the drawbacks, as many extracurriculars run well into the night, inhibiting the ability to complete schoolwork as well as the ability to sleep. Practice days for sports normally last only two hours, but on days with games or meets, athletes sometimes get home well past sunset. New Players and band ensembles also have late-night commitments, and most extracurriculars don’t even provide a good environment in which to get work done because you’re mostly sitting in a bus somewhere or you’re in a place without WiFi. Even once the activity is over, it’s not easy to jump right into schoolwork when you get back home late. Students will often want to shower, eat dinner, or wind down a bit before delving into the night’s responsibilities. Lack of sleep as well as dipping grades seem to be obvious risks of extracurriculars, and it’s a threat many students take into consideration before deciding to join an activity.
With all of these negative aspects, many a student will wonder, “What’s the point of extracurriculars?” You hear that having substantial extracurriculars looks good on college applications, and any athlete knows that if they excel in high school they can sign to play sports in college, whereas others join just for pure fun. But on the flip side of fun comes stress and all of its negative side effects. In such an environment that can cause stress, junior Sophia Bergantino commented on her perspective regarding stress and extracurriculars: “Cross Country has helped me to cope with academic stress because being outdoors and running every day can clear my head and make me less stressed after school. During long runs, talking to my teammates distracts me from the anxiety caused by the academic work. On the other hand, the ski team can add to academic stress because of the long practices and races. It’s also hard to get homework done at the bus or later at night. However, the benefits of the ski team [outweigh] the issues because I know that it is a short season. I try to enjoy it and not be bothered by the long hours.”
Getting involved within the RHS community is beneficial to uplift student spirit, improve certain skills or talents, and to have fun and make strengthen relationships with your peers. That being said, it is important to realize that the dangers that come with it are real. With procrastination proving to be somewhat of an epidemic these days, students may struggle with lots of responsibility, but no one should refrain from taking advantage of the great opportunities extracurriculars afford. With careful time management, dedication, and sacrifice, students are able to enjoy both the academic and extracurricular life of Ridgewood High School.
Graphic: Nicole Kye