Our theme is extracurricular activities in our schools, and why those extracurriculars…. matter.
“And I saw what it meant to her to get recognized for something that she didn’t think she could do,” recalls Comeaux High Speech and Debate Coach Jacob Simon, “and then I was like, ‘whoa-whoa-whoa!! Are you telling me that extracurriculars DO change lives?”
Speech and debate is one of the many great extracurricular activities available to kids in Acadiana, but what happens this fall when the very existence of those extracurriculars is so unknown? So… up in the air?
Band. Dance team. Art Club. Football. The list is nearly endless when it comes to mentioning what qualifies as an extracurricular activity. They take on all shapes and sizes, and whether we’re talking volleyball or campus ministry or speech and debate, one thing is certain:
“They’ve shaped who I am as a person, so I would kind of feel empty without them,” says Comeaux High senior Presley Nutter, a young lady generally considered one of the nation’s finest speech and debate competitors. “I feel that extracurriculars add to that whole, four-years-in-high-school experience. You learn different things, you experience different things through extracurriculars that give you the opportunity to reach out into your community and grow as a person. You also learn things about yourself and about other people, and that can help you later on in life and help you get acquainted with the world around you.”
“I think it’s very important because that’s where you make your friends and show your voice in the school,” offers Teurlings Catholic volleyball star Cicely Hidalgo. The summer of 2020, she admits, has been tough, especially with so many things about the school year still undecided. “It’s been mentally challenging to get out of bed and still come to school and work out, even though we might not know if we have a season; because we could be working out for nothing.” Still, there’s the importance of optimism. “Keeping a positive attitude will make you do better, you know.”
“They just help me be the best person I can be, day-in, day-out,” adds St. Thomas More football and lacrosse (and campus ministry) member Jordan Spurlock. “Those activities also teach me responsibility. I don’t know where I’d be, or who I’d be, without my teams and my clubs.”
Just the summer suspension of extracurriculars has slowed things down. Take Campus Ministry at St. Thomas More, an organization that, in a typical school year, has well over 600 members. “Because of the pandemic, we’ve missed out on some key instrumental and mission trips,” explains STM Campus Ministry Director Lance Strother. “In fact, we’re missing a lot of our training right now.”
And without campus ministry, says STM’s Bailey Toups, a physical and spiritual void is created. “It really does bring Jesus to everybody; a lot of people don’t get it at home or don’t get it elsewhere, in church or something. We get it here, and it would be huge to not have it this fall.”
What about athletics? What if Covid-19 keeps the Teurlings volleyball team from going for its 8th straight state championship? That’s not a prospect Hidalgo wants to even consider. “I’d be depressed, not being able to play high school volleyball again and defend the championship? That would be sad.”
Now, there have been some plusses to summertime in this Corona Era. Spurlock says Corona has strengthened the ties that bind and helped him reconnect with the rest of his family. “It’s given me a good chance to bond with family, that I’ve never been able to do with them. It’s really helping me get through this crisis right now.”
There can be anxiety, most definitely. But at the same time, adds Toups, there’s always hope, too. “Everybody’s calling this the norm, and that’s a little bit worrying. I really don’t want to see all my friends with masks on all the time,” she says. “But it’s definitely something we’re going to have to accept and adapt to. I think we’ll just have to hope and pray we’ll make the most of it; just hope for the best.”
And there’s hope: because a virtual and online national tournament in June went so well, the local speech and debate season IS expected to take place, with a few high tech tweaks.
“We have a method to host online tournaments – virtually,” explains Simon. “We’ll be able to record performances, and send them in, and then the judges can access them and do their scoring. Of course, for those in debate, they’ll have to go live, but will figure that out, I’m sure.”
And even with the challenges, finishes Simon, it’s another way to show that extracurriculars---and more importantly the students--- matter.
“I’m glad that that the kids will at least get a chance.”