On any weekday morning, well before the first bell rings, you’ll find plenty of activity at Cherry Creek elementary schools.
For example, on Tuesday mornings at High Plains Elementary, you’ll find students in the gym playing intramural sports, young artists at work in the art room, choir members making a joyful noise in the music room and students learning the game of chess in the library.
At Ponderosa Elementary, there are students demonstrating fancy footwork in jump rope club and impressive hand-eye coordination in the school’s cup stacking club. After school, students can participate in chess club and Destination Imagination. Those are just a few examples of the rich variety of activities available at every elementary school in the district.
When Gabriella Shead was a student at Ponderosa, she took part in the jump rope and cup stacking clubs, as well as intramural sports and the “Girls on the Run” running club. Her involvement continued at Prairie Middle School where she ran track, played in the orchestra and mentored younger students.
“I like to be active and try different things,” said Shead, who is now a freshman at Overland High School, where she’s looking forward to continuing in track and exploring new opportunities such as yearbook.
Shead is following in the footsteps of her older sister, Victoria, now a student at Metropolitan State University, and her mother, Rhetta, who was and is an involved student, parent and school volunteer.
“Because I was involved, they were involved,” Rhetta Shead said. She believes being involved in school and outside activities has helped her daughters, both socially and academically.
“It really does make a difference,” Shead said. “The most important thing is that you learn how to get along with other kids. You’re broadening your circle of friends, getting to know people with different interests.”
In addition, the girls’ participation in activities and athletics helped them develop the skills they needed to be successful academically.
“It taught them how to focus... I definitely saw an increase in their grades and test scores. Gabriella made the Honor Roll all but one quarter in middle school,” Shead said.
Research supports what the Shead family has experienced. Larry Bull, director of Activities and Athletics for Cherry Creek Schools, says several studies have proven the benefits of extracurricular involvement.
“Research shows that students who are involved in athletics and activities have fewer absences, fewer discipline issues, get better grades and are more likely to earn a college degree than students who aren’t involved,” Bull said. “In addition, we know both colleges and employers are looking for people with well-rounded backgrounds and specific skills, such as the ability to work well with others.”
Cheryl Fullmer, principal at Trails West Elementary and the mother of sixth-grade twins, sees the benefits from both perspectives.
“As a principal, I believe that our kids do better in school when they feel connected to their school,” Fullmer said. “One way that we help to make these connections is through providing amazing opportunities for students to get involved in before- and after-school activities.”
Fullmer said her daughters have been involved in both academic and athletic clubs at their school and have grown immensely.
“Every activity they are involved in helps to strengthen them socially, academically and physically,” Fullmer said. “My girls do better in school when they are involved. They know more people, more teachers know them and they have more accountability for their learning.”
For more information about elementary before- and after-school activities, visit your school’s website. Get more information about middle and high school activities and athletics here or on each school’s website.