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Liberty Middle School students find fun and friendship in afterschool activities

Liberty Middle School Jazz BandYou might be surprised at what goes on at Liberty Middle School after the last bell rings.

In the band room, you might find a group of talented musicians working on improvisation or an orchestral version of Crocodile Rock. In a classroom on the other side of the school, you might find a group of boys and girls learning to “cast on” and “purl,” or a group of students learning how to communicate using their hands. Down the hall, you might find student leaders planning a fundraiser for a local nonprofit, or students with writing, photography, and design skills putting together the school yearbook.

That’s just a small sample of the different kinds of afterschool activities that Liberty offers.

“We have a total of 16 clubs right now,” said Kristin Kasselder, Activities Director and Dean of Students at Liberty. Some of those clubs relate to fine arts or performing arts, such as Art Club, Choir Club, Jazz Band, and Pop Orchestra. Others, like Math League, Spelling Bee, and National Junior Honor Society, have a connection to academics. Many groups, including Gaming Club, Knitting Club, and American Sign Language or ASL Club, were created by students.

Liberty Middle School Sign Language Club member“You come up with an idea, find a sponsor, then email the dean for approval,” explained sixth-grader Nicholas Oppy, who has a hearing impairment. He started the ASL Club last fall. “I want to be part of this experience where I make my school more deaf-and-hard-of-hearing-friendly.”

Sixth-grader Aubrey Williamson, who also has a hearing impairment, was excited to join the club.

“I thought it would be a fun idea because I wanted to be able to teach people my language,” Williamson said. She and Oppy help plan activities for club members, which include students with and without hearing impairments.

Activities Director Kasselder says afterschool activities allow students to learn new skills and new things about themselves and others.

“Activities really matter,” she said. “It’s an important time for our students, an important time to be with other students, to be focusing on their creative needs, and also getting to know different types of teachers. It’s a great way for kids to discover who they are and what their interests are.”

Last fall, seventh-grader Scarlett Mayta decided to try Knitting Club.

Liberty Middle School Knitting Club member“At home no one knits, so I thought maybe I should learn how to knit so I can be the one that knits those ugly sweaters,” she said with a smile. She has now become so proficient at knitting, that she often helps others who are new to the club.

Although dozens of Liberty students are doing different afterschool activities, they all have one thing in common: They like being with friends while they do something they enjoy.

“I like hanging out with my friends, and helping the community with them,” said seventh-grader Harper Bull. She is a member of the Liberty Student Council, which is planning a school-wide community service project.

Liberty Middle School Jazz Band practiceEighth-grader Calvin Hoke is a member of the Liberty Jazz Band, which meets after school.

“I have friends in there. It’s really fun to just hangout after school,” he said. “I also just like the creativity of it. You can make your own solos. You can mess around with dynamics. It’s a lot of fun.”

Fellow eighth-grader Steven Anderson agrees.

“I like how you can hang out with your friends after school, and I love playing music,” he said. Anderson plays bassoon and tuba during his daily band class, but plays trumpet in Jazz Band.

“It really gives him a place of camaraderie,” said Brandy Anderson, Steven’s mother. “It’s a place where he can feel like he belongs, a place where he can hang out with friends, and also expand his musical ability and talents.”

Liberty Middle School STudent Council membersLiberty Middle School is not alone in offering engaging afterschool activities. Every school in the Cherry Creek School District offers a variety of clubs and activities that give students opportunities to have fun, make new friends, learn new things, and build relationships with teachers who are also club sponsors. In CCSD, between 75 and 80% of middle school students and between 60 and 75% of high school students participate in one or more club or sport.

Research shows that students who participate in activities or athletics have fewer unexcused absences and discipline referrals, higher test scores and grade point averages, and are more likely to earn a college degree than students who are not involved.

Liberty parents like Monica Hoke appreciate the opportunities and benefits those activities provide.

“It’s been wonderful seeing my son really dive into music,” she said. “I’m so grateful that Liberty offers this. My son really enjoys it. It’s a really valuable experience.”

Posted 2/28/2024.