Last school year, more than 16,000 students were involved in at least one of 13 programs supported by the Student Activities department. This year, the department would like to expand extracurricular activities for students wherever possible. The current programs with the most student participation include chess, University Interscholastic League (UIL) academics, eSports and “Destination Imagination Winter Blitz,” which is a hands-on system of learning through open-ended academic challenges.
At a board briefing last Thursday, Sharla Hudspeth, executive director of Extracurricular and Extended Learning Opportunities, shared with trustees the importance of extracurriculars for students in all grade levels. Her mission is to ensure that “every student has the opportunity to have a connection to school in an activity they feel is theirs.”
Hudspeth said there is a lot of interest year after year and the programs are successful based on student performance and involvement. Many teams, both academic and athletic, travel across the country for state and national competitions. Last April, more than 300 students competed in UIL academic meets and 14 Dallas ISD campuses advanced to regionals. The Student Activities Department also sponsored a Spring Smash High School Esports Tournament at two district locations.
“We continue to be committed to creating fun, memorable experiences, to removing the barriers for participation – which more times than not is the cost associated with participating – and also to providing resources that will help make our students and our coaches who prepare them successful,” Hudspeth said.
Apart from co-curricular activities, which occur within the school day, extracurricular activities bring joy out of the classroom and give kids a chance to hone their interests while still learning applicable skills for their future. By focusing on K-12 alignment, the Student Activities department can guide students who are involved in extracurriculars from a young age and help them continue their passion through high school. This opens up the potential for academic and athletic-based scholarships. Some of the department’s other goals include feeder pattern game nights, expansion of the Summer Breeze program, middle school yearbook, elementary cheer and more.
Hudspeth said she believes the department’s programs change the school experience for students by giving them intangible benefits such as spending time with their teammates while doing something they love. For students, traveling with their friends and coaches to competitions or games is an unforgettable experience where they can form deeper relationships and gain lifelong skills.
“Extracurricular opportunities offered by Dallas ISD schools is one of many reasons families are attracted to the district,” she said. “The priority of the Student Activities department is to allow students to discover their passions and interests while having fun and creating memorable experiences.”