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Umoja Academy extracurriculars and changes in student participation

Soome Umoja International Academy extracurricular activities offered at the school.
River Poletti
Soome Umoja International Academy extracurricular activities offered at the school.

After-school extracurricular programs and clubs still exist but with less enthusiasm from students than previously recognized, a trend that some have seen at Umoja International Academy as well.

“We had more numbers before COVID than after,” said UIA history teacher Peter Batkin regarding the number of kids who came to after-school clubs.

Batkin sees this change in club participation as a product of school-required class changes and the lack of contact with teachers due to said class changes.

“I think it had more to do with the bulk of my students [coming] from my seventh-grade honors class… and then after COVID, they shifted us from having an honors history class [to] just [having a] history [class],” Batkin said.

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Shannon Barnes, an English teacher at UIA, sees the change in club participation as caused by school-imposed inconveniences large enough to affect student interest in clubs.

“I think some of it has been the afterschool program and some of the things they did last year, with putting the school on lockdown… that was alienating to a lot of kids,” Barnes said.

Terina Rathbun, another UIA English teacher, who also sponsors the crochet club, pointed to an additional factor, saying, “You have to have a passion for it. I think a lot of students came in expecting they were going to come in and leave that day with a scarf. I think a lot of kids don’t realize that… you actually had to have a passion.”

Researchers have tried to understand what causes student interest in a club. 

Ioana Iancu, Lorina Culic, and Anişoara Pavelea explored the question in a study titled, “Why Should I Join A Student’s Club.” Their report found, “A student’s feelings associated with identification and commitment are… feelings of acceptance and support.”  That means a student would be more likely to join a club if they find a community within an extracurricular.

The study’s conclusions match the views of UIA students interviewed.

At UIA, there is a club called SAGA, short for Straight and Gay Alliance, which is the school’s equivalent of Gay Straight Alliance clubs. Most students who join say they enter due to the community, and want LGBTQ+ friends and spaces.

Levi Thurston, a senior at UIA said, “I joined SAGA to support friends who were a part of the club. Another reason I would join clubs is if the club was focused on something I was genuinely interested in.”

Referenced article: Iancu, Ioana & Culic, Lorina & Pavelea, Anişoara. (2016). Why Should I Join a Students’ Club? The Motivation Behind Participating in Students’ Clubs. 

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About the Contributor
River Poletti, Reporter
Hi there! I'm River Poletti, a soon-to-be/current senior during the 2023-2024 school year at Umoja International Academy. I enjoy advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and learning about new cultures and ideas. If I'm not researching, I enjoy reading and listening to music.
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