After school on a Tuesday afternoon in early September, members of the Liberty Middle School Art Club were making clay stars and leaves that will eventually become part of a school-wide mosaic. Down the hall, other students were reading cues for the fall play, and on the field outside the art room window, members of the Liberty track team were running, jumping and more, in preparation for their first track meet.
It’s a scene that plays out daily in every school in the 108 square miles of the Cherry Creek School District: hundreds of students engaged in dozens of school-sponsored clubs and sports.
“Athletics and activities allow students to connect with coaches, club sponsors and other students while developing new skills and discovering new things about themselves and others,” said Larry Bull, Director of Athletics and Activities for Cherry Creek Schools. He added that 75-80% of CCDS middle school students and 60-75% of high school students participate in one or more sports or activities.
“We want our students to be involved because research shows that students who are involved have better attendance, get better grades and have fewer disciplinary credentials than students who are not involved. Also, being involved has been a lot of fun for us,” Bull said.
In fact, having fun is the main reason students participate in sports and clubs. But there are many others.
“First reason: it is a social activity. Second reason: you do a lot. You learn new things,” said seventh-grade student Lily Shariat, who participates in an art club and several other activities at Liberty.
“I joined the art club because it’s a great place to show off my creativity,” said sixth-grader Mason Ramsey.
“It shows your creativity to others and helps them learn who you are,” added Kenzie Hall, another sixth grader, who has been involved in an art club since she was in fourth grade. She said being in an art club had other benefits too. “Meeting new people you’ve never met before in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.”
Long recognized for academic excellence, the Cherry Creek School District has also earned a national reputation for excellence in athletics and activities. The district offers award-winning programs in sports, activities and the arts.
At the elementary level, these range from Intramural Sports, Choir, Chess Club, and Robotics to Battle of the Books, Destination Imagination, and more. Middle school students can participate in four sports — basketball, volleyball, track and field, and wrestling — and a wide variety of activities, including student council, the National Junior Honor Society, and yearbook club, to to name a few.
At the high school level, the SDCC offers 25 sports sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association. Students can also participate in a rich variety of activities. Some, like DECA, FBLA, and Speeches & Debates, have been around for decades, while others, like anime, gaming, and coding clubs, and the Technology Student Association, are more recent additions. High schools also have clubs based on affinity or common interests, such as specific foreign language clubs, the Sisterhood and Brotherhood, and the Muslim Student Alliance.
“In any school, it’s important to have clubs that are like the kids who go there,” said Adria Herscher, activities director at Overland High School. Overland’s 50 clubs include a Step Team, which draws inspiration from the music and dance of African culture. Watch the performance of the Step team here.
“Step Team is a cultural movement,” said Step Team sponsor Treaunna Jones. “It involves dancing, tapping your feet and clapping your hands. It’s very important at HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) and it’s something we use to bring out the spirit of the team and our culture.
The Step team, which has more than doubled in size over the past two years, has become a popular fixture at school assemblies and sporting events.
“That’s the hype we need in games,” said Mckyla Todd, a sophomore at OHS and one of the team’s three captains.
“I really like it. I love the team aspect and doing things together,” added junior and captain R’Nyah Dickens.
Although the group is based on African culture, it is open to any student, girl or boy, of any race or ethnicity.
“I want everyone to know that it’s something that doesn’t require a lot of skill. It doesn’t take much to be part of our Step Team family,” said captain De’Ari Mack, a sophomore. She truly considers her teammates more than friends. “It’s like another family that you have outside of school and home. These are people you can talk to and bond with.
The sports and activities offered by Cherry Creek Schools exemplify the District’s Five Core Values: Growth Mindset, Fairness, Overall Wellness, Engagement, and Relationships.
“Activities like the art club are sometimes the reason a child comes to school and stays in school,” said Liberty Art Club sponsor and teacher Laura Coupas. “When they know they have something great to look forward to at the end of the day, whether it’s a track or a club where they can hang out with their friends and share a common interest, that keeps them here and that keeps them going. keeps engaged.”
Athletics and activities also provide opportunities that help some students discover their passion and purpose. That’s what the choir did for Herscher, the activities director at Overland High School.
“It put me on the trajectory to be sitting in that chair now, because I sang in a choir, then I wanted to teach choir, so I did it. Then my experience in choir class really led me to become an activity director,” Herscher said.
“It’s nice to have opportunities to connect with other like-minded students, but it’s also nice to have opportunities to try things you wouldn’t normally try, to help develop what you want to do with your life,” she said.
Contributed by Anna Osborn Dolan, Communications Coordinator, Cherry Creek Schools.