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The Springville-Griffith Institute student perspective: what our extracurricular programs mean to us

SPRINGVILLE — Every year, the Springville Griffith-Institute School District School Board of Education has to find a way to make their budget, and that always means making cuts to certain programs, whether it is art, music, athletics or others. The public always get to hear from parents, teachers and board members, but these cuts affect the students the most. So, what do they think?

Emyle Watkins, a sophomore at Springville-Griffith Institute High School, is involved in a number of art-related opportunities that are presented at the high school. Watkins’ main focus, though, is photography.

“I hope to go to college majoring in photojournalism and minoring in peace studies. This summer, I’m applying to New York State Summer School for the Arts Media School, with concentration in digital photography,” said Watkins. “I want to major in photojournalism and for me to do that and get into college for that, I have to take art classes in high school. How am I supposed to do that if I run out of classes, by the end of sophomore year?”

She also is a photographer for the yearbook and helps take photos for the school’s website. “When I was in [digital] photography, our printer broke. It took forever for anyone to pay to fix it and it was horrible, because all of the students had to try and go out and find the money to print their work for homework. For us to be able to display our medium, we have to be able to print,” she explained. “As a student artist, I need a good learning environment, enough of the right supplies, support of my school and the opportunity to work with other student artists.”

Sophomore Zachary Cudney is active with the music department. He plays the saxophone in band at the high school, participates in Jazz band on Thursday nights and is involved in the musical, “Suessical,” which will be presented on March 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., and March 9 at 2 p.m. at the high school. “Although academics are important, they aren’t everything. Extracurricular activities, such as being involved in music, are important in providing enjoyment, relief and a break from day-to-day life at school,” Cudney explained.“ Music, for me, means doing something I love with the people I love, and is equally important to me as school.”

William Rollek is a junior, who has been in chorus for two years and took a number of art classes, throughout his high school career. He describes the art and music programs as outlets for many students. “Art and music are a big part in not only the school, but the students’ and teachers’ lives, as well. We need them as much as we need math, science and sports. People look down on them, but they’re just as important,” Rollek added. “Art is everywhere, it’s in everything we do, everything we are. And music – well quite frankly, who can live without music? The teachers that teach music and art love their jobs and deserve just as much a right to stay as any other teacher. And us, as students, whether we realize it or not, need both of these [programs]. It’s a part of life.”

Also speaking for the music department was senior Mitchell Brownell, who has been a part of the music department, for many years.

“There is a misconception that music programs in schools are unneeded or disposable, when they’re not,” Brownell explained. “The S-GI music program provides cultural enrichment to the community, offering 13 or more free performances each year, two theatrical performances, such as the musical and the theater class performances and community events, such as Pageant of the Bands.”

The S-GI music department also hold presentations at Kleinhan’s Music Hall, The Tralf Music hall and Our Lady of Victory Basillica. Speaking on why he believes the music program should continue, Brownell said, “This allows growth in other areas of curriculum, since music keeps areas of the brain active, when it otherwise wouldn’t be. A third of our district’s student body is involved in the music department. Not only does music encourage academic excellence – it allows for academic help between friends who otherwise wouldn’t be acquainted, if not for the music [department].

“Music is an outlet, for many people. Without it, many of our students would not be as enthusiastic about school,” he continued. “As passionate as we all are for our music, the music wing bounds past just the performance. As hard as we try, we keep as a family, too.”

Potential cuts to athletic programs are always a topic that is presented to the board, as well. The varsity girls lacrosse team came close to being cut, a few years ago. Jessica Wojtkowiak, a senior, has been on the varsity lacrosse team since she was in eighth grade. Lacrosse has been a huge influence on her for many years, she said. “Lacrosse has greatly impacted my life as an athlete, as well as a person. It’s always controversial and up to the board to cut, because we are not very good. I believe lacrosse at our school is important,” she said of the program.

“We have the numbers. Students are continuing to play. It’s keeping kids participating in something for their school. It’s taught me to never give up, even when the outcome doesn’t look good and that anything is possible. I believe it’s important for other girls to have the opportunity to experience the same life lessons.”

During Wojtkowiak’s freshman year, the lacrosse team went on a “save lacrosse” campaign and appealed to the board to keep the program. The girls were able to persuade the board in their favor and continue playing lacrosse.

One of the most student-participated sports is track and field. “I think track is a wonderful sport because it’s about individuality and a team aspect,” said junior Leena Marren, who participates in indoor and outdoor track. “It also has a great sportsmanship atmosphere. Everyone’s friendly and I’ve made some great friends from doing three seasons of track. It’s a great way to stay fit and make lasting friendships.”

Freshman Alix Dubel said she plans on participating in both indoor and outdoor track, throughout her high school career. “I love track and I’ve run it for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I think the school board needs to keep funding these sports. I was new and being part of a track team helped me make better friends than I thought possible. We work as a team and being part of a team is amazing. It also gives students something to do after school and in my opinion, it keeps me more focused. I have something to look forward to after school every day and that’s awesome.”

The next S-GI board of education meeting is March 11 at 7 p.m. in the S-GI library and media center.


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