By ANNIE KURZ
William Penn Senior High School
Confusion, anger, discouragement, disappointment.
These are a few of the emotions William Penn Senior High School students expressed about budget cuts in the York City School District. Uncertainty pulsed through the high school as the school year ended. Teachers worry about whether they will have a job, and students wonder if their favorite programs are secured in the budget for the coming year.
The music department, athletics, art, languages, guidance, teachers’ aides and hall monitors, among other things, have faced the chopping block, at least partially, as the district balances the budget. Looking past the political and monetary aspects of budget cuts, the students are faced with mature decisions and issues. Students should be focused on learning, not wondering what the coming year will bring.
The district’s superintendent acknowledged the challenges presented with balancing the budget this year, and said she hopes students will focus on improving themselves rather than worry about the cuts.
Megan Howard, who will be a sophomore in the 2012-13 school year, was a newly transferred student from Prince George’s County, Md., her freshman year. Megan has been involved in choir for seven years and said that being in choir helped her through the transition from her past school to York City School District.
“Choir has a family aspect to it,” she said. “There’s an energy that comes with being in the choir and the music program that you don’t really find normally in regular hallways of the school.”
The choir has helped Howard develop her voice in more ways than one. It has taught her a way to carry herself, as well as leadership skills. The music department has also motivated Howard to perform better in class.
“As I came to this school district, my grades started to fall some and one of the reasons why I got them up was so that I could be in Singers,” Howard said.
The district saved some music positions and expects to have some form of choir.
Extracurricular activities give students a sense of belonging and togetherness, something that can’t be found as easily in an academic class. Everyone shares the same triumphs and failures and must learn to work as a team to succeed. What will the students do if many of these activities are not there to fill empty time? Stephen Queenan, tennis coach for William Penn, went right to the point and said, “Nothing.”
Keeshon Washington, upcoming sophomore, played football for the William Penn Bearcats as a freshman; altogether he has been playing football for six years. He underwent reconstructive surgery on his shoulder this year to be able to continue playing football; otherwise he wouldn’t have had the surgery. “Some of us have been football crazy for the last 10 to 14 years of our lives,” he said. “Taking that away is like telling a doctor he can’t heal people anymore. It will crush our spirits. I personally know athletes that will go on the streets without football taking five to six days out of their week. It’s simple, no athletics, more violence.”
Luckily for Washington, the football program was spared. Some sports have been cut, however. Without having some extracurricular activities offered in school, it will be more difficult to find teams to play for, orchestras to join and art supplies to experiment with. Music, athletics and the arts are what motivate many students to come to school and to do well, and without these programs who knows what class will be like? In Howard’s past, school district classes were 90 minutes each and there were no extra activities. “The teachers were tired, the class was tired, we were doing well, but there was no energy behind it,” Howard said.
Deborah Wortham, York City School District superintendent, said she is aware of the concerns and uncertainties of students, but she would rather them be concerned about getting stronger, better and smarter. She also says that these uncertainties should not be expected every year.
“We will present a balanced budget to the board and not spend more than we have,” Wortham said.
Wortham does not foresee education one day being solely academics. Without enrichment activities, it cannot be considered that the whole child is being educated. Wortham said students have to be able to express their passion, and high school is where these passions are cultivated.
“Music, arts, sports, all of those, some people see it as extracurricular, I don’t see it as extracurricular. I see it as students being whole,” Wortham said.
The impact of extracurricular activities stays with a student for his or her whole life. These programs are an outlet to the world and a place to get away while being with friends and focusing on a similar goal. They form promising students and bring pride to the school. Cristal Perez, who graduated from William Penn this year, worries that the programs she was involved in won’t exist for future students.
“I hope that, regardless to what happens, everyone takes a breath and realizes that these kids, that my classmates and I, are the future to this town, to this society, to our state and our nation,” Perez said. “In a couple of years, we will all have the power to voice our vote, we will have the power to become leaders of our city, but in order to do all of this, we need our education, our programs and our staff. Without any of this, we jeopardize our futures — and that is a true fear.”
To see the art process behind the illustration by Samantha Dellinger click here.