What impact can after-school programs have on the educational achievements of middle school students? Studies across the country have shown that those students who engage in arts, technology, sports and academic programs after school have higher attendance, lower course failures and higher graduation rates.
It is these positive effects that Southern Utah University students are creating with an after-school sports program through Cedar Middle School.
Beginning eight years ago when an SUU student who observed that students in the community had academic opportunities to take part in after school, but no sports programs. So in the fall of 2006 it began first with ESL students and it quickly grew from there, according to Pam Branin, associate director of the Community Engagement Center.
Currently the program is ran by two SUU students who coordinate with 12 middle school students once a week and engage in a different activity each time on the University’s campus.
Tyler West, student coordinator, said of the impact it has on the young students, “These students first show up scared and intimidated, but after a few weeks they loosen up and became completely a part of the group.”
An aspect that West and other coordinators try to do is invite the University’s athletic teams to engage with the youngsters.
“They have gotten to learn moves with the Hip Hop Club, play with the volleyball, football, soccer, softball and basketball teams, and on a couple of occasions meet and hear from visiting scholars,” explained Branin.
West mirrored Branin’s comments and added, “The community has supported the University since it’s existence, so this is my one way I can give back to them and the after-school sports program has a direct and positive impact on their children.”
The after-school sports program is one of the many ways the Community Engagement Center is involved with area schools. It also sponsors SUU Discover, a weekly story time at the Cedar City Public Library; Wee Swim, swimming lessons for Head Start preschoolers; Wee Be Groovin', a weekly dance club at East Elementary School; and also provide significant support for the Paiute Center Tutoring.