Pretend that I am a salesman coming to your school system. I present to you a program that will reduce your dropout rate, improve student attendance and increase academic performance. Oh, here is the catch. It will only cost you less than 1% of your total budget! You will probably be waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. At the very least, you will be quite skeptical. But wait, you already have such a program! Interscholastic Athletics have been keeping students on track (pun intended) in school for years.
You see, students need to form meaningful and positive relationships with their peers and with responsible adults. This relationship pinch is critical to our development as human beings. Why do you think that gang activity is on the rise all over the county? If we cannot provide these positive relationships in our schools and community, young people will gravitate to those who will provide them. Many times, their alternatives take the child to places that they do not want to go and ingrain them there much longer than they want to stay. This is such a sad scenario.
But there is hope! The New Hanover County Schools offers twenty-two (22) sports at the high school level and ten (10) at the middle school level. Currently, we serve 2,065 students at the high school level at a cost of $500 per student. At the middle school level, we serve 1658 students at a cost of $150 per student. As such, athletics is the longest and most cost effective drop-out program that we have.
In addition, many of the sports we offer can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Track and cross country teach stamina and discipline, while giving students activities they can enjoy for a lifetime. Not a weekend goes by that a 5K, 10K; half-marathon or marathon isn’t being run in our area. Softball and basketball leagues are available for small children through senior adult years. Our area has tennis courts and golf courses a plenty. All these sports are offered in our schools.
If you are looking for a comparative edge, our school system has had its share of state championships in individual and team sports. Individual championships in tennis, golf, swimming and wrestling occur on a regular basis. In recent years, Hoggard High School has won a state championship in football, New Hanover High School has won in basketball and in 2010, Laney High School won the state 4A baseball championship.
Interscholastic Athletics also provides an opportunity for some of our students to defray the cost of their college educations. Over $1 million in athletic scholarships are offered to our students each year.
Speaking of scholarships, all of our athletes must maintain a “C” average or better and be on track for graduation. They must also be in attendance at a higher percentage than is required of our other students.
So, the case for athletics has been made. You decide. Are our children worth the investment?