The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and answer two research questions: 1) How do extracurricular activities affect student academic performance? 2) Are extracurricular activities an essential component in the overall development of youth? My research addressing these questions was based on the works of a variety of individuals, namely Gholson, Sweet, Fisher, Winne, Walsh, York, Clark, Frith, and Edlind. These individuals propose that extracurricular activities provide a valuable service to the development of youth both physically and academically. I chose to look into the effects of extracurricular activities because of its relevance and importance to the education of the nation's youth. "Those organizations and activities which have historically been considered extracurricular appear to have significant and lasting value as one moves beyond formal classroom experiences" (Gholson, 1985). This . idea points to an unseen and often overlooked arena of education that will provide essential tools for the future of the nation's youth. This study took place in a suburban 4A high school located in the Pacific Northwest. The participants were freshmen and sophomores, ranging from 14 to 16 years of age respectively. Data was collected in the classroom and at administrative offices. This data was collected through a variety of methodological approaches, namely observations, written surveys, and formal interviews. In order to protect the participants' rights to privacy and anonymity, I have provided pseudonyms for all of the participants in this .study. After collecting, compiling, and organizing all of the data, which entailed observations, interviews, surveys, and field notes, I found that an overall pattern was emerging. This pattern revealed that participation in extracurricular activities did help promote student academic performance. A study of extracurricular activities by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement reported that students participating in extracurricular activities received higher marks than those of non participants (Sweet, 1986). Also, these extracurricular activities provided a valuable stepping stone in the development of youth both academically and physically, providing evidence that there exists a relationship between active students and increased academic performances (McNamara, Haensley, Lupkowske, and Edlind, 1985).
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