A case for extracurricular activities
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I’ve always had a thing for getting involved in the extracurriculars that aren’t exactly CESJDS mainstream — or, in other words, that no one usually cares about. Sure, our Junior State of America chapter and The Lion’s Tale staff have won this school some pretty awards that administrators love to boast about, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone talking about stage crew or the softball team. So, I’m spending my last column here to tell you about the three activities I’ve dedicated my high school career to and learned the most from.
I began playing softball in a recreational league at around age 12 and joined the JDS team as a sixth-grader. During junior year, as a team captain and one of the more experienced players, I often psyched myself out in thinking I had to hit grand slams every at-bat and make MLB-level plays on the field. What was even more rewarding than these rare moments, however, was that my team supported me regardless. Through their cheering, I learned to loosen up and shake off my (inevitable) screwups.
A second extracurricular was leading stage crew for the high school and middle school musicals. Before becoming a techie, there was no love lost between theater and me; I’m entirely devoid of any acting, dancing or singing talent. I originally joined stage crew in middle school to spend more time with a friend, but as we took on more and more responsibility, our managerial ascent seemed only natural. Besides teaching me some basic leadership and organizational skills, stage crew has opened me up to theater buffs, musicians, vocal coaches and directors with whom I would have never interacted. Contributing to this side of JDS gave me new friends and an unparalleled sense of accomplishment when watching the success of the musicals.
The third activity has been serving as an assistant teacher to the rowdy second-grade class of my synagogue’s Hebrew school. This is comical for a number of reasons: a) my family hardly ever attends services, b) Hebrew is not my strong suit and c) I don’t particularly like children. But I do love my synagogue, so even after I had completed my community service hours, I stayed on to help. Other than a newfound appreciation for teachers, the experience continues to give me a platform to explore my Jewish identity and strengthen my connection to a Jewish community outside of school.
Balancing these activities has always been a challenge, but one I ultimately enjoyed managing. It’s important to note that not everything I tried worked out; I had to give up the debate and swim teams because, well, even I need sleep. And while I had leadership positions in all my extracurriculars, the pressure to be a captain or a president should never deter you from participating in an activity you want to try. Those titles can serve as great resume fodder, but genuine interest in your extracurriculars will reward you with more than just a college acceptance. Not only have I learned an incredible amount from my activities, but I like to believe that I’ve left a modest but meaningful legacy behind. Extracurriculars may have the power to change you, but the goal is for you to change them.