The Activity Gap: How a lack of extracurricular activities contributes to the achievement gap

It can be said that what you learn outside of the classroom is just as important as what you learn inside – qualities like perseverance, teamwork, creative thinking and resilience in the face of adversity. These types of traits are often learned through extracurricular activities including sports, youth groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, etc. Research has shown that participating in these types of organized activities helps cultivate the skills, habits, connections and knowledge that prepare kids for lifelong success, which in turn leads to higher graduation rates, college enrollment and better jobs.

Unfortunately, the “activity gap” is one factor contributing to the achievement gap. Schools are constantly faced with budget cuts, which force them to reduce funding for drama clubs, music programs and after school activities. Additionally, school performance reviews emphasize deficits in academic testing. This shifts priority away from art, music, and extracurricular clubs. An unfortunate end result is that many low income students are left on the sidelines.

The Junior League of Minneapolis is proud to highlight at least one solution for this growing problem. In 1997, what is now called Free Arts Minnesota was created from a project started by the Junior League. Now a free standing non-profit organization, Free Arts Minnesota creates curriculum and holds weekly art mentorship sessions with children who have experienced poverty, homelessness, abuse or mental illness. The volunteers who offer their time believe in the healing powers of artistic expression and continually inspire hope and build self-esteem and a sense of purpose to the children they mentor.

What some schools cannot provide for these children, Free Arts Minnesota can. To become a volunteer or learn more about their mission visit:


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