Is lack of interest killing connection programs?

Lack of student interest and involvement questions the efficacy of student connection programs
School programs, like Griffin Games, invests thousands of dollars to different programs despite lack of student participation.
School programs, like Griffin Games, invests thousands of dollars to different programs despite lack of student participation.
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LOS ALAMITOS, CA — When walking through the Los Alamitos High School campus, which provides education for thousands of high school students, it’s not hard to believe that the school invests millions of dollars in its yearly budget. The same cannot be said for nearby schools; the large budget given to Los Al exceeds several million dollars and places us as a nationally ranked school with above-average academics, athletics, and activities. 

Within the campus, school spirit tends to remain strong within a student’s daily life. Los Al’s student section is famed for being one of the best in the county, and our ASB actively organizes events to promote stronger relations between students and the school. 

However, students have recently reported major disinterest in spirit activities, which could make these events ineffective and lose the school money. This leads to the question of whether Los Al’s activities funding for leadership and connection programs is well-spent. 

What’s the deal with funding?

With a specific focus on activities, Los Al utilizes the Local Control Funding Formula Funds (LCFF) for activities, which are categorical funds dedicated to improving student climate, culture, and engagement. School-wide activities are funded directly by the ASB class through fundraising revenue. 

Throughout the year, Los Al has made major investments in school infrastructure, demonstrating the large importance of activities on campus. For the school’s facilities, several news sources, such as Sun News, have reported on Los Al’s construction of a $26 million gym that will be fully constructed by the 2025 school year. In addition to volleyball and basketball games, Los Al’s gym hosts assemblies and school events like Breaking Down the Walls. 

Principal Kraus largely attributes the school’s activity success to the hard work and stamina of Los Al parents.

“That’s why we’re so lucky to have the parents do what [they] do because a lot of these robust [and] outside of the normal school day programs are really because our parents and our students are so invested, ensuring that they can create that,” Principal Kraus said.

What happened with Breaking Down the Walls?

At the beginning of March, Los Al welcomed the Breaking Down the Walls (BDTW) program to students in an attempt to promote strong empathy and social skills within student life. BDTW was created by the organization Learning for Living with the intent to offer students a unique opportunity to socialize with others through a unique seminar during school.

An example of a Breaking Down the Walls event that occured at the beginning of March. (Los Al newsletter)

Originally, BDTW was advertised heavily through emails sent to Los Al juniors and seniors. Despite administration’s  initial success promoting BDTW through word of mouth, the program experienced a lower turn-out than expected. Due to unwilling participation, BDTW Los Al student leaders reported being sent to collect students out of class and escort them to the gym to participate in the activities.

Students justified skipping the event due to the inconvenience of missing class; some teachers warned students that they would miss important material being taught that day, even though Los Al planned BDTW well in advance and as a school-sanctioned activity.

The significant funds Los Al invested in BDTW were spent with the specific intent of fostering stronger connections between students of different social groups. However, the lack of student interest demonstrates a much greater problem surrounding the future of school connection programs. The majority of students who attended BDTW were unenthusiastic about the event because of disinterest in school events and their impediment to regular class activities. 

The real question of BDTW is how similar student activities can continue and succeed at Los Al without wasting the money involved. 

What is happening with Link Crew?

Created by the Boomerang Project, Link Crew is a national student-driven program led by juniors and seniors that provides aid and support for younger freshman students through the voice of a friend. To provide a safe and stable environment as freshmen enter into a new campus and life, older students act as supporters through campus initiatives and events to facilitate an easier transition to high school.

Despite Link Crew being much-needed on a high school campus, the 100 Los Al Link Crew leaders lacked significant cooperation from freshmen during orientation earlier this year, and there has been a drop in participation in their events.

“It tends to be the same, around 600, 500 students who show up to the freshman orientation in the summer,” said Link Crew Advisor and ASL teacher, Ms. Troutman. “Then throughout the years, the events, [depending] on what the event is, will fluctuate. I have noticed a little bit of a dip in participation if it’s not something that [is] going to be enticing to the freshmen.”

Link Crew events like Kona Ice trucks for freshmen and hot chocolate during Cocoa and Cram finals study sessions are the most well-known. A current Link Crew leader said that few freshmen came out for Kona Ice in March, so they handed out tickets for a free shaved ice to anyone who walked by, although tickets had been reserved for only freshmen. 

What’s causing this drop in student involvement?

From the cheering crowds during Los Al’s football games in the fall to pep rallies throughout the school year, school spirit surrounding sports games and rallies is not severely lacking in Griffin life. However, programs to promote stronger relationships between students lose traction when students lose interest.

Sophomore Reese Poe attributes her disinterest to Los Al’s major size, which restricts opportunities for school involvement, along with the lack of themes behind these programs. 

“It’s not something wrong with the events, but I’m not interested in being a part of the school in that way,” Poe said. “Because the school is so big, it’s harder to get to know people, and especially in the middle of the year, it’s time-consuming. The effort is good, but there’s not a lot of people who want to participate in this as they think.”

The difficulty of integrating a school community as big as Los Al is incredibly difficult. With such a large student population, many students feel disconnected from the school and consider themselves individuals instead of one community.

As Los Al continues to make hefty purchases within the activities department, the school will need to withstand the trend of declining school spirit and capture Griffins’ interest. 

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    Jaya EapenMay 21, 2024 at 6:48 pm

    This was such a great article Jasmine! The research is so in-depth and this topic is so relevant to the culture of our school! Great job!