Education success: Extracurricular activities are essential

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- We all want our kids to do well in school, but parents who really want to guide their children to success also have to look outside the classroom. Seed Spot in downtown Phoenix is helping them do that.

"So I think so much of what happens in the school classroom is about education and knowledge," Seed Spot founder Courtney Klein said. "But how you apply that to the real world is something that we are trying to teach here."

Seed Spot is a non-profit incubator for entrepreneurs, but this summer it also was in the business of helping school kids succeed by immersing them in an intense course focused on launching a business.

"I think as a community, really looking at and investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs [is important], and so much of what sparks a young person materializes for the rest of their life."

Professor Deborah Ball at Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College says the Seed Spot program is right on spot.

"We know through research that kids that have more hours of experience outside the classroom do better in school," she said.

Ball says it is critical for parents to get their children involved in extracurricular activities.

"They see in their experiences -- whether it is gymnastics or hiking or going to a museum or going to a park or fishing or whatever the case may be -- it gives them experiences they can connect to the classroom as things come up. Those light bulbs start going off for the kids."

For Katia Lopes-Gilbert, the skills learned at Seed Spot and during internships are bringing classroom concepts to life.

"When you are in a surrounding like this, I would learn what it takes to push an idea through and make it actually happen, rather than learning how to memorize A, B and C," she said.

Seed Spot focuses on businesses tackling social issues, something Ball says is especially valuable.

"It also gives them a sense of social responsibility," she explained. "It helps with understanding democracy and how we make social change in our communities. It helps with things like, 'Why is it important for me to vote?'"

Extracurricular activities also teach time management and teamwork.

"We want to teach students how to talk and network and broadcast their ideas to a large audience," Seed Spot's Corrine Perry said.

Ball could not agree more.

"All of those things are going to build team skills," she said. "It helps students work collaboratively together. It helps with their communication skills, and that actually helps them in the classroom later on, as well."

Perry says students also learn what can be a hard, but valuable, lesson.

"There is always failure," she explained. "We are going to teach them how to fail at solving a problem and re-attacking it."

Lopes-Gilbert says the Seed Spot program gave her courage.

"[I learned] to have more faith in myself as to what I can accomplish," she said.

The goal is to build a framework of success that is in the classroom that is all around us, something Klein hopes will serve students for a lifetime,

"So if we can have an influence in a high school student's life now, to empower them to create change in the world forever, we have done a really good job," she said.

Seed Spot is accepting applications for its next program. For more information, check out