The student news source of Iowa City West High

Paying it forward

September 28, 2021

In an effort to minimize disparities for students who want to participate in extracurriculars, individuals and organizations have proposed several initiatives. According to West High Principal Mitch Gross, the district has been discussing measures to tackle barriers to extracurricular participation, primarily in transportation.

“There has been a push to have activity buses that will provide transportation for students … to take kids to and from [sports] practices,” Gross said.

However, with the cost to provide busing in addition to staffing shortages, it is not known when the ICCSD will implement a solution like this.

To the anonymous source, the school should continue to work toward fulfilling limited resources for all students.

“There should be more of those [resources] set in place that can help people who are eager to do this but do not have the resources,” the anonymous source said.

Student Family Advocate Annie Gudenkauf works to create additional solutions for students without transportation to address this ongoing issue.

“What we typically do with students that have issues with transportation … is to coordinate creative ways to get around, whether that be them purchasing a bus pass, identifying someone they can get a ride with or walking,” Gudenkauf said. “It is a very inequitable situation that disproportionately affects low-income students.”

For athletics specifically, Craig believes that a coach’s role is to bridge the gap between socioeconomic status and participation in sports.

“I think there are a lot of ways all sports are negatively impacted by financial disparities,” Craig said. “I think part of our job is to close that gap as much as possible.”

As part of an initiative to achieve this objective, Craig is currently working on implementing the Harvest City Fly the W scholarship for four-year track athletes on the West boys track team.

“The scholarship was set up to be able to help a four-year member of our team get some money to make college accessible for them. It honors their commitment to our team for four years but also is a reward for spending their time and energy with us,” Craig said. “Since our team is full of people from multiple backgrounds, we want to help all people achieve their goals and dream big. Our scholarship of $1,000 will help in that regard.”

However, the scholarship is currently in need of further funding to launch.

“We are currently only at $6,000 of the required [amount] by the ICCSD to make it a legitimate scholarship. We need and will take any and all support in this regard,” Craig said.

Craig also proposes additional opportunities for low-income athletes.

“Having a day at the beginning of each trimester available [for athletes] to get their physical and making the ‘permission to practice’ form a simple checkbox when they register would be easier,” Craig said. “Any kind of free sessions where potential athletes can get to know the coaches and what each sport is about — this could include free camps.”

To address the lack of resources for athletes, Alaya believes West should increase its supply of available sports equipment for those who need it.

“We need to see West High providing more equipment to everyone,” Alaya said. “For running, we’re expected to buy our own running shoes, track spikes and watches. The only thing we really receive is a uniform, and I think they could do a better job, especially for low-income families, to provide that equipment.”

One of the goals that Welch has worked on as the district performance music coordinator is recruiting more musicians of diverse backgrounds and creating additional opportunities for everyone.

“We have a committee of people looking into finding different performance music opportunities and general music opportunities that we can offer at the high school level,” Welch said. “We’re working with them, translators and various resources at different levels [and] getting our recruitment resources out to all the members of our community.”

Although it is part of her job as an SFA to advocate to the administration, Gudenkauf also believes in the power that families hold to fight for change.

“I am a big fan of community members sharing their stories of barriers to school and demanding better,” Gudenkauf said. “This has historically been what gets those in power to listen and change things.”

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