Extra-Curricular Activities Can Help Pay for College

Extra-Curricular Activities Pay Big Dividends

On Tuesday evening, David and I attended ELK Untapped. It was a community outreach and fundraiser for the Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) organization. It opened our eyes to extra-curricular activities for children, including underserved children, to lay the groundwork for future success and find additional means to help pay for college. Extra-curricular activities, like this strategy, are great ways to get college paid for by someone else so you can graduate college debt free.

ELK is a 501(c)3 organization (a tax-exempt non-profit organization) created by two biologists, Stacie and Scott Gilmore. ELK’s mission is to reach underserved youths to inspire and teach them about science, math, leadership and careers, according to its website.

A friend of ours, who is an ELK board member, invited us. It was the first time we had been exposed to the organization. The fundraiser offered a couple of beers and discounted food for $35 from Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, a local microbrewery. Our friend apparently knows our motivations.

How They are Helping

We learned some statistics about ELK that excited us. Because I had more than the two beers offered with our tickets, I pulled the statistics from ELK’s website. My apologies to Jolynn Crownover, ELK’s Development Director, who was kind enough to share these statistics and answer our barrage of questions.

  • ELK serves over 5,000 youths annually through a combination of in-school and after-school programs
  • 100% of ELK’s youth members graduated high school between 2011 and 2013, 90%+ since its founding
  • 60% of tracked ELK alumni are studying for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) career
  • ELK has helped its youth members raise $750,000 in college scholarships

These statistics made us think about the escalating cost of college and graduate level education. Between the 2002-2003 and the 2012-2013 school years, tuition and fees, inclusive of room and board, for public four-year schools increased 3.8%. Average annual wages, as we mentioned earlier this week, have increased 0.84% since 1982.

Wages have not kept up with the rate of post-secondary education and that makes it difficult for parents to pay for college. This leaves students to fend for themselves and requires them to take on ever-inflating loans with ever-deflating prospects of a job within their career of choice post-graduation.

Organizations such as ELK and their extra-curricular activities help students, including those in underserved populations, to graduate high school, earn a college degree, and position themselves for future success. This is not to say that simply being a member of such an organization makes it easy to raise money for college, nor is it easy to participate in such an organization while in grade school or high school. It is to say that there are organizations that make the opportunity possible. As Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”

By participating in the right extra-curricular activities in grade school and high school and networking with the right people, students who wish to go onto college can get some help for a successful future, including some money to help pay for post-secondary education. Even those who do not wish to go onto college can increase their chance of graduating high school, increasing their chance of success in adulthood. That is success in itself.

Our advice to grade school and high school students is to find all the extra-curricular activities available to you and take advantage of them. That way they can supplement other strategies to graduate college with $0 in student loan debt.

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