State championship sports teams get plenty of fanfare, but what has Lynden School excited is that roughly 70% of all Lynden High School students are involved in either an activity, after-school club or program or athletics. That’s a number that helps create connection within the school and a connection that leads to better engagement with academics.
The diversity of those opportunities abounds. Lynden High has seen participation skyrocket in activities, athletics and clubs since the pandemic, now with record-setting numbers across the board. From FFA to FBLA and athletics to drama or even band to Knowledge Bowl and Impact Club to Teen Court. There’s an option for interest levels of all sorts.
“We are ahead here in engaging students,” says Mike McKee, LHS athletic director and ASB supervisor. “We are helping students make connections and get together with like-minded peers with similar interests.”
Lynden is set up with a variety of ways to get involved. An activity period is built into each Wednesday’s class schedule, giving a chance for students to connect with others with similar interests. Sometimes those activities turn into full-blown after-school clubs.
Some of the largest are FFA, FBLA and Knowledge Bowl. But that’s not all. The Lynden Drama program routinely has about 75 students involved in the task of putting on the spring musical. The Lynden High Pep Band has ballooned in size and scope, most recently with about 65 students involved. Athletics has taken off, with 353 students participating in spring sports alone at Lynden in 2023. While the athletic numbers are tough to quantify exactly because some students participate in more than one season of sports, 314 students participated in the fall, 124 in the winter and 353 this spring.
“It is a lot,” McKee says about the participation numbers. “When you start pulling it out, I look at the total number of students involved in our activities and clubs, and the number includes a few more students in activities than sports. We have well over 50% of our population, likely closer to 70%, involved in something that was beyond attending school.”
McKee says that at every turn, whether athletics or otherwise, the coaches, teachers and leaders are working to be the best at what they’re involved in. Still, the real goal is students “making connections and being part of something bigger than themselves, that is by far the biggest part of what we do.”
Having a mix of competitive options and non-competitive choices ensures more students find a path fit for them. And hosting an activity period during the school day is critical to help some students who otherwise couldn’t participate because of after-school transportation issues. “Trying to get them with others with like interests gives them a better chance to create friendships,” McKee says. “When students want to be a part of these clubs and activities, they are excited to go to school. With the right mindset, that’s where the magic happens. It is very wise to make it a priority for our students to make connections.”
Connections happen across clubs. FFA has nearly 90 students involved in it this year. “I think it is the ability to be involved in something,” John Grubbs, FFA advisor, says about the interest. “We really like to develop their speaking skills and set them up for success to communicate in the real world by using contests and other activities. It gives them a good foundation for after high school and being comfortable in front of people.”
Jordan VanderVeen, LHS teacher and lead for Knowledge Bowl and Honor’s Society, says the roughly 20 students he took to the Knowledge Bowl District Playoffs gave students “an exciting opportunity to display their knowledge in a fast-paced team-oriented competitive environment,” an added wrinkle they wouldn’t have otherwise had just in a regular academic day.
“The National Honor Society signifies more than achieving good grades,” says LHS senior Sierra Wyant, “it provides opportunities for students who want to give back to their community. From tutoring at both LHS and LMS to involvement in our local retirement homes, we have the opportunity serve our community while also developing important leadership skills and personal growth. It is an honor to be a part of an organization that places great value on service and makes a difference in the lives of others. “
Trevor Galligan, band director, says band offers students to “contribute to the school culture with their varsity-level musicianship. Being in band also teaches students strong character skills as they work together to create a perfect product.”
The participation is growing at Lynden Middle School too. “I believe participating in clubs, activities and sports at school helps students get connected to school and create a sense of belonging,” says Cyndi Selcho, LMS assistant principal. “When students feel like they belong, they take pride in their school and enjoy being part of something greater than themselves. Simply put, students who enjoy coming to school come to school, and therefore do better in school.”
At LMS, clubs include Woodshop Club, Young Author’s Club, Jazz Band, Glee Club, Drama Club and Art Club. Over half of the LMS students participate in at least one club or sport over the school year.
Selcho says her time in Lynden and the connections she created there is a major reason she’s involved in the district now. “One of the best parts of my job is working with students to create opportunities for them to get connected to each other and their school community,” she says. “It is a big reason why I returned to work in the district. I will never forget my experience of being a Lynden Lion and now I get to share that feeling of belonging with my students.”