Is PR Ignoring the Arts and Academic Activities?

Three students give their thoughts


In American high schools, no school-sponsored activities are put on quite as high a pedestal as athletics. It’s more than commonplace for winning basketball, baseball, and especially football teams to be touted as one of their school’s biggest achievements and notable features, but at some schools, the consequences of placing a spotlight so firmly on athletics are beginning to come into focus- and Prairie Ridge seems to be no exception. 

In recent years, Prairie Ridge has been notable for our football department, largely due to winning State titles in 2011 and then back-to-back in 2016 and 2017. And yet despite not following those successes at State up again within the last four years, it’s safe to say that the attention of the PR community is still firmly set on football. 

Could this hyper-fixation be pushing activities based in the arts and academics off to the side?

Arya Aitipamula, a junior primarily involved in academic activities such as the Math and Scholastic Teams, believes so, saying that “the [PR] community as a whole” has “not really” shown support for non-athletic activities. Of course, there is something to be said about athletic activities being easier to support than others, which Arya took into account. “I get the fact that the community can’t directly support academic clubs like sports, like how they can go sit and watch the game,” she said, “but they could definitely do more. Even something small, like making more posts about us and showing their support that way.” 

These feelings are mirrored by those involved in the arts, too. Junior Ramsey El Lethy, who has taken on lead roles in the past year’s productions of the fall play and musical, says, “I definitely don’t think [the support given to athletics and other types of activities] are equal.” He chalks most of it up to personal preference, noting that “you can’t expect everyone to like theater as much as football or football as much as theater,” but still believes there is a clear gap in support. 

And some athletics have even begun to feel the effects of being seen as second-class to more “fan-worthy” sports like football. Lacrosse player and wrestler Eddie Ferree thinks that Prairie Ridge supports sports in general, but “not lacrosse,” stating that it’s clear other teams such as football and baseball are given priority when there’s a conflict in field use and scheduling. Lacrosse “just started,” he explained, “and it’s hard to find game time for home and even for practice. It’s [less prioritized] for sure… especially [when it comes to] the fields and where we play.” 

But still, there is a distinction to be made between receiving support and receiving recognition, which is arguably just as important. Are academic clubs and the arts receiving their fair share of commendation for their accomplishments?

Arya Aitipamula doesn’t think academic clubs are. She remembers “for Science Olympiad a couple of years ago, we came first at State, and they like mentioned it twice I think. That’s it. And football gets a parade down the hallway for going to State and they don’t even win.” She also said that it feels like when academic clubs “get trophies and… get plaques… it’ll just get taken down in a couple of weeks” while sports teams that get trophies keep them on display in the hallways permanently. 

And again, there’s a similarity to be found in the arts. Ramsey El Lethy says “for choir there’s this All-State level group of singers that you have to audition to every year… and it’s a pretty cool thing, and it’s really hard to get into, and those people deserve recognition but there’s no parading” or real attention given to them. He went on, saying, “When you have a group of people that put together something really amazing, they deserve recognition – that’s how it always is – but at PR and a lot of other schools that aren’t really invested in the arts, I think you won’t find a lot of that.” 

But still, does entitlement to recognition go beyond the simple principle of what is deserved?

Eddie Ferree thinks so. According to him, the arts and academic activities “do deserve a lot of attention because in the future it’s really impactful for students since they can put that on their college applications.” He went on to say, “The people involved in those activities work just as hard [as athletes] and there’s a big time commitment” and not giving them recognition can be damaging in a lot of ways. 

It appears to be clear these three students hold a belief that, yes, the arts and academic activities do indeed get less support and recognition than their athletic counterparts, but the question of whether or not PR’s extracurricular culture needs to or will change remains to be seen and will most likely depend on individuals in the student body to make that change or leave things as is. 

As someone who has fingers in all of the academic, athletic, and artistic pots of extracurriculars, I believe we do need to move away from normalizing the relative ignoring of some activities to hoist up others, especially since, as Eddie Ferree pointed out, everyone in all different types of activities put in a whole lot of work, effort, and time. The best way to make some change would be to start small: go to a fundraiser for an academic club you’re not involved in; go to or stream a show our Arts Department is putting on; go to a band or choir concert. Nothing big, nothing expensive: a little will go a long way, and the hope is that a slow but steady movement towards equal support and recognition will give way to a new reality.