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Mayoral candidates tout extracurricular activities for CPS students

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Ballet was an important part of Rahm Emanuel’s youth.

Cheerleading and being captain of the women’s basketball team was probably what Carol Moseley Braun liked best as a teen, she said.

Miguel del Valle had ROTC, and Gery Chico played a lot of sports before he broke his hip freshman year of high school.

All four major candidates for mayor have been talking on the campaign trail about how important extra-curricular activities were for them and how important it will be for them as mayor to make sure that Chicago Public School students have access to music, the arts, sports and other extra-curricular activities.

“We’ve lost a lot of these activities due to budget cuts and I think they’re essential activities,” del Valle said. His participation in the Boys and Girls Clubs after school was so positive, he’s campaigning to get more schools hosting “community learning centers” and after-school programs to involve the whole family.

His time in ROTC at Lane and Roberto Clemente high schools taught him “a lot of discipline, an opportunity to develop leadership skills. By the time I graduated, I was a captain.”

Emanuel had progressed so far in ballet while a student at New Trier High School that he turned down a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet in New York. As teachers and parents have told him on the campaign trail that the schools need to devote more resources to the arts, he has responded, “I was a dancer, so I know how valuable those programs are.” Emanuel also played soccer in school, his spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said.

Braun has said on the campaign trail that the Chicago Public Schools’ focus on putting resources into selective enrollment academies has left fewer resources for extra-curricular activities at the neighborhood schools. Those are the very activities that made Parker High School, now Robeson High School, fun for her, she said.

“In my experience as school board president, I saw sports, music, the arts, as the tether line for a lot of kids to do better at school,” Chico said. “I saw students with violins being held together by duct tape, and at that moment we decided to appropriate more money to go out and buy musical instruments for our students.”

Chico played basketball, hockey, football and baseball in elementary school, and, even after his hip accident at Kelly High School, continued to play 16-inch softball.

“Never with a glove — that’s my test of a true Chicagoan — there’s nothing quite like the feeling of catching a new 16-inch softball with your hands,” Chico said.

Funding for extra-curriculars has slipped since he left the board, he said.

“There’s less money for extra-curriculars now,” Chico said. “You can see the regard it was held in when they threatened to cut sophomore sports a year ago.”

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