Since the days of the varsity sweater, school letters have been a symbol of accomplishment for athletes at high schools across the country. Thanks to a new law, students who take part in extracurriculars outside of sports will also be eligible to receive a letter.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, and Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-Somerset, earlier this year was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, giving school boards the choice to decide who can get a letter.

"The amount of school spirit, team work and dedication it takes to earn a varsity letter cannot be understated or undervalued," Allen said in a statement. "There are champions deserving of varsity letters in classrooms throughout New Jersey — and they aren't all athletes."

Allen said she believed by having more people eligible for letters, schools can encourage more students "to excel in every aspect of their lives."

In many districts, activities like band and chorus already are recognized as being on the varsity level, but Bateman said he hoped to see even more students get the recognition they deserve.

"All of these students put in the same time and energy," he said. "Honoring artistic and academic competitors in the same meaningful way we honor athletes is the right thing to do."

Under the law, districts that don't already have extracurricular activities or don't already award varsity letters would not be required to start.

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