By: Emily Mao — School News Editor
Clubs have always been an integral part of student life at Sharon High School, as students are very highly motivated and want to create a meaningful impact in their community, whether that be through volunteer work, academic enrichment, mental health awareness, or public speaking.
Due to the late start to the school year and the approval process that each club had to go through, students, as well as club leaders, were left wondering how clubs would operate in the school’s hybrid learning model.
Students who chose to go full remote this year felt the isolating effect of not having activities to do after school to relieve stress. “I was very concerned about being joined and welcomed into clubs both because I am a freshman and because I am a full remote student,” said freshman Elle Gordon.
“I felt like I might get a less impactful or less fun experience in clubs this year because everyone has to participate on Zoom and it is my first year in any club,” said freshman Samah Hamid. Hamid is interested in participating in many speaking clubs such as Mock Trial and Model UN.
Underclassmen were not the only students with concerns, as club leaders scrambled to come up with plans for the upcoming year. Because the activities that each club performed and the approval time for each one was different, some clubs had an easier time transitioning than others.
For student government clubs like class planning boards, the pandemic did not affect participation or function. “The hybrid model has not really hurt us. We have a great elected body, and the 15 of us are developing contingency plans for everything as we speak to make sure that this great class has the best senior year possible,” said senior class president Rahem Hamid.
Similar to the senior class, junior class president Ciara McAuliffe says that because the board consisted of elected students, the only things she was worried about was class participation and upcoming events. “Even if we were to fundraise in the building, only some students depending on the cohort would be there, so it wouldn’t be the same. We now have to think outside-of-the-box to find ways to bridge the gap between in-person and remote students,” McAuliffe said.
Despite the fact that remote activities might not be as interesting as in-person ones, McAuliffe is confident that her class will still want to engage with their peers and attend any upcoming events.
While student government clubs have experienced a smooth transition, smaller clubs were not as fortunate. Samah Hamid’s worries about an incomplete club experience are also weighing on the minds of club leaders who must find a way to create an exciting and enriching experience for newcomers to retain them.
The pandemic has impacted clubs such as volunteer clubs more than others because their activities depend mostly on in-person events like fundraisers and bake sales.
Senior Lena Joy, who runs Habitat for Humanity, a club that sends students to help build ongoing house building projects in surrounding towns, says that she is afraid that it will impact participation in her club. “I think that people will probably not come as often because no one really loves sitting on zoom for an extended period of time, especially now that school is almost completely online,” said Joy.
Their club can no longer hold their annual dodgeball tournament in the gym as well as any baked good drives for Sharon police and firefighters. In terms of their builds, Joy says “the builds are very limited in the number of people who can volunteer. These opportunities have only returned since October and will be put on hold during the winter.”
Spanish Club, a volunteer club that visits a homeless shelter every month and holds gift drives, has had to rethink their entire operation, as in-person visits are no longer viable. “This year, our club’s main function is not possible, so we are desperately searching for a new and safe way to help the community,” said club leader Simone Dunbar. She was also looking forward to the club fair as a means of advertising, although she was wary that it would not be the same as past years.
Because of the late club fair, which usually takes place in September or October, clubs have had to do their own advertising in hopes of attracting incoming freshmen. “We just sent a bunch of freshmen to their first tournament, and had more people compete than at this same time last year. I think our shift in outreach given Covid-19 has been a success,” said senior debate captain Samid Khandaker.
“Without the club fair, we have had to do promotion on our own, and I think we did a good job,” he added. He also says that the remote model has boosted their participation because it eliminated transportation concerns for underclassmen and conflicting commitments.
In past years, the club fair was held in the cafeteria, where club leaders would set up poster boards and students could mill around and talk with club leaders and sign up. “The club fair was helpful for the situation…. In a normal year, I would think that each club would get more interest due to the in-person contact. I always felt more inclined to sign up when I saw the posters and received some candy and got to talk one on one with the club leaders. This year we were sort of robbed of that experience,” Dunbar said.
But despite the late start, the club fair, which was held on Zoom on November 18th, gave many different clubs the opportunity to recruit new students and give more information on what their club does during the school year. Fifty-six clubs participated in the Student Council sponsored fair, and 100 students joined via Zoom. “It was nice to be able to see most of the people who would be leading those clubs, and their explanations made clubs seem more appealing,” said Samah Hamid.
“To me, the virtual club fair helped because it is a lot less daunting to join a club when you see the people running it and how they are just other teenagers that are passionate about the same things as you, rather than a name on a slide,” said Gordon.
What is consistent among all students is that the sense of community and intimacy is missing from interacting behind a screen. The club fair was an opportunity to change that for freshmen who have not yet experienced the enthusiasm of Sharon High students.
“I am very excited to join clubs to meet people out of my classes and grade, and to get to have my voice heard more within the school community,” said Gordon.