Small Clubs Deserve More Appreciation

Parth Kotak, Opinion Editor

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The Technology Student Association (TSA) South-Central Regional Officer Council at the Regional Fair this past weekend.

Photo courtesy of Valerie Young (Henrico High School)
The Technology Student Association (TSA) South-Central Regional Officer Council at the Regional Fair this past weekend.

This past weekend, many students from our school were involved in a massive competition involving individuals or teams of students expressing knowledge about a variety of topics that are relevant to denizens of the world. No, I’m not talking about the Model UN Conference. I’m talking about the Technology Student Association’s South-Central Regional Conference. Or the Debate Team and Forensic Team’s VCFL State Finals. Or History Bowl’s State Championship Tournament. Or Robotics’ CHS District Event. I’m probably missing something else, too. Not that there is anything wrong with Model United Nations — I’m a member, after all — but I wonder how many underclassmen, the future of the school and the new recruits of most clubs, were familiar with these other events occurring simultaneously. Smaller clubs offer unique opportunities and add diversity to the options that students are able to pursue at this school, but oftentimes larger clubs accidentally crowd them out and diminish their efforts to advertise themselves.

To test my hypothesis, I asked Re Pereira (’19) a series of questions about a few of the smaller clubs at the school: whether she knew they existed, whether she knew when and where they met, and whether she knew whom to contact if she were interested in joining the club. I asked about Technology Student Association (TSA), Quizbowl, Science Fiction Club, History Bowl, Investment Club, DragonTech, the new UNICEF Club, and Creative Writing Club, clubs which I believe are unique and all under 20 regular members. TSA is a club which hosts a myriad of competitions at the regional, state, and national level, which are intertwined with STEM in some way: examples of competitions include System Control Technology (LEGO Robotics), Prepared Presentation, Website Design, and CAD Engineering. Quizbowl is a team general knowledge competition in which students compete against other schools, culminating in a nationals tournament. DragonTech is a club involved with programming; they plan on hosting a variety of workshops and lessons this spring. These clubs offer opportunities to students who are not particularly interested in the humanities, but perhaps science. Of the eight, she knew about three in detail, and about two in passing. She also did not know how to contact the clubs in order to join them, nor did she know when they met. Bailey Moro (’18), when questioned, expressed similar sentiments regarding these eight clubs.

Smaller clubs offer unique opportunities and add diversity to the options that students are able to pursue at this school, but oftentimes larger clubs accidentally crowd them out.”

Now, I realize that knowledge of the existence of the club does not necessarily translate into membership, but people can only join clubs after they know they exist. When freshmen are deciding which clubs to participate in at the beginning of the year, the larger clubs start off with a distinct advantage, because of their sheer numbers and the free publicity that grants them. The smaller clubs in turn attract a smaller share of the new class and either remain small or die off if they receive no new members to sustain themselves. Once a club dies, it is extremely difficult to revive because new members must be interested and already know that that club has existed in the past and can be revived.

The solution to this problem, I believe, is to create an exhaustive list of all clubs at this school, a brief synopsis of the club’s activities, their meeting times and places, their sponsors, and their current status — dormant or active — and perhaps post it to the school website and/or link it to ItsLearning. Although www.mlwgs.com attempts to document all of the clubs at the school (which includes clubs I have, after three years, still not heard of), the information is out of date and no additional information is displayed: one might leave the website with more new queries than questions answered. By making a comprehensive, up-to-date, informative guide about clubs easy to access, we can level the playing field when it comes to club recruiting for the incoming class of 2020.

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