How has TGS students’ involvement in clubs changed over the years?

Club Article GraphicsOne can tell a lot about a high schooler by the clubs he/she involve themselves in; like her passions, ambitions, niche interests, or at the very least who her friends are. Yet it has been observed by many students since the beginning of the school year that there seems to be a drastic shortage of clubs on The Gregory School campus in comparison to years past.  So if we are to follow this philosophy of clubs being excellent indicators of who we are, you can’t tell much about The Gregory School students right now.

Numerically, from the 2013-2014 school year to the first semester of the 2014-2015 school year, The Gregory School has lost about four clubs of its previous number of thirteen and current nine, only adding two new clubs that had not existed before: Roots and Shoots, and International Club – yet even these had existed on campus prior to this year.

The remaining clubs in many cases while largely facilitated by students, have consistent faculty advisors that have ensured the club maintains interest and success year after year – like French Club (led by Mme. Amy Clashman), or Diversity Club (led by Dr. Michelle Berry).

While these clubs certainly demonstrate some of the finest examples of student leadership and cooperation on campus, it is also notable that these clubs boast the highest numbers of members, with anywhere from 9-16 at any meeting. It’s inevitably true that clubs strongly associated with faculty members are very well-known on campus, with recognizable activities and strong goals for their cause – and definitely more so than clubs without. These are the clubs that stay and have stayed for years.

However, not only has the overall number of clubs decreased this year, but also the average number of members per club. Sophomore Elaine Wright, co-president of the French Club, noted that far fewer students (only two) ran for president this year than the previous.

Other sophomore Anna Weesner, a member of the International Club, said, “There were a lot of people on the first day, and then the next day it shrunk down smaller and smaller. And even at the last meeting fewer people came.”

I think many people just want to say they were President.
— Jasmine Gordon, TGS Student

Student Jasmine Gordon, avid participant in both the French Club and International Club, noted a pattern between the two; “I think we lost members most right after the club president elections, because of college applications.” She explained, “I think many people just want to say they were president.”

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon impression among students and faculty of The Gregory School, nor the United States high school system in general. The idea that excessive college pressure motivates students to participate in activities not for their own enjoyment or enlightenment, but because it improves their college application, is not a new one.

This would certainly explain why students join clubs, and then leave when they are not elected president – evidence of leadership is a highly valued application buffer, and might very unfortunately lead to a student body that does not want to participate in projects that do not directly highlight their own attributes.

Gordon concluded on the subject, “I think the lack of clubs is more just because people are really busy.” So for many people, clubs simply don’t factor into the equation of their own time management; probably meaning that clubs inherently hold less value than other activities to them.

This is a depressing depiction of The Gregory School student body and hopefully not an entirely accurate one. Many students don’t see apathy on campus at all, and instead believe the lack of clubs is simply a result of losing the hugely impassioned, illustrative senior class of 2014, who facilitated many of the previous year’s clubs, leading to their demise this year. Or maybe just a natural cycle in the amount of clubs – some years it decreases, others it increases.

The school made more of an effort to start clubs last year than they did this year.
— Elaine Wright, TGS Sophomore

Berry reasoned this phenomenon with the idea that much of the school environment is determined by the students, “If we have students that are really engaged and fired up about the school, then we have lots of people at sports games with lots of enthusiasm and a variety of passions.” She concluded, “It depends on the leadership abilities and the personality of the student body to organize these clubs. Which I think is both good and bad.”

Some students, like Wright, believe the school “made more of an effort to start clubs and have people join clubs last year than they did this year.” This culminated in many new and old students alike simply being unaware that clubs existed, nor how to find them.

After all, there is no real faculty member or student group dedicated to the organization of clubs, possibly making it difficult for students to really understand what a club actually constitutes of. This is a possible justification for why students believe there seem to be hardly any clubs: they don’t think clubs exist as a result of little marketing, even when they do.

The truth, though, is that high schools and colleges alike place value on clubs not only because they encourage peer leadership, teach students how to fundraise, or give rise to recognition of important ideas and passions on campus: but they’re also fun. “I think it’s kind of fun just to be part of the community and meet people who are interested in the same thing as you,” Gordon summed up.

The real dilemma for the club shortage might merely lie in teaching students how to participate in school activities for fun again.

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