West Broward clubs gets creative amid COVID-19 restrictions

by Makahla Charles and Elise Finlay

Due to the pandemic, clubs have had to find ways to keep their members safe and continue their normal activities. From social media to interactive game nights, new and innovative methods have been created to keep members engaged.

Broward County has implemented social distancing laws and new regulations to wear masks. Many programs and clubs have had to postpone their plans and activities temporarily in light of the pandemic and safety requirements. Others have chosen to continue their club activities through virtual meetings. Despite these sudden changes, club members have found new ways to stay motivated and engaged with classmates in a new setting. 

“It’s a group effort, so it’s hard to do when I’m not physically with people, but I think that we’re all still working on it, reaching out for help has been difficult, but has been what we’ve been overcoming,” said Art Club President Ember Horn.

CREATIVITY THROUGH ZOOM: Nicholas McDonald, a junior in the West Broward's Art Club, creates a picture based on a weekly prompt given at each club meeting. Through these meetings, the Art Club has found a creative way to showcase art with its members while also enjoying each other’s company.  Photo by Nicholas McDonald.

Prior to the pandemic and school shut down, clubs were able to meet after school. Some would plan fundraisers or prepare for competitions while others would use the time to socialize with peers. Each club had its own way to enjoy themselves and relish in their personal interests outside of academics. With the new restrictions and the switching to E-learning, members could no longer see one another in person and regularly participate in the benefits of their club. This made it not only difficult to get members engaged, but for meetings to be held at all.

“It’s hard to keep school spirit up because, again, we are virtual, and it’s hard to be excited about something that you can’t be in there in person for,” said the Vice President of the Student Government Association (SGA), Morgan Spencer, “People just don’t feel like doing anything, they’re just sad and depressed, because they’ve been through challenges.”

Some clubs are also having issues with gaining the attention of new members. Prior to COVID-19, many clubs relied on the student orientation event at the beginning of the year where clubs displayed their wares to help attract new members. As a new school year begins online and senior members graduate, their main attraction point is lost with no new members to gain in spite of the push through this year’s recruiting measures.  

“It [member count] decreased this year. And the main reason it decreased is, a lot of freshmen who normally get involved in it, didn’t get involved this year because they have no idea what is even going on,” said the Sponsor of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), Tony Shaw, “I got 65 members this year, as opposed to the last few years, where we had 120 or over 100 every year. The reason is because we didn’t get the 9th graders, so it affected that dramatically.” 

In order to continue the traditional activities of  the many club’s competitions, most have had to go virtual. Through the use of communication software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, clubs such as the Math Honor Society and the Debate Team, are able to host meetings and interact with one another in a similar fashion that they would in person.

“You would join the Zoom link that they provided at the correct time and then there would be a speaking order just like as if you were in person. Then, you would just stand up and present your speech and then sit back down.” said a member of the West Broward Debate Team, Ashritha Kallem.

Regardless of the changes clubs have had with the pandemic, they have continued to persevere and find new ways to connect with their friends. Now, more than ever, social media has played a key part in helping clubs promote their events and socialize with their peers. DECA kept members engaged through an interactive online scavenger hunt on their social media pages.

“We just recently did a social media scavenger hunt with our members that follow our social media. They could follow along with our social media scavenger hunt and basically find clues and put together a message, so that they could stay involved with the club and actually feel like they’re part of something.” said President of the DECA Club, Javier Hurst.

The West Broward Art Club has also motivated members each meeting through fun games and activities. They have created a project in which they create weekly drawing prompts and ice breakers. This has created an environment where members feel more comfortable and friendly with their peers. 

“Next meeting, we’re going to be doing Among Us characters. It’s really just for fun, so it’s usually just introductions and whatever the subject is that day. Typically, even after, we have a Discord server, where we talk, and even though it’s only a club on Fridays, we still talk to each other a lot, so it’s like the club never ends.” said Horn.

The SGA has also found ways to interact with club members through Fun Fridays or Thursdays. These are special days created by the club to come together through games and activities. They have provided a way for them to relax and learn more about their peers.

“We have Fun Fridays or Fun Thursdays, and that’s when we put on different games or activities to participate and just get to know each other better, and to have fun and get a break from doing school work,” said Spencer.

West Broward’s Drama Club has also assigned days where everyone can meet up and enjoy themselves. Despite the stress of the pandemic, they have created events called “family nights” in which members and their family can interact with one another and have fun.

“We do a bunch of family nights. We are really all about the family kind of aspect, so it’s really important for us,” said the President of Drama Club, Tabitha Santillan, “We just had a game night or sometimes a bowling night, just little things like that.”

GIVING BACK: Britney Borish, an 11th-grade member of the National Honor Society Club (NHS) is on her way to the Harvest Drive, a fundraiser to drop packages of goods to West Broward. NHS has managed to find ways around the pandemic in order to continue volunteering.  Photo by Britney Borish.

Although clubs are adapting, many continue to hope that next year things will go back to normal. Members and sponsors alike prefer their club before COVID-19 when they could meet in person, play music and games, and prepare for competitions. While clubs have tried to keep things as similar as possible to previous years, the differences are clear. In spite of this, many clubs continue to have hope for the future of school extracurriculars. 

“I think the rest of the school year, we most likely will at least have the opportunity to have some students meeting on campus. Honestly, by the end of this whole experience, everyone is going to be so thirsty and craving for human interaction that interest in group meetings and places where there are opportunities to be social will be very high.” said the Key Club Sponsor, Maria Bondoc.

The challenges that the pandemic has brought upon clubs has not stopped the many extra- curricular programs from persevering through new and inventive ways such as fun game nights and virtual competitions. Members now have a deeper understanding of the importance of socializing with peers and seeing people face to face. They believe everyone has gained an important life lesson to carry on with them. “I learned just to never give up, and that everyone is going through the times that we’re going through, and it’s hard. It’s put a strain on everybody, so sometimes you have to be patient with other people, and just let the year play out. There’s an end in sight.” said Hurst.

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