• Elliot Greenbaum

Clubs Adapt Amid COVID-19

Updated: May 3

Once upon a time, Greenwich High School was bursting from morning till night with every extracurricular club imaginable. With over 120 clubs ranging from environmental action to cooking to sports, GHS offers an impressive array of after-school options. Yet, now it’s quite different.

At the beginning of the school year, the GHS administration sent out an email notifying students that clubs would have to meet virtually and not be allowed to fundraise (except with local companies). Due to these restrictions, many clubs have had to overcome severe bottlenecks in order to continue to provide a social outlet for students.

The harsh realities facing some clubs have made it impossible to operate online, forcing them to go “on hold” for this year. Some of the clubs that had to shut down include the Ping Pong Club, Dance Club and Cardinal Crazies, the ever-popular school sports fan section which promotes school spirit at sporting events.

Luke Christensen, a president of Cardinal Crazies, said, “Since the beginning of high school, I had a goal of becoming a Cardinal Crazies president. With all of the new restrictions to attending events, we were forced to go on hold. We may open up in the future, depending on if fans are allowed at games.”

The fate of other clubs have been different, and Model United Nations (MUN), the single most populated club at the high school, has stayed open and is running strong.

MUN, a simulation of the UN General Assembly, has students participate in conferences where they roleplay UN delegates and committees. Due to COVID, conferences this year have been held virtually using either Zoom or “Gatherly,” a spatial video chat application where users can move their icon around on a map and get paired up with people in their proximity.

The new changes have not stopped leaders from remaining extremely active, and the club has been as involved as ever. So far this year, Model UN has taken part in summer programs and several conferences, including one hosted by the College of William & Mary which took place virtually over two separate weekends in October and November.

Co-President Skyler McDonnell said, “With online conferences, it’s much easier to participate in events and for people to get involved in the club than ever before. There used to be a high barrier to entry as you would need to get on a bus, stay in a hotel, have a meal plan... now it only costs around $25 per person so you don’t have to worry about the financial aspect as much.”

Although MUN has had great successes this year, it has not been immune to the challenges of meeting virtually.

Wyatt Radzin, another co-president, said, “Maintaining the same sense of community is definitely one of the biggest challenges, and not having all of the casual side conversations really does make a difference.” In order to address this, the leaders have hosted post-conference debriefs as well as informal events where members get together to play a fun game.

Another club that has flourished is YNet, a youth-led activism group dedicated to spreading awareness about teen dating violence, domestic abuse and unhealthy relationships. In the past, they have organized events including buddy parties, where club members would pair up with children who used domestic abuse services at the YWCA and engage in bonding activities such as preparing Rice Krispies Treats and making origami. Other events the club would pursue involve making cards or paintings. With in-person events restricted this year, YNet has had to find other ways to make an impact, and they have done so by hosting speakers.

Social media post advertising one of YNet's virtual events (Credit: Ana DeMakes)

One of the speakers, Rosie Enyart, the youth engagement and community educator at the YWCA and a sexual assault counselor, spoke to members about the brain and the psychology of trauma. In addition to hosting speakers, the club has been more active on social media and has organized discussions and educational meetings.

Jennie Olmsted, a leader of YNet, expressed that the club has had great member retention this year in particular. She said, “As opposed to the in-person club fair where kids just sign up and don’t actually end up going, this year you actually have to take steps to join a club, making it more likely you will stay involved. We have a lot of freshmen who have great ideas.”

While there have been challenges this year, many of the extracurricular clubs at GHS have survived and some have even thrived. Club leaders and all participating students should be proud of their commitment.