Club advisers demonstrate flexibility amid coronavirus

What many clubs at Troy High are doing to ensure that students still enjoy a productive and engaging school year as their members.

Avril+Yu

Avril Yu

Avril Yu, Staff Reporter

Extracurriculars can be a great way for students to involve themselves in the areas they’re most passionate about. However, the recent complications set in place by the COVID-19 virus make the 2020-2021 school year look different in terms of clubs.

Even with the difficult situation, many club leaders and members have been handling the sudden transition to virtual participation with as much smoothness as possible. English and Social Studies teacher Jacqueline Ciolek, adviser for the Model United Nations club at Troy High, shares that she currently has 60-80 students attending virtual meetings each week. In Ciolek’s view, the new online format seems to have a unifying effect, instead of isolating everyone as expected. 

“What’s awesome is no matter what year you are in Model UN, everyone is a first year virtual Model UN student,” Ciolek said. 

Model UN’s distinctive aims and style of meeting can make the new form of online gatherings hard at times. Can you hold discussions in a Zoom meeting as smoothly, and does the bang of the gavel during sessions bring about the same alertness of attention?

“The challenge is those unique and organic in-person experiences and opportunities that Model UN has,” Ciolek said. “How do you still foster that online? How do you still protect what Model UN is in a virtual setting?” 

Other clubs that rely heavily on in-person meetings might also feel the burden of such a crucial element being taken away. Robotics is seeing a new way of conducting competitions this season.

“FIRST decided that this year’s game will remain mostly the same as last year so teams can re-use their robot as building a new robot may be very difficult this year due to lack of access to equipment and space,” John Tu, advisor for the Robotics club said. “…Currently, this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition format will be remote and teams are being asked to show off their robot capabilities and participate in various awards via remote judging sessions. However, FIRST in Michigan (the organization responsible for Michigan’s FIRST Robotics Competition) is still formulating possible in-person events with a much smaller number of robots and people competing at these events.”

Beyond competitions, Robotics is finding new ways to go about their usual activities as well, even in spite of the added difficulty of limited in-person meetings.

“Much of what our club does involves learning technologies to build our competition robot and promoting STEM via outreach,” Tu said. “Most of these can be converted to virtual online format, except for the physical robot construction. Once school resumes in-person learning, we will likely rotate a much smaller group of students (likely 5 or less) to work on our competition robot physically and safely. Most other activities will remain virtually online.” 

Forensics club, a club involved in the art of public speaking, is also focused on adapting to a virtual format. Harriet Clark, advisor for the forensics team and the TED-ed club notes the struggle with garnering interest for extracurriculars in a virtual setting. Since many clubs do not have an official platform, it leaves potential members out of the loop.

“It has been difficult to ensure that we are getting the word out to all of the students that would potentially be interested in joining TED-ed and Forensics,” Clark said. “My exec boards have been working hard to spread the word – more difficult in our current situation.”

Student Government, a club which hosts many of the major student events of Troy High, faces the potential cancellation of them this year. 

“Student Government is a club that conducts events, it’s what we’re known for and a big part of what we love about the club,” public representative and junior Alex Matthews said. “Not being able to run certain events or having to adjust to fit safety regulations has been difficult. However… at this time we believe that the physical well-being of our students must be prioritized.”

Even during current times, it is apparent that many students will continue to pursue their passions and engage in their respective clubs. Above all what binds students is standing in the face of that shared obstacle — the assuredness that while the future may be uncertain, actions do not have to be.