From Code Runners to Key Club to Women in STEAM, the opportunities for student engagement are high this school year—how can students learn how to get involved?
On Friday, October 21st, fifteen Oyster River High School (ORHS) clubs, both new and returning, will be participating in this year’s club fair. After a successful event last year, many of the school’s student-led groups will be running tables with the main focus of increasing engagement. Parents and family members will have the opportunity to learn about the various clubs that ORHS has to offer during the Open House event on Thursday, October 20th. Students will be able to walk over to the club fair the following morning, during the advisory and flex periods, to check out many of the available extra-curricular activities at the high school.
“The club fair allows students who may not know about a club already to learn and get an idea about what a club is all about,” says Tyler Hall (‘23), who started Key Club (Kiwanis Empowering Youth) this fall. Hall’s club is just one branch of an international organization that aims to support “leadership, personal development, and volunteer-based organizations” for high school students.
Mark Milliken, an assistant principal at ORHS, says that the high school’s theme of “Discover the Possibilities” coincides with the message of the club fair: discovering the different opportunities ORHS has to offer. “The goal is really just awareness, because we have so many [clubs].” However, Milliken believes that both families and students alike don’t have a full grasp of what groups are available.
Currently, club announcements can be read over the intercom along with other school updates, but a lack of consistent announcements has made it difficult for clubs to rely on the PA system as their means of communicating with the student body. Combined with potentially unread posters and social media posts, clubs can feel limited with their ability to reach a wide audience.
Olivia Van Ledtje (‘25) senses that many of her peers are unaware of the high school’s numerous club offerings. From a club leadership perspective, Van Ledtje believes that “it’s so incredibly difficult to try and get the message out,” citing personal challenges of advertising her new student group, Future Women in STEAM. Van Ledtje’s club features a guest speaker each month, provides the opportunity to learn about and explore potential careers in the STEAM field, and fosters a community of high school students interested in science.
Despite the obstacles of formal advertising, Van Ledtje and Sophia Duyon (‘24) have found that a big source of student engagement to be by word of mouth. Duyon cites her new membership of Sustainability Club as a result of an invitation from a friend. While this method can be helpful for some students who may have connections to different organizations, the club fair provides a resource to all interested students, regardless of prior knowledge or peer connections.
As an attender of last year’s event, Duyon found the 2021 club fair to be overall successful, discovering and joining a club that sparked her interest: Yearbook Club.
Cathi Stetson, a club advisor for various student-led groups, believes that “it is important for kids to have a club [where] they feel that they can make a difference or a place…that they can belong.” Stetson’s room has become the physical embodiment of a safe space for many students, including members of Code Runners, the Future Business Leaders of America, the Computer Science Honor Society, and potentially a new photography group. Stetson also advises the ORHS Dance Team and musicals.
Duyon says that participating in clubs is “a great way to join school culture. I know seniors in the past have always said to try and get involved in things and enjoy high school while it lasts.” Duyon has been taking advantage of the many opportunities to get involved and will be going to the club fair again this year to learn more about new student organizations.
In addition to increasing one’s role in the ORHS culture, Stetson encourages her students to participate in clubs as they foster new, long-lasting friendships with like-minded individuals, and provide an opportunity to join an organization that could continue on throughout a student’s college career.
Van Ledtje agrees with the benefits of getting involved, adding that extracurriculars allow students to explore their interests as well as develop and further learning done in the classroom. Founding the Future Women in STEAM club came from her passion for science, wanting to bridge the gender gap found particularly in the STEM field, and a desire to provide mentorship for elementary and middle school students.
Each of the fifteen clubs that signed up to participate in the club fair will have their own table with displays advertising their organization. Stetson and her students involved in representing their clubs on the 21st plan to “talk about what we do, what our goals are, what our vision statements are for each club… just to show students what we have [at our school],” as well as reusing the trifolds her students made for the 2021 club fair.
While Milliken acknowledges that an event like the club fair could be intimidating for students, he encourages pairing up with a friend. “Be brave and walk up and interact, because that’s what they’re there for.”
Duyon’s advice for ORHS students looking to get involved would be to “just go for it. I was [hesitant], definitely, but it ended up being good for me…I met new people I really like.”
Van Ledtje says, “You never know unless you try. I think that you should always go to the club fair just so you can see all the options. You never know…you might hear about something that you never even considered before, and you think ‘you know what, I’d love to try that.’” Come to the club fair on October 21st to support student leaders like Van Ledtje, meet new people, and to learn about the many extracurricular opportunities ORHS has to offer.
– Grace Webb