A Personal Opinion on Packer’s Clubs
Above: Isaac Aguilar (’18) and Andres Antonio (’19) advocating for their club, Sabores Latinos, during the club fair this past September.
My first encounter with student-led clubs came during my first week of Freshman year. Coming from a school where very little free time was provided, I thought clubs were the perfect opportunity to explore my various interests. So, I eagerly looked forward to the club fair: the club system’s marquee event.
Finally, the day came. What felt like hundreds of clubs lined the sides of the cafeteria and the student center. Upperclassmen stood behind their makeshift tables and shouted at the top of their lungs to attract members. Each organization had candy or baked goods . The leaders would pull kids aside and pitch their ideas, and simultaneously tell them how horrible their competitors were. While I thought the commotion was a sign of a deeply engaged and invested student body, it was rather a representation of our chaotic club system. Four years later my view of clubs has changed for the better, and so has Packer’s.
When I think of clubs, I think of student-run organizations which bring people who have specific interests or shared beliefs together. Leaders, students who are deeply engaged in the subject matter, prompt their fellow students to think and explore.
”They’re important because they provide an outlet for students to meet each other and provide a space for them to have a good time doing things they enjoy,” said Sam Tecotzky (‘18), a student who is very involved in the club system, while discussing the importance of clubs.
These beliefs are also in line with Packer’s, as according to our school’s website description of our club system, “A wide range of school-sponsored clubs and activities expand classroom learning and offer the opportunity to pursue interests outside of the curriculum.” However, as any Packer student knows, our school’s club system has always been in turmoil.
In the past, dozens of “fake” clubs and leaders gave the system a bad reputation. Many clubs didn’t even meet, serving as a reminder of the lack of regulation. Leadership positions were given out far too frequently, and often to students who didn’t deserve them.
“When I first got here, a lot of our clubs had like eight club leaders, and that was very problematic,” said Ms. Bishop, speaking to the tumultuous state of the club system when she first arrived at Packer.
The system’s phony clubs and leaders had a cause and effect relationship, leading to the dissolution of many of Packer’s longstanding clubs.
I thought that the hectic schedules of most students assured a lack of time and interest, leading to a system filled with phony clubs and leadership positions. In my opinion, clubs solely serve as a way to fluff up college applications. My prior beliefs, established four years ago, have undergone a serious shift through my involvement in clubs and the transformation the system has undergone.
College has always played an integral role in most students’ interest in clubs. Being that Packer is a college preparatory school, there are constant reminders of the need to participate in a multitude of extracurriculars.
“There’s a lot of pressure on students at Packer, to try to present a resume to colleges that’s packed with clubs and extracurriculars. Though I do think there are a lot of people who make and enjoy clubs, there’s always someone in the background telling them that they need to participate in clubs,” echoed Sam.
While Sam’s statement still holds true for a small portion of the Packer population, it seems to not have as large of an affect on the club system. In the past, plenty of seniors created clubs as impressive facades for their college applications. Over the past few years, the reduction of these new, senior-led clubs has been a catalyst in the resurrection of Packer’s club system.
“In my first year it was like all of these clubs that had never existed were being started by seniors. However, most of the clubs this fall existed previously,” Ms. Bishop pointed out.
The shift that Ms. Bishop described is drastic. This year there are only three solely senior led clubs that are new to Packer’s club system. The leaders of MIT Launch X, Geography CLub and Spanish Book Club seem to be devoted leaders with serious clubs. This speaks to the growth in underclassmen leadership, something Ms. Bishop deemed essential for a club’s long term success.
“Packer’s most successful clubs build leadership in underclassmen and don’t just say this is a senior club. It’s the idea of, do I build a legacy, or do I build a one year thing? The legacy approach is better and more successful.“ said Ms. Bishop.
Consistency and time, values that are abundant throughout Packer’s system, are what drive a club’s success. These two traits have driven our clubs out of their former despair and into a new era where clubs may actually mean something.
A criticism of the club system that has always been pertinent is their completely autonomous nature. While it promotes leadership and responsibility, absolute freedom can leave clubs in chaos and disarray. Over the past few years, there have also been reforms targeting this issue. As a result, there is now a rule, which makes the presence of a faculty advisor mandatory for all club meetings. This important advance has ensured that clubs be in control and run smoothly.
This year, when I walked into our annual club fair for the fourth and final time, the scene on the fourth floor math quad felt very familiar. Still, leaders shouted at stranger and friend alike and tables and posters were messily arranged throughout the rooms. And yet, this apparently chaotic scene gave me a different impression than three years ago. It may just be because I’ve been involved in the club system or because I’ve grown accustomed to the antics. But there was something about the way in which the commotion was displayed. People seemed to be genuinely interested and eager to begin an adventure with others who shared their passions.