Avery McGrail • Online Editor
There are plenty of students spending several hours participating in band, theatre, and sports, but students who are willing to give up time for after-school clubs, or who even have time to, are in scarce supply.
The Gay-Straight Alliance is one club worried about attendance to meetings.
The Gay-Straight Alliance is a student-run club for students of all sexual orientations. It focuses on providing a safe, harassment-free environment for students to talk about any sexual orientation or sexual identity issues. More and more schools are including their own GSA and are working to create a positive, accepting atmosphere in the school environment. Hayes’s GSA program started long before advisors Ryan Schey and Ariel Upstrom began working at Hayes.
They’ve noticed that club attendance starts off strong but then dwindles.
“I think at the beginning of the year students come back and they’re like ‘yay! school! exciting!’,” Schey said, “and then during the year they get lazy, they get apathetic, they get busy with other things.”
The dying attendance may be a recurring pattern for the GSA, however, the past two years have been more prominent.
“Last year Ms. Uppstrom and I would show up and we’re like ‘So… just the two of us I see,’” Schey said. “The whole point is to have students in it.”
So far this school year, they’ve met once but they do plan to have more meetings and events to recruit new members. The Day of Silence, an event many GSAs participate in, usually gets a lot of participants. It is scheduled for this coming spring.
“When we don’t have people sitting at a lunch table to get sign-ups or publicize it, it makes it hard to make those things happen,” Uppstrom said. They also usually have an Ally day during October, which is currently on the cutting board.
Uppstrom said that there are two ways to look at the club attendance problem: positive and negative. The positive side is that the GSA is not necessary anymore. After so many years of existence and the work they’ve done, society (in the school) is progressing. Maybe it’s progressed to the point that there isn’t a lot of instances of bullying in the school.
However, on the negative end, Uppstrom worries that maybe there is a stigma to the group, or out students are afraid and don’t want to acknowledge where they’re coming from.
The GSA isn’t the only club feeling the hurt. Many other clubs are seeing empty yearbook group-shots.
Unfortunately, sometimes this lack of attendance makes clubs impossible to attend, because they are then no longer offered.
One of the most beloved clubs, The Muggle Alliance, is currently six feet under.
Worldwide, there are thousands of Harry Potter fans, so the inevitability of there being “Potterheads” in Hayes is very big. However, participation has decreased drastically in the past several years
“It’s really about what is in the interest of the adviser too,” said English teacher Mr. Hering. “We really want to buy into it as much as the students do.”
The group started when a few students, who knew about Hering’s love for the Harry Potter series, approached him and asked to help start up a Harry Potter-related club. The Muggle Alliance was then born. The club focused on Harry Potter-themed activities and held a quidditch match, the main sport of the wizarding world, against Buckeye Valley. As a part of their community involvement, they teamed up with Main Street Delaware and set up a Harry Potter themed First Friday, turning most of Downtown Delaware into ‘Diagon Alley,’ ‘Hogsmead’ and ‘Hogwarts’. That gloomy rainy night ended up being the biggest First Friday they’ve had, with over 1,000 costumed people showing up to participate.
Clubs like the Muggle Alliance face a challenge when no students are willing to take on the leadership of the club, and an even bigger problem when very enthusiastic students have scheduling conflicts or graduate.
“The key with clubs is it’s the students that make them happen,” Hering said. “It’s not fun to advise a group that doesn’t really have participation and enthusiasm, so the students have to make it happen.”
These sorts of organizations pull people out of their comfort zone and don’t look too shabby on college applications and resumes. It shows colleges that the student is well-rounded and willing to get involved in an academic setting. It also demonstrates a student’s leadership abilities if they’re the ones who initiated the club.
Organizations like band, thespians, and sports have many members for the same reasons. Teachers who run these groups are usually paid to do so, and therefore are more willing to devote their time and energy into it.
However, this isn’t true of advisers like Uppstrom, Schey and Hering, who desire the same amount of passion from their students that they have.
After school clubs aren’t a necessary aspect of school life, but they can help improve a student’s social confidence. Instead of spending time alone at home, students are spending time with people who they share a common interest with.
As long as the internet exists and teenagers have less and less time after school, there will be fewer students attending clubs.
“We need kids to let us know what they want to do so that we can make things happen,” Hering said, “or so that they can make things happen, I should say.” ϖ