Wilson clubs offer virtual options during COVID-19

Hadley Carr

When STEP becomes lunch with your family, and before school evolves into more time to sleep in, there’s not much time, or motivation, for clubs to meet. Fortunately, clubs at Wilson such as the Jewish Student Union (JSU), Best Buddies, the Sexual Assault and Prevention Committee (SAAP), and Common Ground have been able to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances to hold club meetings.

JSU aims to, “not only provide a safe space for Jewish students but to open conversations about the Holocaust, current events, and all things Jewish,” Vice President Sophie Gross said. Before COVID-19, JSU would fill their meetings with snacks and discussion and, unlike many clubs, Gross said their agenda hasn’t changed. In fact, the club has had more time to prepare for meetings. However, it isn’t all fun and dreidel. The JSU will miss the field trip they were planning to the Holocaust museum along with many other celebrations. Among the most anticipated were the celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and their annual Hanukkah party filled with latkes, dreidel, Kahoot, donuts, and more.

JSU isn’t the only club missing the chance to party. Best Buddies missed their “biggest event of the year, Best Buddies prom, where students from Best Buddies chapters all over the DC and Virginia area celebrate prom with dancing and dinner,” club President Geneva Jacobs said. Created with the goal to foster friendships between students with disabilities and those without, Best Buddies may also miss their Friendship Walk in October and their annual Thanksgiving party. Unfortunately for Best Buddies, the transition to a virtual club has been difficult. The club hasn’t been able to meet as frequently since shifting from “regular meetings twice a month to being scrambled and confused about managing such an [interaction-based] club online,” Jacobs said. The club has also struggled to gain new members this year, having to turn to social media in place of the typical in-person club fair and posters in the hallway.

While SAAP has also had trouble recruiting new members, the virtual experience has allowed it to expand beyond a Wilson audience.

SAAP was formed to spread awareness about sexual violence through educating and providing resources to the Wilson community. Meeting throughout the summer and working on their own time, SAAP has been able to hold bi-weekly seminars discussing topics related to sexual violence. In their past seminar, SAAP had students from five schools across the District. Hiram Valladares, Founder and Director of SAAP, found that, “it’s so much easier to be more inclusive and expand [when the club is virtual].” However, the dynamic between meeting in-person and meeting online is extremely different. “When you’re meeting in-person you get to see someone’s emotions, someone’s expressions, the way people say things. Online you lose that sense of humanity in a way, especially for these pretty difficult conversations,” Valladares said. With organized seminars and distribution of information, Valladares believes SAAP has adapted well to the circumstances, attributing their success to the close community. “We’ve all grown closer over the past few months of working together, so I feel like it was easier to adapt and change our schedules.”

Common Ground also offers opportunities for students to engage in meaningful discussion. The club’s objective is to, “create constructive discourse around social issues and find solutions,” Junior Leader Salif Bumbaugh said. For Common Ground, which regularly met bi-monthly over the summer, Bumbaugh doesn’t expect any drastic changes.  But unlike most clubs during these times, Common Ground has been growing since last year. “There were consistently 10-15 people in every meeting. Now it isn’t out of the ordinary to have 50 people at a meeting,” Bumbaugh said. Bumbaugh credits the club’s growth to the past year’s club leaders, Annalucia Parra-Jordan and Sarah Morgan. “They have done such a great job putting together educational powerpoints and fostering a space for dialogue and questions.”

JSU, Best Buddies, SAAP, and Common Ground are among the many clubs adjusting to the virtual environment. While building friendships and holding profound discussions is difficult in a virtual environment, these clubs have taken the most important step: meeting.