True interest is the best motivation for club participation

February 8, 2018 — by Jeffrey Xu

Moreover, with lunches being only 35 minutes long, students often find it hard to do anything meaningful during the short club meetings, having to both eat lunch and navigate the school.

During Club Fair earlier this year, junior Ethan Ko was thrilled when 45 students signed up to be in RISE, a club that aims to raise interest in science and engineering through competitions and speaker events.

As the year went on, though, Ko, a vice president for RISE, began to feel a sense of disillusionment. Too often only 10 or so students would attend meeting, barely enough to maintain official club status.

Many club officers at the school, like Ko, find it difficult to encourage participation within their clubs, especially when there is a lack of interest in the subject itself.

Moreover, with lunches being only 35 minutes long, students often find it hard to do anything meaningful during the short club meetings, having to both eat lunch and navigate the school. This impels them to simply enjoy a free lunch period in their usual hangout spot with friends, rather than participating in clubs.

Often, officers try to solve this problem by incentifying participation, using rewards like free food and possible officership.

This creates another problem, which is that of choosing officers. With only a few positions available each year, it’s often hard to decide who to choose as leaders.

Toward the end of the school year, most clubs will have an application process to determine the officers for the following school year. This causes students pour a lot of effort into their club officer applications and makes it hard for the officers to assign positions without hurting anyone’s feelings.

However, according to senior Tiffany Huang, a leader in Math Club and the Computer Science Club, the actual application usually carries little weight.

“Officer selection is really a year-long process, with current officers observing which members are most dedicated and have brought the most to the club's culture,” Huang said. “In the end, it's months-worth of actions that determine who officers are, with the actually application form at the end being a ‘seal-the-deal’ kind of formality.”

The decisions are not always so straightforward — there are many factors at play when choosing officers, such as attendance, dedication, performance and connections. Sometimes, seniority also plays a role, and all of these factors combined can sometimes cause students to question the merit of these decisions.

Although this certainly isn’t the case for all clubs, there have been instances where younger siblings or friends were chosen just based on connections.

This same trend of students questioning officership decisions can also be seen in other schools in the area.

According to Monta Vista High sophomore Brandon Guo, one of the main incentives of club participation on campus is club officership, which is supposed to be based on attendance and dedication.

In actuality, however, Guo has noticed that officership is not always given to the right people. Instead, he believes that many decisions are based on other factors, often with nothing to do with the dedication of club members.

“Sometimes, it’s literally just connections, which really isn’t fair for a lot of the club members,” Guo said.

Similarly, sophomore Stephen Yang from Lynbrook High has also seen a trend of “nepotism” being practiced in the selection of club officers. Even with additional application procedures such as interviews and essays, positions are still often passed from friend to friend or even from sibling to sibling.

Yang believes that the selection process is more of a combination of many factors, including commitment, passion, attendance and performance, but just like in the corporate world, connections also play a role.

Although students at Lynbrook, Monta Vista and Saratoga alike may feel that poor officership decisions are a huge problem, Ko said that the root of this problem is not the selection process itself, but the fact that students care too much just for a title or another line on their resume. Rather than joining clubs as a boost for the college applications, Ko hopes students can use clubs to further develop their passions and talents.

Even with all of the ethical ambiguities that surround the operation of clubs, there are still many students like Ko who pursue clubs out of true interest.

For example, Ko sticks to his passion when he attends his regular club meetings, which include Math Club, Science Club and RISE Club.

Reflecting on his own past, Ko also hopes to share his experiences and inspire those who are not as familiar with clubs to give it a thought.

“Clubs are a really great resource, and freshmen should really take advantage of their freedom during lunch and invest their time in their interests,” Ko said. “Participating in clubs has also helped me make new friends who are passionate for the same topics as me, which really make clubs a rewarding experience overall.”

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