Distance learning poses challenges for clubs Advisers and board members adjust volunteer hour requirements, host virtual meetings

NHS uses Google Classroom to collaborate and share announcements with students. For their first meeting, they are trying to reconnect with members after summer. “We hope to find different ways to connect virtually, do small group activities, and provide community service opportunities that don't involve face to face interactions,” NHS adviser Laura Penrod said.

Now that students are back to school, there’s another piece to fit into the complicated puzzle of virtual school: extracurricular activities.

Clubs like Key Club and HOSA will begin their first meetings of the year with Google Meet, and will use Canvas or Google Classroom to let members know what’s happening. Breakout rooms are also being used in meetings to help allow for smaller group discussions, such as committee meetings.

“We’re still trying to implement more interactive and fun components into our club meetings to make sure everyone stays engaged,” HOSA president Kylie Mao said. “In addition, the dynamic of volunteering has been probably the most major change. Instead of physically going out to events, we’ve been trying to implement a lot more virtual opportunities and networking with different organizations to provide more options for our members to get involved in their community during these times.”

It is one of their goals for clubs to continue operating under the circumstances. The Speech and Debate team, for example, is using this time to maintain and increase their membership.

“Our team will continue to make an impact [on the school] by reconceptualizing how we recruit new members,” Speech and Debate adviser Henry Castillo said. “Delivering speeches competitively is not an easy task for newcomers, so I’m hoping this new virtual setting may encourage new members to participate. Eventually, we will return to in-person tournaments across the Las Vegas valley; until then, newcomers can find peace knowing they can compete online! Sometimes these small steps can make a world of difference in terms of recruiting and sustaining membership.”

With the reduction of volunteer opportunities, clubs that require service hours, such as Key Club, NHS and HOSA, are trying to make it work. 

“We don’t have concrete plans yet, but hoping to have virtual opportunities for community service as we did in the spring,” NHS adviser Laura Penrod said. “[Activities] such as cards for health care workers, making masks, donating money to food banks or organizations in need, guest speakers, [and] virtual ‘walks.’”

For other clubs, like Student Council, there are challenges in trying to figure out how their meetings and their school projects will work. They also have to figure out how to maintain school spirit in the school even though students aren’t on campus. 

“I foresee Student Council making lots of videos for support to our school, along with creating spirit days to get students and teachers excited about school spirit/online learning,” Class of 2022 Vice President Claire Cuddihy said. “As a club, we have to adapt to the situation. Obviously, we would’ve liked to be in school, but we have to learn to communicate with each other better in order to maintain leadership as a whole.”

Normally a hands-on club, Student Council plans welcome back week, homecoming and prom, among other smaller activities throughout the year. As students are unable to meet in groups of over 10 people, their larger activities need an alternative. They instead are focusing on producing a sense of school spirit in the student body. 

“A lot of [what we’re doing] has to do with building a community or building a climate that feels like we still have school spirit,” Student Council Adviser Christina Bousema said. “I think that it was already a tough job at Southwest because there’s no sports and typically there’s pep rallies at other schools, but we don’t really have that. So it’s already kind of a challenge, but here we’re trying to reach out to people and make things relevant to them. We’re looking at trying to take events that we did last year and figure out a way to make a virtual version of that event.”

Some of their other jobs would normally include handling class shirts, making posters, handing out candies on holidays, and many other projects to help the student body feel more involved.

“[Switching to virtual school] was a little bit bittersweet because [welcome back week, homecoming, prom] are all events that we really love and fundraisers that we love to be a part of,” Bousema said. “We’re just trying to find ways to still get that same feeling but in a different format, in a virtual format.”

Are you interested in any virtual clubs?