By Sydney Black
Every year, the freshman club fair offers new students a chance to become involved in the over fifty diverse clubs at Byram – from service-oriented activities, such as Youth Against Cancer, to competition-based teams, such as Speech and Debate or Academic Challenge. However, with no in-person club meetings last year due to public health precautions, extracurricular engagement declined and a sense of community was lost. So, how was this challenge met? A universal club fair offered to all grades!
The idea came about as the administration saw the barriers that extracurriculars faced last year. As many organizations were unable to hold meetings and lacked consistent membership from students, something had to be done. Assistant Vice Principal Ms. O’Connor noted, “last year’s freshmen, who are now sophomores, had to do virtual club meetings. Also, clubs really struggled to build community last year, so we thought it would be a really great way to showcase our clubs and reinvigorate all clubs.” She also recognized how last year affected extracurricular participation at different grade levels: “I know a lot of juniors who want to join new clubs and maybe didn’t find the right clubs [in the past].” Students’ interests may now vary greatly from the time they entered high school, and they may find certain activities more enjoyable than previously. Thus, the fair would help explore these newfound passions.
The interactive fair itself took place outside of the upper gym, and each grade level had a set time to walk through each club’s booth. Generally, the booths had a poster displaying photos of the club and a description of the work they do. Getting the opportunity to speak to club leaders, students were able to get a grasp of what it would truly be like to be a part of the club.
This format still maintained the benefits of allowing freshmen to join clubs through a separate fair held during their mentor classes. Laurel Fox, a freshman, joined The Oracle, the Byram Hills Sustainability Initiative, and Paws for a Cause. She said, “I really had a good time at the club fair. I think it was a great way to talk to new people who have the same interests as you as well as to find clubs.” As many freshmen face social uncertainty when entering high school, the club fair introduces them to their new surroundings.
However, it is not only freshmen who benefited from this new opportunity. For sophomores and upperclassmen, the fair gave them the ability to join new clubs, further participate in ones they are already members of, and gain insight into the interests of their peers. Oscar Bachmann, a junior and Head Engineer of the eNable club, explained, “I went in and tried to think of my interests – robotics and engineering – and when I went, I looked at posters and was able to talk to people about them. I think it was a good experience, I joined a lot more clubs than last year, and I’m looking forward to them.” While many freshmen eagerly join clubs and then narrow down their extracurriculars from there, the fair also gave students of other grades an additional way to try out new things.
Ultimately, the universal club fair is an exciting opportunity for underclassmen and upperclassmen alike to become more involved in the activities of Byram Hills. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have challenged some clubs, this offers a new path forward.