The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Clubs allow students to explore interests

Clubs take many forms, with some existing as chapters in national organizations and others as standalone entities, and they explore a variety of students’ interests.

Among the cacophony of locker slams and hurried footsteps in high school, students find themselves at the crossroads of independence and discovery. Joining a club provides an opportunity to make new friends, join a community of like-minded individuals and explore your unique passions.

There’s no shortage of clubs at the high school: there are 151 clubs for over 2100 students, 31 of which are funded by the Student Council. Each has their own individual focus and structure.

According to the high school’s website, students must fulfill the following requirements to found a club: determine if a club of similar interest exists, gather a minimum of three members, find an advisor and meeting space, complete the club request form and fill out an anti-hazing form.

A large part of the process of leading a club is working to maintain membership and seeking out new members. Faculty club advisers help by supervising club meetings.

The high school offers clubs encompassing a variety of interests. There are many different places for students to find a community and make a difference.

Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator and faculty liaison to the Student Council Jen Martin said each year, the Student Council receives a budget to give money to clubs that request funding. For the 2023-24 school year, the student council had a budget of $8,000 to allocate.

Different Types of Clubs

There are many different types and structures of clubs within the high school. These include, but are not limited to, chapters of national organizations, identity-oriented clubs, academic-focused clubs, art-focused clubs, STEM clubs, speech and debate teams, sports clubs and volunteer clubs.

Clubs like Model United Nations, Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) and Human Rights Foundation are all clubs that are chapters of a larger national organization.
Junior Brett Schneider, a co-founder of HOSA, said being a chapter of a larger national organization provides a framework for the club to connect with other schools and also participate in the Massachusetts HOSA state leadership conference in April, which hosts a variety of competitive science events.

“One of the main benefits is really just being connected to other schools. I know our school has just a medical club, but I feel like it might be harder to connect with other schools versus with HOSA. When we have the state leadership conference we can connect with the Lexington HOSA chapter and the Acton-Boxborough HOSA chapter,” Schneider said.

Other HOSA chapters also provide a support network for the club surrounding organizing and running events. Schneider said the support network of having other HOSA clubs is unique and important.

“[The other HOSA chapters] provide a sort of a network for students to get involved with other students. For example, we’re helping to lead the blood drive at BHS this year in May. So when that happens, we can reach out to other clubs about it throughout the other chapters,” Schneider said.

Schneider said that with so many different medically focused clubs at the high school already, his goal with founding the HOSA chapter along with Senior Tina Li, was to have a medically-focused club that connected to a national organization.

“It can get a little redundant when there’s the medical club and then also the biomedical science club, biomedical research club, they can kind of dull everything down. The main reason I started [HOSA] with Tina was because we felt like there was an absence of a connection to a national organization,” Schneider said.

There are also a large number of identity-oriented clubs at the high school. Many of these clubs aim to foster community, understanding and empowerment among students.

Senior Darin Grant, the president of the Black Student Union (BSU), said identity-focused clubs can provide a safe space where students can explore and celebrate their identities and find support while also having fun. Grant said in a predominantly white school, the BSU provides an invaluable space for Black students to be in the same room together, which their members value highly.

According to Grant, the BSU has an extensive management team that consists of dedicated finance team managers, event planning team managers and social media team managers. He said the well-structured nature of the BSU has enabled its significant impact, scope and outreach capabilities.

Grant said the most successful outreach program contributing to recurring high attendance at the BSU is recruiting freshmen every year through a campaign at the club fair in the first weeks of school and presenting to the African-American and Latino Scholars Program.

“At the beginning of the year, we have the club fair, and we try to focus on freshman engagement because if freshmen stay engaged throughout the whole four years, we will have a lot of people, and we will have a constant flow of new people,” Grant said.

According to Martin, identity-oriented clubs have been more successful in recent years at gaining members than non-identity-oriented clubs.

“[Identity-oriented clubs] tend to do more programming, and they are becoming larger and more active, whether that’s because they’ve just been more successful recruiting kids or whether it’s just right now in 2023. That’s like a really popular choice for kids, to want to be in a space that aligns with their identity,” Martin said.

Senior Zara Chaudry, a co-president and co-founder of the Muslim Student Alliance (MSA), said there was an MSA in her freshman year, but the club only had four members and died out. Chaudry said she decided to bring the MSA back this year along with seniors Zyad Baliamoune, Ali Shiekh and Maysam Khan to provide an affinity space for a minority group at the high school. According to Chaudry, the club was successfully revived and now has strong attendance numbers.

Chaudry said a goal for the MSA this year was to branch out and meet other schools’ MSAs.

“I am hoping this year to collaborate with the Wellesley MSA because we have a few friends there. MSA is all throughout the country, everywhere, everyone has their own. We’re kind of part of a bigger organization, and we do want to branch out and also meet all the other local MSAs too,” Chaudry said.

Chaudry said she worked hard to grow the membership of the club this year, utilizing the club fair to target freshmen membership.

“One part was the incoming freshmen; there were a lot of new Muslim students that came in with that. We’ve always been the minority group here, so there haven’t been a lot of Muslim students at BHS, but I think that it’s been kind of growing a little each year,” Chaudry said.

Funding Overview

Martin works with the Student Council to distribute the $8000 of funding to clubs at the end of each school year and gather information about each club during the spring for funding they will need in the following school year. A form is emailed to students, who can report the amount of money they want for their club and why they want it. The system of deciding which clubs get funding rests in the hands of the faculty member in charge of student government.

“It [the handbook] does not delineate how the Student Council will do that. So we have a pretty organized system now, but I have not always been the person who ran student government,” Martin said.

After funds are allocated to clubs, students wishing to use their club’s money are required to send a proof of their purchase to the Head of School’s Secretary Kelli McDermott. According to Martin, McDermott then decides whether to reimburse the money or not, depending on the purchase. This allows faculty members to ensure the money is being used for the club, not solely for the benefit of the club leaders.

McDermott said the current process for club fund spending works well, and that clubs also frequently send her direct links for products, merchandise, and registration fees which she can pay for directly from the Legislature-allocated account.

The system used by the Student Council considers activities and events that have been planned by the club the year before, as well as the additional purchases they would like to make, using the results to decide how much funding they should receive. Martin said, ultimately, the money a club receives often depends on the length of club meetings.

“The first real clubs to start to ask for real money, $1000, which out of $8000 is a lot of money, were clubs like the GSA, for example, because they were running full day,” Martin said.

The more participants a club has, the more students benefit from funding. Martin said in some cases, there may be alternatives for club funding. If there is a possible alternative, the Student Council tends to disapprove of giving more money to the club.

“If you are a club that’s [made up of] you and your three friends [and] are interested in doing a charitable book club where you collect books for kids in need, we don’t tend to fund those clubs. It’s not because we don’t think it’s like a totally reasonable thing,” Martin said. “We’re like, ‘you have four kids in your club. Good luck to you, but we’re trying to figure out, since we don’t have that much money to distribute, we need to fund a club like APAC, for example.’”

Currently, the Student Council is revising their process to better decide what deserves club funding. Martin said one consideration taken during this revision are purchases that, at one point, were typically deemed less necessary for a club’s growth.

“A lot of times it [the Google form response] would say ‘it’s for us to buy sweatshirts’ or something like that. Or it would be snacks for meetings or whatever. And interestingly, early on, we started to be like, ‘Is that like a legitimate reason to give money?’ Especially if we don’t have enough money for everybody, you’ll have to just buy your own merch,” Martin said.

Martin said in the past, she had reached out to request more funding for clubs, but the process of receiving more money for clubs would require redoing the budgeting for the year.

“I reached out to the head of the Office of Finance at Town Hall to ask about this $8000 and if we could increase it. And her response, very respectfully, was like, ‘We’ve already done the budgeting process for this year. We can’t. We can discuss it for next year,’” Martin said. “That sort of shows you how in the previous year they’re checking, making sure there’s enough money. So it takes a long time to make a change to it because you need a good full year in advance. And then when it comes to the contract, you have to change the contract, which can take up to three years to change.”

McDermott said club funding was last increased in 2017 from $7500 to $8000.

Martin said while the current club funding process seeks to fund well-established clubs, there may be a benefit to allowing newer, smaller clubs to have funding as well. A larger budget for clubs would allow the Student Council to give more to clubs trying to grow their membership.

“We were like, ‘wait a minute, if the Drone Club had enough money, would they begin to film every athletic event and we would start watching it on social media?’ And then ultimately every sport is benefiting from it,” Martin said.

In the future, Martin said the Student Council is looking to reach out to clubs who aren’t able to prove they have enough membership when filling out the club funding form. The process would involve setting aside a certain amount of money for newer clubs so they can request funding mid-year.

“We would love, next year, in the middle of the year, to write to all clubs and be like, what do you need, come pitch it to us, we’ve got 500 bucks that we’ve held back for a club like the Drone Club or the art club. Those smaller clubs that are never going to be allocated enough money if they can’t prove they have good membership,” Martin said.

According to Martin, it is also important to consider that not every club offers the same activities to its members, so some need money for different purposes than others.

“We’re also trying to make sure that we don’t think that every club should aspire to do what APAC’s doing or what GSA’s doing. Not all clubs aspire to be activist organizations that do all; an art club doesn’t have to be that. But would an art club be a place where you could put on a show where you display some art somewhere and what money would you need for that? Maybe you would have that idea mid-year and would need the money that year,” Martin said.

Martin said the Student Council is taking into consideration what the meaning of a [club] member is to ensure that funding benefits the most amount of people possible.

“A member has to be someone who comes X amount of times and frequency and is not just on your email [list],” Martin said.

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