Senior Eric Lee, one of the presidents for Speech Club this year, still remembers the 2019 state qualifier, when the team started with the “kumbaya” tradition at every tournament. He remembers huddling together in a circle and yelling through vocal warm-ups together. He recalls the tension in the air due to the limited number of competitors who could make it to the state tournament. Despite these special traditions, Lee believes that what gives him the sense of community he feels in the club, more than anything else, is the profound amount of support among members.
“No matter how well or how not ideal their night went, there really felt like a sense of family, of community and you can just feel that everyone was super supportive for everyone there,” Lee said. “At the awards, whenever one of us went up, no matter how well that person’s night went, they were always cheering as loud as they [could]. And just being in that moment was really nice.”
However, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many of Speech Club’s plans were cut short; for instance, the State Tournament, which a record number of nine members had qualified for, was canceled. Despite the transition to remote learning, however, the club continued to host meetings online and attended several online tournaments.
Other clubs who relied more heavily on the interactive component of their programs, such as Bite Club, were not able to make as smooth of a transition to going online. Senior Emily Shen, who will be serving as president of the club for her second year this year, remembers the abruptness of the school closure and the difficulty the club had with transitioning online. In the end, Bite Club decided to cancel the remainder of their meetings, partially because many other clubs had also canceled their plans.
This year, Bite Club plans to recontinue with their meetings on Wednesdays, during which the club officers will run through a short presentation and then move on to playing an interactive activity, such as Kahoot. Shen has also thought about hosting cook-along sessions where members can follow along step-by-step over Zoom to a recipe.
“In previous years, a lot of what Bite Club was focused on was including hands-on experiments like cooking and also passing out food for people to try after presentations,” Shen said. “That was a big part of the draw or reason why people came to Bite Club. But since that’s not really possible anymore we’ve changed to focusing more just on the presentations, so that it can still work over Zoom.”
In order to prepare for the 2020-21 school year, Bite Club’s leadership team mainly communicated through Messenger. Although they plan to hold Zoom meetings soon, Shen believes that since Bite Club is a smaller club, there aren’t many tasks to plan or discuss; thus, she believes that formal zoom meetings weren’t necessary over the summer.
In contrast, Speech Club had periodic zoom calls over the summer, during which officers decided on issues ranging from the ideal platform on which to host meetings to the structure for the meetings.
“We had a lot of meetings with our management team just to research and find a good way to manage our Zoom schematics so that it would best fit our purposes,” Lee said. “A lot of the work was front-loaded as we started figuring everything out, but now as we’re heading into the season ... We’re pretty much set, and we’re doing more of the detailed stuff like getting all the meetings set up, creating different accounts and sending all that info out via our communications.”
Speech Club was also able to host its first summer workshop this year, which took place over Zoom from Aug. 3-8. Since they had to start preparing for the camp early in the summer, and much of the experience was similar to that of a regular season, Lee feels much more prepared going into the school year.
“It was very helpful because we basically already had a trial run,” Lee said. “Getting all of that stuff together was very difficult the first time around, but by the time we started planning for our practices, for our promo events, for our interest meetings, we already knew our way around Zoom and its capabilities, and we were able to better mold that to fit the functionalities that we wanted.”
Although Lee feels confident and ready for the 2020-21 school year, he knows that many aspects of Speech Club will be drastically impacted, especially tournaments.
“While we can keep our meetings pretty similar in terms of structure, tournaments are totally something different, and it will be something that I’ll definitely miss for sure,” Lee said. “Before, everyone would have to get up before the sunrise and drive to a school far away, and then we would all just hang out and prepare and do our speeches throughout the day and come back home. But this year it’s going to be a little different, and I feel like the energy won’t be there as much.”
At the same time, Lee recognizes how there are also many benefits to a virtual season. For example, people will have more time to practice and can compete without needing to step outside their home. Additionally, the club is no longer limited to local tournaments and can instead participate in competitions across the country.
Other clubs, such as the Future Practicing Physicians Network, have had to not only change the mode through which they connect, but also rethink their entire agenda. Instead of their usual surgeries and dissections, FPPN plans to incorporate guest speakers, case studies, resume workshops and virtual surgeries into their program. Junior Anika Somasundaram, an officer for the club, is extremely excited for the healthcare symposiums in particular.
“I feel like getting a chance to listen to doctors from various specialties talk is very cool,” Somadundaram said. “For example, one of our doctors, he’s an emergency doctor and he also is involved with Doctors Without Borders. It’s just super exciting how we’re able, even at home, to talk to so many different doctors from so many different places, and it’s just really great exposure.”
Sports clubs such as Archery Club have also had to make drastic changes in order to adapt. Now that members can no longer meet up at the Stevens Creek Archery Range, they plan to have presentations centered around the fundamentals of archery, such as the different bows or proper shooting etiquette. Junior Shalini Krish, one of the presidents this year for Archery Club, is still apprehensive about how the year will turn out.
“We do have a plan, but I’m worried that it may just not work out and we may not be able to see new people enjoy archery,” Krish said. “But I feel like that’s just the kind of trust and the leap of faith that we should take if we really want to keep this club alive.”
In particular, she is concerned about whether the club will be able to recruit new members. To solve this issue, Krish plans to reach out to people via social media and contact close friends. However, she also believes that the nature of archery as a novel and interesting topic will be sufficient to attract new attendees.
Shen, too, is apprehensive about how to best inform students about Bite Club. The new distance learning schedule sets aside a specific time during school on Wednesdays for club activities, and so Shen fears that many other clubs will have meeting times that conflict with those of Bite Club.
“I’m most scared about member turnout, just because I know that a lot of clubs are going to be holding their meetings on Wednesday,” Shen said. “Everyone is kind of distant, so it’s a lot harder to connect with other students on campus, and like, get them to join and attend our club meetings.”
While the main concern for Archery and Bite Club has been recruiting new members, Somasundaram thinks that FPPN struggled more with coming up with different ideas for what to do each meeting. This was especially hard because of the limited number of options available over Zoom.
“If we just do lectures about medicine every meeting, that’ll get pretty boring because students sit and watch lectures from the teachers all day long,” Somasunduram said. “We wanted to do something unique, something that’s engaging, and so our biggest challenge was trying to incorporate that into online learning.”
Despite such challenges that have arisen with remote learning, and although she will miss the interaction that she most cherished about the club, Krish remains optimistic.
“I felt kind of like, ‘Oh, how is this even gonna work, like what are we actually going to do?’” Krish said. “But really, when one door closes, another door opens, and I feel like there’s another world of possibility, even with this COVID situation, that all of us are really interested to find out.”