This article originally appeared in the spring 2016 Harker Quarterly.
Each fall upper school students flock to the gymnasium for the Harker Club Fair to see the huge offering of clubs catering to a wide variety of interests. Although they are not part of Harker’s academic programs, student clubs offer a wealth of opportunities for personal growth.
“Joining a club will give you some life skills that you may not be able to get in other areas,” said clubs coordinator Eric Kallbrier, “like working as a group outside of an academic setting, being organized and developing leadership skills. Clubs give you an opportunity to find out more about your personal interests and your personal strengths. I think it’s really important, especially for high schoolers as they develop into adult citizens, to better understand how they can use their talents and interests to serve themselves, each other and their greater community.”
One club dedicated to helping students reach their academic potential is the Tutoring Club, which currently boasts 121 student tutors and assists students in every subject and from all grade levels at Harker. It is unique in its operation, as it forgoes club meetings and functions primarily via email. “Mostly, student tutors meet individually with their tutees and discuss the material the student is struggling with,” said Sanjana Marcé, grade 11, who serves as a club officer along with seniors Sohil Patel and Shivali Minocha. “As officers of the organization, we coordinate the pairing of students with available and capable peer tutors.”
Marcé says tutoring is rewarding because it benefits both the tutors and the students they support. “Through one-on-one tutoring, you develop a personal interaction with your peers,” she said, “and see yourself directly involved in helping students learn and understand difficult concepts. The club gives student tutors a chance to go beyond simply absorbing material in class, instead giving the opportunity to teach and educate their peers.”
Other clubs are designed to help students further their interest in fun activities or explore new ones. Sophomores Wendy Wang and Aadi Ghildiyal organized the Harker Anime Club, now in its second year, to give students who love Japanese animation a place to meet and make new friends. “I talked to Aadi, and then we decided the basic direction of the club,” said Wang, who serves as club president. “Then we found [upper school Japanese teacher] Ms. [Keiko] Irino, and told her about the reason we are creating the club, and what we are going to do.” Irino signed on as advisor and the club was founded with 10 members. It has since grown to 40. “I think I need to know more people at Harker who love anime, who love this kind of culture,” Wang said.
The club meets monthly in Irino’s classroom. At the first meeting of the year, members vote on which anime series they will watch together. Most of the members discovered the club at the Harker Club Fair, and anyone with an interest in Japanese animation is welcome to join. “Our club is just for fun,” Wang said. “For me, I want to make the club into a space for students to relax, to make more friends, to follow their interests.”
Other clubs focus on outdoor activities. One such club is Harker’s Archery Club, which meets twice a week. It was founded last year by students who thought the sport, which is part of the Olympics, was interesting for various reasons. “I started participating in archery for the reason a lot of people tell you not to start archery: I’m really into fantasy and adventure books,” said club treasurer Gwyneth Chen, grade 10, “and I thought characters like Legolas in ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Will in ‘Ranger’s Apprentice’ were cool and exciting.” She began archery in earnest during a lower school Harker summer program and has since become “more appreciative of the elegance and fun in the sport itself,” she added.
The club’s ve members meet on Saturdays to shoot at a range in San Jose that is managed by the Black Mountain Bowmen Archery Club. All the basic equipment is provided by the club, as is instruction for beginning shooters. No prior experience with archery is necessary to be a member of the club, although members must sign a health waiver before they are allowed to attend the weekend meetings. The club also meets during the week on the upper school campus to go over safety practices and gear usage as well as work on physical conditioning.
Although the club is small, its members find it a great way to “to get outside, take a break from work, and exercise a few muscles you may not have known you had,” said Chen, who noted that “the club atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed.”
For students interested in politics and current events, Harker’s Junior State of America chapter has long been a primary destination. “The goal of the JSA is to facilitate political discussion,” said club president Kedar Gupta, grade 11. “We achieve this through club events and meetings mainly, which consist largely of open-ended discussions about current events.”
As 2016 is an election year, JSA has been particularly active in the past few months, hosting Pizza and Politics events, where students can watch the presidential debates while discussing the policies and campaigns of the candidates. The club also travels to three conventions each year, at which they convene with representatives from more than 30 Northern California schools. “These are awesome events for meeting new people who share an interest in politics,” said Gupta. In fact, attending a convention in Sacramento is what prompted Gupta to become a member. “I really enjoyed that weekend and all the lively discussions, so I continued to attend JSA events,” he said.
Although JSA is geared toward students interested in politics, Gupta says it allows students to participate in discussions even if they are not sure of their level of interest. “JSA is friendly toward all members, since it allows them to engage in politics without being too hardcore,” he said. “Debates at conventions are always pretty funny, which is definitely helpful for those who aren’t too familiar with the issues at hand.”
Another large club at Harker is WiSTEM (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The club, which has existed for more than a decade, has been an instrumental part of Harker’s science program, due to its involvement with the Harker Research Symposium and its efforts to attract guest lecturers, organize women-led activities and encourage women to be mentors to girls interested in STEM.
Current president Anika Mohindra, grade 12, has been involved with WiSTEM since her freshman year. When asked why she joined the club, she said, “I primarily loved being around so many girls as interested in STEM as I was, especially since I had previously been to math camps where the gender ratio was hugely skewed.”
WiSTEM members deeply value their role in advancing the involvement of women in STEM fields, and in addition to their on-campus efforts, also devote considerable time to community outreach. Each semester, the STEM Buddies program sends WiSTEM members on visits to the preschool, where they engage and guide the preschool students with age- appropriate science experiments.
“Each visit has a different scientific theme,” Mohindra said. “For example, during the chemistry-focused day, WiSTEM members and upper school chemistry teachers put on a chemistry magic show and ran activity stations such as color mixing.”
During WiSTEM’s club week, members raise money for organizations that benefit various causes related to the club’s mission. This year, they raised more than $2,000 for WISER, which will go toward health care and education for young girls in Kenya. “Our donations will provide a safe place for 25 girls to live (including furniture and mosquito nets) and will provide school supplies for 25 girls for a year,” said Mohindra.
Every year, the club devotes a huge amount of time to the Harker Research Symposium, including tasks such as taking inventory, preparing badges and finalizing the schedule. “We also work with all the students giving talks and make sure they have properly prepared and rehearsed their presentations,” said Mohindra. “Of course, we are in charge of publicizing the event on campus and encouraging students to participate and attend.”
Other clubs include the Red Cross Club, which sponsors a blood drive every year, the Programming Club, which organizes the annual Harker Programming Invitational, and the Philosophy Club, which recently organized the Harker Philosophy Conference.
Students who wish to start a club must first fill out a club starter form, which every student receives at the beginning of the year. To complete the form, the club founders must have a faculty advisor, a committed group of initial members and a mission statement.
Recently, Kallbrier has been devising more ways for students to find and join clubs that interest them. He is currently working on an online list of clubs that contains each club’s contact information and mission statement. Once finished, students will be able to find this list on the Harker website’s student portal. “That’s what I’m most excited about right now,” said Kallbrier.
For now, students can attend the Harker Club Fair, which typically takes place in September. “We have all the clubs go to the gym, they have booths set up, and they get to talk to other students about what their club does,“ said Kallbrier, “and those students can then figure out if that’s a good match for them and sign up on the spot.”
Students can also find a club by looking at the club board in the upper school’s main building, which lists every club and their advisors. Some clubs, such as WiSTEM, also have club weeks during which they stage special events and encourage students to join. “That’s a great time for clubs to promote what they stand for and what they do as an organization,” Kallbrier said.
He added the clubs present an opportunity for students to “better develop themselves and gain an understanding of who they are before they move off into college. Because you never know what you might experience at one of these clubs that can change your future.”