By: Sophia David ‘21 Editor-in-chief
Since Friends’ Central has become virtual, a lot of changes have taken place. In fact, nearly nothing has remained the same. Although we all may be learning the same material and even seeing each other’s faces, a key aspect of FCS is hard to cultivate from a distance: the sense of community. No longer can we walk down the hallway of the main building and stop by the Upper School office to say “hi” to Maryclaire and grab a piece of candy. No longer can we eat lunch in the Adirondack chairs in the oval, and no longer can we high five our friends in passing.
Luckily many clubs (including Focus, of course), are working to find a way to continue their work virtually, giving people a sense of community and familiarity in this uncertain time of isolation. Although physical separation has made it challenging, various student club leaders from the FCS community are organizing virtual meetings and planning projects, allowing students to carry on the valuable conversations that have been started and work towards their previous goals.
Anna Gullace (‘21), a leader of Honor Council, described how the club is continuing virtually. Prior to FCS’s closure Ms. Beth approached them about the possibility of creating a disciplinary committee, which Anna described as “some sort of student run committee or group that helps decide disciplinary actions for other students.” Since virtual school has begun, Honor Council has been working to see if this project might be feasible. Anna explained that their weekly meetings are difficult because “Zoom is relatively new to a lot of us,” and “I personally don’t know how to work Zoom.” Despite this, she said that she “is glad everyone wants to continue to meet and that we can meet.” Overall, she is confident that everything will work out because, she says, “What we are really good at in Honor Council is having thoughtful discussions. That’s what we are doing now.”
The leaders of Sister Circle have also been working hard to continue their previous projects. Sammy Darling (‘21) explained that before leaving FCS, Sister Circle was working on creating a survey for the whole Upper School that collected information on student experiences on campus related to gender dynamics. She explained that they were waiting to see if we would return to school because they would prefer to send it out when people are physically together. However, she concluded, “now it isn’t looking like that, so we will probably send it out soon,” while we are all at home. After the results of the survey are collected, Sammy thinks that the club will come up with a way to present their findings to the school. Unfortunately, they will not be able to present in an assembly or at a special block as they had originally hoped. Although the Club has been meeting virtually, Sammy shared some concerns. “It is hard to have a discussion on Zoom. It is also hard to keep the enthusiasm or energy up because everyone is half asleep.”
Not all clubs, however, have been able to continue with their plans virtually. A couple of clubs have faced some major disappointments due to the Pandemic. For example, Harper Will (‘21), a leader of GSoA thinks that unfortunately Pride Prom, a dance event that her club was helping to plan, will have to be canceled. Despite this, GSoA is continuing to meet, and Marielle Buxbaum (‘20), another leader of the club, was optimistic about the benefits of this. She said, “We are holding casual meetings to hold a space for social connection and a safe space for LGBTQ+ students.” Harper, too, noted a possible benefit of having virtual club meetings, saying, “Since we don’t have as much time in classes, there is more time for people to really truly think about issues. While it has hurt the general sense of feeling and place,” virtual conversations “sometimes give people opportunities to feel more comfortable talking.”
Like GSoA, the Pulsar Club also faces a disappointing cancellation. Elizabeth Forsyth (‘20) predicts that the Club’s trip to West Virginia University for their Capstone meeting will almost certainly be canceled. Luckily, this does not mean that all of the Pulsar Club’s work has had to be put on hold. She recounted that about “a week before we began virtual school, the Club received a Zoom call, funny enough. On the Zoom call, we had time on the telescope to try to observe a pulsar candidate, but we couldn’t see it. Now, a lot of our time is dedicated to figuring out why we couldn’t see it, which luckily, we can do without being in person.” She explained that because the members of the Club are such good friends, it has been easy for them to stay in contact. Her only complaint was, “It just kinda sucks not to be together because we are such a tight knit group. It hasn’t really impacted how we are performing as a Club, more just the feel.”
The good news is that there are even more virtual clubs to come. Lindsey Schweitzer (‘20) and the other leaders of Sustainability Club have met to discuss what they can do virtually. Lindsey recognized that it might be difficult because “a lot of times people just have black screens and are on mute. It’s hard to have a really good discussion or sense of community when people aren’t really there. Even the glitching can be a problem,” but she still hopes to fulfill one of her Club’s primary goals and spread information about being sustainable. “We can do fun Kahoots or maybe even send positive newsletters. We were also going to work with Project Drawdown, which is about the 100 most sustainable things you can do. Now we are talking about things we can do in our houses that are sustainable.” She finished by sharing her new goal. “We are going to try to figure out how to make people feel that they are here and that things matter. We want to get stuff done as a club, of course, but we also want to be there for the community.”
Imran Loudini (‘21) and Leo Shack (‘21), the co-leaders of the International Cuisine and Culture Club are also formulating some exciting virtual plans for the future. Imran summed up the goal of the Club: “to celebrate and honor the diversity of the students on our campus by expressing cultures through food.” Leo added that “food makes people happy, and it's a good way to bring people together. Our club does not only that, but it also allows people to learn.” No longer able to meet in Mr. Guides’s room to eat and learn about dishes from around the world, Leo explained their new idea “to continue to show the whole food thing but keep it virtual. It would be kinda like a cooking show-type thing. The Zoom would be focused on one person actually making the food.” Imran acknowledged that this might be difficult. “Cooking can take a long time, and it's hard to find time in a day when everyone is free because there is no integrated community block in the schedule.” Still, they are working on coming up with a concrete plan of how to bring their club to life in the virtual community. Hopefully in future weeks even more clubs can start having regular, virtual meetings!