Paving a path of paw prints, the athens drive student council welcomes the school year.
Paving a path of paw prints, the athens drive student council welcomes the school year.
Photos by Alana Williamson

Students cultivate community by coming back to clubs

Arriving back at Athens following a mix of hybrid and virtual learning means a myriad of things for several students and faculty members.  For some students, it is hard to see past the  mask mandates, assigned seating, the lack of lunches in the library and loss of club meetings during the school day. However, returning to school has also brought back some essential student activities. For the jaguars, striding through the hall means more than a plethora of papers and a sea of strangers. Faculty and students alike are forming new friendships coming back to clubs.

“My freshman year was almost completely online, it was very difficult to get to know people, and having a space to meet people with similar hobbies and interests definitely helped me feel more secure in coming back to school,” said Carolina Beecham, sophomore in colorguard.

Finding familiar faces in the hallway or bonding over shared interests extracurriculars are more than something to do after school.

“Extracurricular activities make me much more school spirited and make me look at school in a more positive outlook. I have so many good memories from volleyball whether it’s just seeing my teammates in the hallways at school and saying hey or practice and games in the gym, it’s always a fun time,” said Taylor Malloy, sophomore and student athlete.

Lighting the way of student involvement, student council’s decoration guide jaguars through the homecoming hallway. (Photos by Alana Williamson)

 Volleyball, colorguard, theatre, music and knitting are a few of the innumerable interests pursued at Athens Drive. Coming back to clubs has allowed students to further develop their skills and collaborate with one another in ways unaccomplished in a virtual setting.

“Neither of my clubs, I believe, are hybrid, mostly because it would be difficult. In Knitting Club we’re hoping to make a project together, and that could be hard with virtual students. Student council was hybrid last year, but it was complicated to keep everyone up to date, so we nixed that this year,” said Alex Suehle, sophomore in knitting club and student council.

Despite initial hesitancy, extracurricular activities at Athens are in full swing. Several students are rebuilding their activities at the Drive—new clubs are emerging and previously existing activities are recruiting new members. 

“Last year the meetings were virtual with some in person attendees, this year it’s looking like Drama Club is going to be fully in-person. Due to the fact that Drama Club’s main goal is about attracting new people to theatre at our school, our members have a wide variety of experiences in theatre,” said Lisey Pillay, senior and Drama Club Co-President.

Students’ experience of extracurriculars has been disoriented by the time gap between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic learning. Clubs are facing pushback in recruiting as student involvement varies between the classes. The lack of many club meetings during school in abidance to Covid-19 protocols and the loss of advantage time, has made attending activities an obstacle for several students.

“I think it also has to do with timing and everything, now that they pushed it to after school not as many people can go or make time,” said Amelia Bruns, junior in colorguard, drama club and student council.

Lack of attendance ails activities, nearly as much as inadequate involvement.

Back to the Future themed posters plaster the halls, as student council sponsors spirit week. (Photos by Alana Williamson)

 “Speaking on student council’s behalf, we had no freshmen council up until we did an after school interest meeting; no one in the freshman class wanted to become a representative or do anything with student council, and I think its cause they didn’t know, they hadn’t had like a normal high school year where they could have been on council,” said Bruns.

The ‘normal’ high school year is a privilege freshmen, sophomores and juniors have yet to experience. Many could argue none of the student body has had a ‘normal’ high school journey. 

“So many of the students were disconnected the past few years,” said Mckenna Crockett, Amnesty International Club Advisor.

Students at present struggle to engage in their education and invest themselves in interests. Students share similar sentiments regarding the disfigured state of the Drive.

“It’s changed a lot because you can’t be as close, physically, to another person,” said Bruns.

Disconnected from each other, first physically, now emotionally the student body has grown accustomed to division as some students feel less represented than others.

“If you are not in clubs or if you don’t take specific classes that have a community sort of surrounding them, it sometimes can be difficult to make friends at school if you do not already know people,” said Pillay.

Club advisors at the Drive are using activities as a platform to support the student community. Encouraging students to pursue their passions and collaborate with others.

“It can develop into friendships and partnerships and you get to learn how to apply real-world techniques with your colleagues. I advise it so I can get to know the Athens community more, rather than seeing my students, not that I don’t love my students, I get to connect with other students from different walks of life as well,” said Crockett.

Athens’ activities implore several students to find joy in our new normal. The community encourages many students to be active in their lives and high school career.

“Extracurriculars create a sense of unity and familiarity between students. It gives us all something in common, despite the fact that many of us have different beliefs and backgrounds, and I think it’s really cool to see the way people come together and can put aside their differences for clubs and activities,” said Beecham.

Coming together has been a common theme throughout clubs at Athens Drive. Drama club has featured games such as Freeze, Zip-zap-zop and the Stupid Name Game to aid in collaboration with fellow actors. Being in a circle form or improving with a scene partner, extracurriculars are striving for inclusivity and establishing an expectation of teamwork.

“They totally make me feel like I’m in a family, I get to meet and see people I know have similar interests as me and hang out with people that I usually wouldn’t have a chance to meet! They are what I missed most about school,” said Priscilla Palazzo, junior, drama club advisor and tabletop gaming club member.

Clubs across the board strive for connection building a safe haven for creativity and a melting pot of minds—diverse and determined for change.

“Amnesty’s Club mission, we’re talking about human rights and violations that’s going on in the United States, but in the world,” said Crockett.

Informing Athens of injustice, the Amnesty Club prides itself in activism and character. Similarly, the Easy Explanation Club produces scientific saviors, devoted to informing and protecting their fellow students from unreliable sources.

“Basically, the Easy Explanations Club is a club that gives other students a platform to help out in the community, mostly by creating articles for science misconceptions because misinformation is a big issue especially with social media and the news and especially during COVID 19,” said Erika Chan, junior and founder of the Easy Explanations Club.

Erika Chan, junior and founder of the Easy Explanations Club plans future meetings with new recruits. (Photos by Alana Williamson)

Striving to benefit the Athens community as well, clubs have made school more vibrant for some students.

“Many activities help us, such as student council organizing events or recycling club cleaning up our school,” said Suhele.

Often taken for granted, clubs serve as a staple of student involvement, informing students of local events, providing ways to volunteer with and learn from fellow students.

“We have some pretty cool posters,” said Palazzo. 

Clubs are sending cool shockwaves down the Drive’s halls, impacting students’ actions and outlook.

“Like marching band, it doesn’t work with just one person, you need all of the different sections to make this giant visual piece of art, its beautiful, but it’s not an individual activity, and you can’t just be a jerk to everyone you have to like collaborate and actually work together,” said Bruns.

Carrying collaboration and pursuing these interests have served as a source of companionship and memories for Beechman and Bruns. But they have presented students with obstacles as well. 

“Finding the right amount of time between school work, extracurriculars, and then just your life, to breathe and drink water and go to bed. It’s hard to find balance but it’s kind of mandatory once you start doing other stuff,” said Bruns.

Students are concerned about time management, brag sheets and maintaining their grades. Extracurriculars are outlets for expression and key in pursuing higher education. Many students seek out clubs to add them to a resume, or be able to build character going forward.

“Mainly for college, ‘cause you know, colleges like to see that you do stuff for the community and have made your mark,”said Bruns.

In the midst of influencing the atmosphere of Athens, making a mark on the crowded canvas of the halls, work-life balance is vital. Clubs can become stressors for some students—a constant need to be ‘better’ at what you do. 

“Having volleyball every day after school does have negative effects such as me being overstressed to keep up good grades and still be a part of the team. It can get pretty exhausting,” said Malloy.

Students are finding ways to combat these obstacles, finding time in unlikely places.

“I try my best to manage my time between school and clubs by putting school first and then working on any club-related work I may have to do. I also multitask, or work on club-related items during lunch or in the morning,” said Pillay.

In the monsoon of mathematics, students are left drowning in deadlines. Completing homework and being involved in clubs can leave students lacking academically or losing sleep.

I stay up late to do homework and sleep in first period,” said Carlos Escorza, junior and member of the drama club.

Burnout is real. Students can become overwhelmed with assignments, applications and round-the-clock activities. But staying after school to cultivate community learning has helped many of them preserve.

Finishing their morning rehearsal the Athens Drive Colorguard loads equipment for Oct. 15 Fuquay-Varina Competition. (Photos by Chris Patterson and Lien Gieng)

“Being on color guard has made high school so much more enjoyable for me. I’ve made so many amazing friends and have had some incredible memories, like dancing in the rain at our 9 to 9. Without guard I’d probably be burning out very quickly into the school year without a place I could just go and have fun and do something I love for a while without having to think about my English projects,” said Beecham.

Struggling for the satisfaction of daring to do, diverging from the numbness of knowledge to create. Extracurricular activities have inspired students to make myriads of moments they will hold on to beyond B Lunch.

“From drama club the first thing that came to mind was we watched In the Heights when it came out, the movie during the summer and it was great and a real bonding moment,” said Bruns.

Bonding the student body, several students look to clubs for motivation and memories.

“It makes for something extra to look forward to at school, another part of the day I can see friends. I have many memories, even from this year, of funny jokes and crazy meets,” said Suhele.

Just being surrounded by a community of students grasping to grow with one another, makes activities an unforesakable aspect of arriving at Athens.

“Just being with them every meeting makes a memory of something positive,” said Crockett.

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