What does it take to lead a club at AHS?
Enjoy providing service to the community? Interested in learning more about an academic subject? No matter what your hobby may be, chances are that there’s a club on campus dedicated to it. Clubs offer a way for students to engage in constructive activities that they are passionate about while also interacting with other students who share similar interests. With that being said, how do club leaders manage to keep their clubs engaging and fun throughout the year, and what goes into running a club?
Club presidents, with the support of officers, are responsible for making sure that a club runs smoothly and that members are happy and satisfied. For Anchal Lamba (12), who is president of Interact, a service club and one of the largest clubs on campus, this means centering club events around the core values and purposes of the club.
“I work to place emphasis on passion for service and community building. It is crucial to Interact’s purpose: to provide an opportunity for young people to work together in a fellowship dedicated to service and international understanding,” she explained. “This is done through the numerous service events, community and global projects, and collaboration opportunities that I make sure the club provides. I want the students at American to experience what I gained in my four years here: leadership skills, new perspectives, and access to community of inspirational youth.”
Although it is a fulfilling responsibility, coordinating interesting and purposeful events can be a demanding experience.
“People want a lot from the club,” said Prisha Davda (11), president of Chess Club. “They expect that we immediately start going to [chess] tournaments.” What’s unique about her situation is that Chess Club is a new club this year, and this has required additional efforts to prepare the club for function. “I’m trying my best to meet up to people’s expectations, but I also think preparation is necessary,” she describes. “We are all working on planning a tournament [rather than diving straight in].”
Lamba faces perhaps an elevated amount of stress compared to other club presidents due to the size of her club and its large impact.
“The word ‘stressful’ is honestly an understatement for my responsibilities, which are often more than my academic-related work,” she said. For her, sacrifices are necessary in order to ensure the club’s well-being and complete everything that needs to be done. “We eventually deal with the to-do list, even if it means I have to crash at [co-president Archisha Datta]’s place and sort everything out, or meet with her in the library during lunch to delegate tasks amongst each other and our officers.”
While Davda and Lamba represent clubs that center around organizing engaging events to attract a large number of members, clubs that are geared towards academic purposes face a different scenario.
“One thing I have learned from Linguistics Club is that a club doesn’t have to be very large to be successful,” explained Aditi Talati (11), president of Linguistics Club. “The few active members we have enjoy participating in Linguistics Club and solving the problems, so making sure we have activities often that [these active] members will enjoy… really makes the club successful.” In addition, she feels that a major component to the success of an academic club is introducing members to the content in an intriguing way. “What I enjoy… is being able to take activities that other people [may not have known] about or haven’t tried previously and [introduce] it to them from the perspective of a fun puzzle,” she described. “I also really like the fact that if I want to work on practice problems with people, or just have an event to play word games, then I can put in the work to make that happen, and hopefully by doing that I can introduce someone else to the NACLO—the annual linguistics competition our club participates in—and maybe that person will have a more interesting lunch period because of the activities we put together.”
Of course, like any large endeavor, running a club is not easy and mistakes do occur. However, rather than panicking over mistakes or refusing to own up to them, Lamba describes a more constructive approach.
“Archie Datta, my co-president, has made a Google document called ‘Interact Things to Do Next Time.’ While it may seem that the club is functioning well from a member’s perspective, there are plenty of mistakes being made behind the scenes,” she said. “With the document, we acknowledge those mistakes and record them for the next generation of Interact presidents.” Mistakes aren’t always entirely a bad thing, either. “I’ve learned about better time management, utilizing creativity, and having a Plan B in case things go south,” Lamba explained. “These mistakes have increased my experience on handling obstacles smoothly and effectively, and making difficult decisions for the betterment of the club.”
Another important aspect to a successful club is ensuring that officers are able to work together in a positive and welcoming environment.
“Running a club this large is admittedly a great responsibility and it takes the perfect combination of a passionate officer team, effective communication, and a positive mindset to fulfill club duties,” explained Lamba. “As president of Interact, I make sure that these components are consistently maintained throughout the year. Whether it is organizing fun officer bondings on the weekends, creating a Facebook group and multiple group chats for delegating tasks to specific officers, or simply empowering them for their work, I try to solidify a secure base for my officers to tackle all the responsibilities that follow.”
However, occasionally, clubs may experience internal conflict amongst officers when they disagree on certain issues. Although most officers have good intentions and share the goal of making the club the best it can be, disagreements can often complicate matters if not resolved.
“The most stressful part is planning events, considering all the officers’ and the advisor’s opinions. Sometimes officers will disagree on things, and handling internal fights is a struggle,” explained Davda. However, she describes that this has also taught her how to make the club experience even better. “The main thing that can improve the way the club is running is cooperation. If the officers collectively plan events, consider fundraising, and include everyone in our activities, the club will grow.”
During these times of conflict as well as times when the club is particularly busy, the club advisor is also a valuable resource for officer teams to ask for advice.
“Our advisor, Mrs. Zheng, plays an important role in helping me handle the struggles that come with the club. For example, she helped me come up with a schedule to have practice sessions for chess club,” explained Davda. “I ask her for guidance when the officers aren’t agreeing with each other. She acknowledges people’s achievements in the club, and she creates a fun and supportive vibe for the club which reduces the stress of meeting deadlines and requirements for the club.”
At the end of the day, club presidents work hard and make sacrifices for their clubs because of their passion. “Being president [of Girls Who Code] has given me a new perspective on problems,” Anusha Nandam (12) explains. “I’ve been able to give help [to members], but I’ve learned so much more.”
Caption: Members of Chess Club engage in friendly competition at the club’s quarterly chess tournament. “I enjoy being president because I can meet new people who are passionate about chess,” explained Davda. “There are some who come to our practice sessions to learn. I enjoy teaching them and talking to them. I also enjoy hanging out with the officers and the advisor.”