Problems @ LHS: The Club Conundrum

Darren Tran

At the beginning of every academic year, Dean Nicole Caniff receives hundreds of forms from students registering new clubs. About a month later, the Lexington High School Quad is teeming with colorful posters and zealous students, all trying to bring fresh faces into their clubs. Each club promises a unique experience, which prompts you to sign up before leaving with a lollipop and the expectation of receiving an email later on.

At a glance, the plethora of student organizations may appear to be a testament to the ingenuity and independent spirit at LHS, but there is more than meets the eye. Those who stood out there on Activities Fair Day had to fight their way to the top, whether by winning an intra-club election or getting on their predecessors’ good sides: the journey to the top of the organizational hierarchy was not a walk in the park. 

When people join a club as freshmen, it is often to indulge in similar interests with like-minded peers or explore fun hobbies like spikeball and ping pong. But for many students, there is an additional reason, and it is a much more important one: they are joining with the intent of becoming a leader in a later year. It is irrelevant whether this is for college (we will discuss this in a bit) or simply because they crave authority over others.

When the primary motivation for joining a club is to eventually become a leader, you begin to view everyone around you as competition instead of ‘like-minded peers with similar interests.’ As a result, everything you do feels like a step towards or back from the ultimate goal of grabbing a title by the time you are a junior or a senior. This turns clubs you initially joined to explore your interests into stressful obligations. Given the already competitive nature of LHS, it is a shame to bring that sentiment into clubs, which serve as a space for students to relax and do what they are passionate about.

Now, the topic of leadership for the purpose of college. Yes, let us all admit it: many of us do what we can do to improve our chances of getting accepted to the college of our dreams. However, when that becomes the most important thing on your mind, it most definitely hinders your ability to be a club leader. Here, I will also mention a particular “demographic”: those that create clubs just to get into college.

The biggest issue is that this does not allow for club sustainability. For many of these club leaders and founders, their obligations to their club end the moment they do not have to worry about college anymore. By mid-January, nearly all seniors have submitted their last college applications and the departure of their application correlates with their own departure. There is a noticeable decline in the quality of many clubs, and some even shut down. I have been a member of several clubs that completely disappeared in the second semester when club leaders ghosted us (the club consisted of just me, a freshman at the time, and five other seniors; that itself should have been a red flag but the blame is not on me, at least this time around). 

This is particularly bad because it displays the leader’s lack of empathy for the other club members who they promised to lead. Consequently, many younger students have a subpar club experience and develop negative attitudes towards clubs in general.

Now, how do we fix this? Admittedly, shifting this mentality is a challenge. We can’t do much to change these club leaders’ intentions, except hope that someday they can realize that you can work towards college without sacrificing fun, both for yourself and others.

Now, if you are adamant about doing everything for college, here is a suggestion to mitigate your consequences. As you enter your senior year, give leadership positions or at least leadership responsibilities to students in grades below you. This ensures that the “next-in-line” already have some experience underneath their belt and the transition of leadership is smooth. Even if we cannot change the mindset of the people at the top, we can at least make an effort to keep the club alive for students who might be the change we wish to see.