Club Hub: Service clubs at Conestoga

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By Staff Reporters Ben Reed and Kate Phillips and Co-T/E Life Editors Katherine Lee, and Umar Samdani

If asked to describe the spirit of activities at Conestoga, many students would say two words: clubs and service. Student-run groups have always been an important aspect of the Conestoga experience, and so has giving back to the community. Service clubs are not only some of the most popular types of clubs, but they have continued to help people through this different school year.

Rising Stars Club

One of Conestoga’s newest clubs is the Rising Stars Club, which pairs high school students and elementary school students as pen pals. The club’s goal is to promote connection between Tredyffrin/Easttown buildings and to help younger kids feel less worried about moving to high school.

Sophomores Zainab Imadulla and Anna Nguyen are co-presidents of the club.

“I was given the idea of the Rising Stars Club because of these programs called Big Brother and Big Sister programs,” Imadulla said.

The Big Brother and Big Sister programs are organizations that pair younger kids with older kids for a variety of activities, though the Rising Stars Club specifically focuses on penpalling, an activity that is even more enjoyable in the midst of quarantine.

“The idea is that the elementary schoolers are the rising stars and the high schoolers are helping them along the way,” Nguyen said.  “This club means a lot to me because when I was a little kid I never had a sibling who was a lot older than I was.  Ever since elementary school I have loved working with kids and I believe high school students deserve more opportunities to do so.”

Justice Club

Another one of Conestoga’s service clubs is the Justice Club, which helps victims of domestic abuse, human trafficking, racism and poverty. Hannah Kuryan, the club president, explains that the club was originally started with a sole focus on human trafficking, but due to difficulties with online fundraising, the club decided to work on other issues, too.

 “Justice Club members have participated in anti human trafficking conferences, educational livestreams about poverty, phone banking for climate-change action in our government and many more.  We are currently working on a homelessness project and we have partnered two organizations, Home of the Sparrow and Bethesda Project,” Kuryan said.

 Rescuing All Dogs Club

Service clubs don’t only help humans – they help animals, too.  Another one of Conestoga’s many clubs is Rescuing All Dogs club, or R.A.D. This club has the goal of helping dogs and dog shelters in our area. R.A.D. does this by organizing donations and collecting supplies to give to the different shelters.

Instead of raising money, R.A.D. collects different items that dog shelters or veterinarian hospitals will need. The different homes for dogs may be lacking and do not have enough to provide for all of the animals they care for. Club advisor Merri Gardner explained the different types of provisions that the club collects to help out.

“A lot of shelters and even vet animal hospitals like VRC, they need blankets, they need towels, they need play toys, they need food,” Gardner said. “They need any leashes, collars, anything a dog needs.”

Brighten A Day Club

Brighten a Day Club has the goal of simply spreading joy and bringing a smile to others’ faces. Founded last year by junior Hita Gupta, the club makes cards and does other activities like holding events at libraries to give back to hospitals and retirement homes.  It is also a part of a large non-profit organization, also founded by Gupta, which serves to reach more communities. 

Last year, Brighten A Day club would have meetings where members would socialize and have fun while making cards together. The club would also work with different elementary schools to encourage the younger students to try volunteering and cardmaking. In the virtual setting, Brighten a Day club still manages to deliver cards safely while also finding other ways to give back.

“When we turned all virtual we also did something, we collected encouraging video messages and sent those to local retirement homes,” Gupta said. “They were just short messages of cheer for the residents who actually are completely isolated from family and friends.”

Smiles for Autism Club

Smiles for Autism is a club created to raise awareness for autism and help students socialize through art. At meetings, students will do different artistic activities such as making origami. The art functions as a way for the different members to interact and connect with each other. Along with making art, Smiles for Autism also holds different fundraisers and sales. The money that is raised is then used to promote autism awareness. 

This year, Smiles for Autism has continued to hold meetings virtually. The club still gives members an opportunity to express themselves creatively with their peers. 

Club advisor Michael DeVitis sees sharing art and socializing with each other as very beneficial for students.  “The best part about all of it is when the students are able to share their work with each other and get feedback from their peers,” DeVitis said. “The more as a school community we can continue to learn about each other and learn about our strengths and our needs and be supportive of and respectful of our differences the better.”