Wanna Go Clubbin’?

Everyone’s heard of chess club and your typical run-of-the-mill service club, both of which most definitely still have their place in today’s schools. But today’s students might also have the choice of some very extraordinary extracurricular activities.  Our local schools are home to some of the more interesting clubs around. They are great sources of fun and learning and some are quite unique, as well. Take a look.

A Brief History Of Salad

At Horizon Academy, ESE instructor James O’Briant has turned the culinary art of creating a salad into a science.

“During my time off in the summer, I love to watch Chopped on the Food Network. I also like to spend time in the kitchen… so when they asked if we had any ideas for clubs for the students, I came up with the idea for the Chopped! The Science of Salad Club,” he says.

O’Briant decided to create a club where students would form multi-member teams to create delicious, beautiful and healthy salads to be judged for taste and presentation. Then they would compete against one another and the lowest scoring team would be “chopped.” The winners would all move on to the next stage of the competition. The final team left will claim the championship and be treated to a #1 New York Pizza meal, courtesy of O’Briant.

“I thought a salad club would be perfect,” O’Briant says. “It teaches the kids good nutrition and healthy eating habits, and we have a hydroponics club that grows fresh vegetables right here on campus—it just seemed a great fit.” He wanted to make the club more than just fun, so he searched for every way possible to teach club members something that would help them in the future.

“I’ve learned that vegetables need to be cleaned even when they are purchased from a store,” says sixth-grade student Agness Jandwa. “The competition has helped me because now I understand proper kitchen safety and how to cut things properly.”

But the club isn’t all about learning, it’s about having fun, too.

“Chopped is very exciting!” says Ryna Pressley. “It’s fun, but you don’t want it to go to your head, because then it wouldn’t be fun. I am guessing some people take it seriously—but I didn’t. There are three to four kids in each group, and the winner is decided by taste, presentation and creativity. It is really fun!”

What do the other kids think about their friends belonging to a salad club?

“My friends said that it was cool,” says eighth-grader Joshua Negron. “It was fun to compete with other kids because it was a challenge to see if you were meant to do this kind of stuff.”

It’s All GeekTo Me

There was a day when being called a “geek” was about as bad as it could get for a high school kid. Well, times have changed, and at West Port High—geek is chic. And if you want to find a whole room full of self-proclaimed-and-proud-of-it geeks, just drop in on a meeting of the Japanese Anime Club.

“Being a geek allows us to be ourselves,” says club member Sarah Kerrick. “There is a freedom to being a geek. We don’t care about what others think, and there is no judgment about our lifestyles from fellow club members. I am totally comfortable with my geekiness, and I wear it proudly.”

According to club leader Brian Moore, anime, which is animated cartoons or films created for both children and adults, has been a part of his life since he was a young boy, and now that it has become “popular,” he is happy to share his love with his students.

“I started watching Star Blazers and Robotech back in the ‘70s, and then anime began to really be popular in the ‘90s with Akira. Now there are all types of different anime series the kids can watch—and be a part of,” he says.

Moore says club members can participate in cosplay, which is short for costume play. Cosplay is very big in the anime subculture and is a major part of the club activities. It is actually part of the bonding that forms between club members.

“The club is a place where I can share my opinions and be with people who share my interest in anime,” says Alicia Sweat, club vice-president. “It is very comforting being around others who like the things I do. I participate in cosplay and spent approximately three hours sewing my latest costume.”

There are many different genres of anime and there is a little something for everyone involved.

“I’ve been interested in anime for about six years now,” says Stephen Blain, club president. “It started with Samurai Jack on the Cartoon Network and the Yu-Gi-Oh cartoon and card game. Right now, I am into the horror genre of anime. An example of this is Future Diary. I like it for the dark themes and dark humor.”

Home Away From Home

When Trinity Catholic High School seniors Katie Colitz and Taylor Schanel decided to start the Support Our Troops Club, they looked to iPad coordinator Grace Pringle to help them get organized. Pringle was the perfect choice. Her husband, Rich, spent 16 years on active duty, was deployed overseas and is currently a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve.

“The club became very popular very quick,” says Pringle. “It grew to more than 100 members and is now the largest club on campus. Right now, we are in the process of putting together packages we will send to American troops stationed in Afghanistan and Djibouti.”

Why start the Support Our Troops Club?

“I decided to form this club after attending the U. S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar this past summer,” says Colitz. “I was inspired by the work ethic of the men and women who serve our country. The club’s mission is to lift the spirits of U.S. troops stationed around the world with hand-packed gifts of candy and reminders of home. We also hand-write letters thanking servicemen and women for their dedication to our country. We know this means a lot to our troops to know that they are appreciated, and we are praying for them and their families.”

Katie and Taylor were amazed and excited by the club’s instant popularity.

“The club’s overwhelming success is something we never expected, and it has been an amazing experience,” says Schanel. “Many people want to give thanks and support to the men and women who fight for our country and our freedom. Being able to show our troops how much we appreciate them is small compared to what they do for us.”

The club hopes to affect more than just its members and the student body.

“I hope that The Support Our Troops Club will spread outside of Trinity Catholic and reach the outside community,” says Schanel. “We hope to partner with local businesses such as Publix, CVS, Walgreens, etc. to provide more goods for care packages. Everyone should get involved in a club like this one to show our heroes that we appreciate them.”

Jumping For Joy

When the music gets loud and the jump ropes start slappin’ the ground… the rhythm is gonna get you. The rhythm of the Ft. McCoy Jump Rope Team, that is.

This team of 31 kids ranging from grades three to eight puts on a performance that can whip a crowd into a frenzy.

“This club is exciting,” says club leader and Ft. McCoy physical education instructor Kathy Hatfield. “Some of these kids are really good, and when the music is playing and the routines are being performed, it is quite a show.”

Hatfield says the club was formed 14 years ago but has really started to grow over the last few years.

“It started with around six kids, and now when the children in the lower grades see the older kids perform, they want to be a part of it,” she says. “It all started with the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart Program, and we use the excitement of rope jumping routines to promote healthy lifestyles in each of our performances.”

Caitlyn Smith is 10 years old and has been jumping rope for three years.

“My favorite part is during the performances,” she says. “Other kids have the chance to ask us questions, and we get to show them how to do the different jumps. It’s really fun.”

The club offers the kids the chance to be creative and make new friends.

“We get to travel to other schools, and I get to jump with all my friends, and that part is really fun,” says Kailey Mullener. “Mrs. Hatfield helps us learn step by step, but she lets us make up our own routines, and that is what I really like to do.”

Some of the routines can be quite involved and take time to master.

“First we listen to the music, and then we pick who will do the routine,” says club member Samantha Hansen. “Then we all decide which moves go with the beat, put it all together and we have a routine. Sometimes we will practice a routine for a month or more before we perform.”

All The Fashionable People Are Here!

Dahling, you look mahvelous! Why? Because you’re a member of the FAD Fashion Club at Vanguard High School. It is the place to be for anyone who wants to know the latest on what’s in and what’s not.

Club leader Coletta Garraway-Donovan says the club has 16 active members, and the students are very involved in club activities.

“We started the club last year, and it has become quite popular,” she says. “We meet twice each month. We set up video conferences with people in the fashion industry and have guest speakers who talk to the members concerning fashion and the ins and outs of the industry.”

The club recently had a representative from a well-known fashion college speak, and the students were quite impressed.

“I have always been interested in fashion because my parents have worked in retail, and I hope to work in the fashion industry one day,” says club treasurer Catherine Kovach. “We recently had a person from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, which is located in California, talk to us about different ways to get into the industry in design and merchandising, and now I am interested in possibly attending the college. I would love to one day work in retail, possibly work in fashion photography or design a line of clothing.”

Club president Danielle Tarigha was instrumental in starting the club and plans most of the club activities.

“I love fashion, and I wanted to start a club that would provide a creative outlet for others who are interested in fashion also,” she says. “I find that fashion allows me to explore ways to express myself through my clothing, and sometimes I just love to take a risk and try something new.

“I also wanted the club to give back to the community, so whenever we have a fundraiser of any kind, we donate a portion to a local charity. We are in the process of donating 10 percent of the proceeds of our first fashion show to Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection and we plan to donate the same portion from our next show to a school in Africa.”

The club plans and stages fashion shows in the high school cafeteria.

“In October we held our first fashion show,” says club member Jayda Gordon. “We model clothes that we feel are trendy and help others who want to model to coordinate their outfits for color and style. We include anyone who wants to participate and give help to everyone who needs it.”

I Heard That!

The Sign Language Club at West port High School has between 15 and 20 members who are becoming proficient in American Sign Language. Some of them have family members or friends who are hearing impaired, and some may go on to earn certification as a qualified interpreter through agencies such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

“Becoming proficient in conversational sign language and becoming a certified instructor isn’t easy,” says first-year club leader Madeline Bottenhorn. “I had four years of training in high school and one year at the University of Florida, and if I took the certification testing now, I would find it hard to pass. You have to be very good and have near-fluency. Remember, this is a true language with idioms, dialects and grammatical structure.”

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires all American businesses to provide a qualified interpreter at no cost to the hearing impaired person or persons when needed to properly complete a transaction. This includes restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctor’s offices, retail stores, day care centers, car dealerships—and the list goes on and on. Sign language has become a very important means of communication throughout the country, and the club at West Port strives to make its members proficient.

“Once each year, we have a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner for club members,” says Bottenhorn. “Each member has to introduce and explain their food in sign language, and the dinner is eaten in complete silence; the only ‘talking’ that can be done is in sign language.”

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