Club leaders explain sustainability


Alice Yu

In between the constant flow of school work and the calls of a social life stands a friendly mediator of opportunity. While high school can be a stress-riddled experience, it also offers enlightening opportunities and lanes of networking through clubs.
On the RBHS web page, there are 74 listed organizations and with every new school year, impassioned leaders come forth with new ideas to add to the list. Unfortunately, just as new clubs come in each year, some die out.
“I would say the No. 1 reason is that the club [was] started by a particular individual with a great idea and a lot of people are kind of attracted to that idea,” activities director David Bones said. “There’s some momentum built, and sometimes it’s just a matter of strong leadership graduates and the idea graduates.”
For some organizations the momentum wasn’t strong enough to get a sufficient member base. The United Nations International Childrens’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF) club, started this year, was able to pass both the registration process at RBHS and UNICEF, but membership steadily declined.
After visiting the official UNICEF web page, junior Joy Wang was inspired to bring an UNICEF chapter to RBHS. Along with junior Danielle West, Wang acted on that aspiration and set about registering the UNICEF chapter with RBHS as well as the official organization of UNICEF.
The two split up the task of setting up the chapter, with West taking care of the student council side and Wang in charge of registering with UNICEF. Wang said the registration process was simple. After getting a signature from an administrator, they had to apply through the official website and include a written description of their motives and the purpose of setting up an UNICEF chapter at their high school.
“People got busy in school and sports, applications, scholarships and stuff. They just stopped coming because clubs, unlike sports, they don’t have this bonding power,” Wang said. “They don’t have this authority over any of its members. It’s really hard to get people together.”
On the RBHS side, students interested in starting an organization begin the registration process by collecting 50 student signatures. Not only do these 50 signatures help get the word out, but they also indicate that the student interested in starting that particular club was able to communicate to other students the purpose of the club.
After the 50 signatures, students then need to find a faculty sponsor and create a club constitution.
“We provide people interested in starting a club with a framework, but [the constitution] needs to stipulate the process for club officers to be elected fairly,” activities director David Bones said. “It also needs to stipulate that the club is open to any student at [RBHS].”
After students collect 50 signatures, appoint a faculty sponsor and a write a constitution, students then need to appeal to the Student Council. They present their idea, and the Student Council determines whether to induct the club based on three main conditions. First, it must not duplicate an existing organization. If there are similarities, the student council suggests combining the two. Second, the club must be safe for students, and third, it must be practical.
“Is it a practical thing to have an ice-skating club at Rock Bridge High School?” Bones said. “Probably not, because the closest ice is in Jeff City. That’s probably the third criteria that we consider.”
While the process is long and sometimes tedious, Wang believes it’s instrumental to determining the success of a club.
“I feel like it’s a task of determination to see if you are capable of handling things,” Wang said. “If you’re not determined enough to go through that process, how can they make sure you actually have the determination to run the club?”
Bones said this school year brought eight to 10 new clubs, UNICEF being one of them. Although UNICEF RBHS chapter passed both registration processes — student council and UNICEF’s — they still lack a stable, strong student member base.
At their first meeting, 15 members showed up, but as the semester continued, membership began to decrease.
“It was more about raising awareness of this whole organization of UNICEF. When we started it, I thought that most people would know what UNICEF was because it’s a huge organization. They’re all over the world,” Wang said.
“One of the main goals of UNICEF club is to raise awareness as well as to raise extra money for UNICEF because all of the money for UNICEF is from the United Nations and donations and even though it’s a huge budget, there’s still not enough money.”
Next year Wang plans on initiating a big advertising push at the beginning of the school year to bring in the much-needed members which will hopefully help UNICEF becoming a stable organization like Rock Bridge Reaches Out.
RBRO begins their search for members before school even starts. The organization has officers at schedule pick-up to introduce incoming students to the organization.
“We always put stuff on the Infobruin. Then for big RBRO-wide meetings, we usually have one in the fall and one in the spring and we have multiple times to do that,” RBRO president senior Sarah Freyermuth said. “We put tons of posters everywhere and usually I’ll go on the intercom and be like, ‘Hey guys, come to this.’ This year we had a really good turnout for all of them and that’s the big way that we get the word out about RBRO. We’re also at all of the fairs and we’re there at schedule pick-up night, so everybody knows what RBRO is as soon as they come to Rock Bridge so that they can get involved.”
For other clubs that don’t prove so lucky with accumulating a member base, there are ways to end the club’s existence. Unlike registration, the activities office doesn’t have a set process on how to discontinue a club.
“Ideally the person who started the club would come to us and communicate with us that it’s not going to happening anymore so we can take them off the web page,” Bones said. “Sometimes it’s the faculty sponsor that comes and says, ‘Hey, this is no longer going to happen.’ Another way it happens is towards the end of the school year, we get in touch with all the faculty sponsors of clubs to ask them who their leaders are for the following year and through that process, we find out if a club will not be continuing.”
With a 16-year history, RBRO is stable and booming. This year’s presidents, seniors Jett Ballou-Crawford, Delaney Tevis and Sarah Freyermuth, attempted to count the number of students involved, and came up with more than 500.
“It used to be if you wanted to volunteer when you were younger, you had to go with parents or something like that, but now we have our own cars, we can drive there and everything, and so I think now that people are getting the means to be able to volunteer on their own, they want to do that and then just the fact that so many people are involved in it,” Freyermuth said. “There’s so many different cores. You can always find a core that’s good for you. So cross country people all do Relay for Life and art people usually do Art that Matters and stuff, so there’s something that everyone’s going to enjoy and generally, you’re always going to be able to find someone that’s your friend that’s also doing it, so that also adds the community aspect to it.”
Apart from membership, communication also serves as an essential ingredient to the success of a club. For RBRO, the communication runs in lanes that reach out to many different groups.
“We have to have really good communication between all of the leaders and all of the members so they know when meetings are, but we need good communication to the community of Rock Bridge as a whole so they’ll get involved,” Freyermuth said. “Then, we need good communication between us and the people we’re serving, so we know what exactly they need to make sure that it runs smoothly on all levels.”
While RBRO has no problems with membership, keeping control of all the individual cores serves as a challenge to the three presidents.
“Everybody has so many commitments so it’s hard to make sure you have a group of people that is solidly committing to doing a core.” Freyermuth said. “That’s been the hardest part — trying to find solid leaders and making sure that they’re actually meeting once a month.”
Even with the difficulty of making sure everything is running smoothly, RBRO isn’t going to disappear any time soon.
Their prosperity could very well be attributed to its simple and positive purpose in the community, both in school and out-of-school.
“It’s something that people can get involved in, and they’re giving back. They’re doing something that’s good, and they’re having fun doing it,” Freyermuth said. “There’s really not much else that you could want in something.”
By Alice Yu
Feature photo by Madelyn Stewart