Exploring the changes volunteer-based clubs have experienced during a distance learning school year
Of the 89 clubs at MVHS, seven of those clubs are volunteer-based clubs, including the MV Octagon Club, MV Leo and MV Interact Club. With distance learning, these clubs have had to halt their traditionally in-person meetings and volunteer events to pursue online alternatives that fulfill volunteer hour requirements.
Senior Bandhavya Parvathaneni, secretary for Octagon, says that nearly every aspect of Octagon has shifted from in-person to digital. Pre-COVID events such as working at soup kitchens and cooking for homeless people have been replaced with socially distanced events like writing letters to veterans and essential workers.
Octagon is also partnering with other student-run organizations at MVHS to have virtual events that provide a variation of opportunities for volunteers.
“There’s a lot of student-run organizations who are starting up [during quarantine],” Parvathaneni said. “We recently talked to [the Toiletry Organization]… They needed some volunteers, so they asked Octagon [and now,] we’re gonna partner with them later on. Then there [are] other bigger organizations such as Love for Our Elders, which is where [students] write letters to [the] elderly in senior centers and then ship them out all across the country.”
Junior Michael Ding, co-president of Interact, says that Interact has also been focusing on digital and socially distanced events like letter writing and origami making, but events like these have become repetitive for some volunteers. To combat this, Ding also set up a tutoring system as a part of Interact’s volunteering events.
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“[Tutoring programs] kind of kill two birds in one stone, because not only do [they] supply a volunteering event but [they] also supply the demand for tutoring,” Ding said. “I know a lot of middle schools and elementary schools are less involved this year because of COVID. For example, I know Kennedy isn’t as involved, so I know that a lot of parents would definitely want their kids to either catch up or get ahead so that they’ll be ready for high school.”
Parvathaneni added that despite the repetitive nature of events during distance learning, Octagon has not had any shortage of volunteers, explaining that they have “the same amount [of new members] as our previous years.” She also noted that current Octagon members are still able to be active and complete their volunteering hours.
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However, not all clubs have been able to maintain their numbers. Senior Elizabeth Lee, president of LEO, says that the club has experienced a decrease in new member registration during the 2020-2021 distance-learning school year, as well as a decrease in active membership since distance learning began.
“There has been a decrease in active members,” Lee said. “And we do have a lot of inactive members, which means that they don’t volunteer for a minimum of five hours per semester.”
To accommodate for this, Lee has changed the club rules to help members remain active and reach their minimum hours. Previously, member activity was based on a three-strike system in which members would receive one strike every time they weren’t active. Since entering distance learning, LEO has removed that guideline. Octagon has implemented a similar policy.
“Because [volunteering is] virtual, some volunteers might have hardships with internet connection issues or technology issues,” Lee said. “Everyone has their own situation. We definitely do remind them that they need to volunteer for five hours, but because it is a volunteer club and not a club where we force members [to participate], I think we can’t really [put] consequences on [inactivity].”
As for the future of volunteering clubs at MVHS, Parvathaneni, Lee and Ding all agree that a shift back to in-person or at least hybrid learning would have an overall positive impact for their clubs. Lee adds that LEO may experience hardship readjusting to rules voided due to distance-learning circumstances, and that much of volunteering clubs’ future will rely on advertising.
“I think in terms of volunteering events, we shouldn’t really have a problem [with cancellation] because we have a basis of what kind of events we usually do,” Lee said. “I think one challenge I see is promoting our club, especially for a club info day, but I feel like if the officer team next year does an effective job during club info days and club promo days, I think we’ll be okay.”