The Thomas Jefferson High School Club Fair successfully managed to socially revive hundreds of high school students.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck the globe early in 2020, just about every social aspect of daily life was heavily affected. The virus’ sudden incursion spurred the cancellation of a multitude of social events at Thomas Jefferson High School including the club fair, as the school was rapidly pinned beneath an ever-growing swamp of COVID-19 outbreaks. The school was soon forced to retreat to a virtual style of learning. However, with a new year comes new opportunities, and the TJ club fair made its grand return in 2022.
Given its lack of actual engagement, remote learning provided a miniscule opportunity for social expression, resulting in a feeling of distance between students even after the pandemic began to fade. However, along with the rejuvenation of society and the start of a return to normality came a wave of TJ traditions such as Spirit Week, the Spartan Edition, and, of course, the Club Fair. During the pandemic, the Club Fair was mostly forgotten, since clubs weren’t much of a priority at the time. Even when some students returned to the building the next year in 2021, the Club Fair still saw minimal attendance, likely due to the vast quantity of scholars trapped at home in their own personal quarantines.
Finally, during the 2022-23 school year, TJ reopened its doors for real. Online learning became – at least for the time being – nothing more than an unpleasant memory for a host of students and staff. With the new year upon her, TJ’s Dean of Culture Emily Lupo took it upon herself to rejuvenate the school’s community. Lupo decided to bring back the fair, reasoning that “student involvement, not just academically, but in other ways too is really important. I think getting involved is the number one thing… It’s part of the high school experience.”
After two years of disappointment during the COVID-19 pandemic, TJ’s culture was in desperate need of something to give it that extra push, and Lupo hoped the Club Fair would be able to provide just that. On Wednesday September 7, 2022, TJ’s first semi-normal Club Fair after two long years began. A large variety of clubs were present at the fair, including the Playing Cards Club and Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). The hope was to create an environment where TJ students could get involved and interact with each other, and the club fair flourished in this aspect. Senior Emily Brown, president of the Jewish Student Connection Club, agreed: “The Club Fair is a super great opportunity for kids to join in and get to know one another.” Clubs and other extracurricular activities may also be the best way for kids to get used to interacting with each other and engaging in meaningful endeavors following the pandemic. The advisor of the Jewish Student Connection club and TJ Classical League and teacher Amber Wilson, mentioned, “I think it’s awesome that we have such a large offering of clubs at TJ and all anyone has to do is look around to find something they like.” Unfortunately, due to unforeseeable circumstances, the fair ended up occurring on a heat day, which resulted in school ending early. Because of this, the fair’s attendance was limited. Regardless, Lupo believed that the Club Fair could serve as one of the first of many opportunities in 2022 to draw students into extracurriculars.
Clubs may be interactive and engaging, but they don’t work for everybody. Not everyone can easily coast through any given conversation, and this fact is even more apparent after slogging out of a full year of online schooling and a second of strict mask requirements. Despite the welcoming and generally casual appeal of the 2022 Club Fair, many students still found themselves frightened by the prospect of leaping right back into the fray. One such student who happened to be attending the fair, senior Isaac Mitchell, revealed, “I am terrified out of my mind right now.” And it’s not just Mitchell. Countless students have been struggling since the pandemic. The Club Fair this year was arguably more important than ever before, since it was responsible for the social revitalization of hundreds of high schoolers. Due to its careful planning and execution, the fair proved that one of the best ways to truly fulfill one’s high school experience is to simply get involved. TJ’s first maskless club fair back from the COVID-19 pandemic had big shoes to fill and a high bar to reach, but it reached even past that bar, managing to provide an opportunity for students to once again get involved in the community.
With the world still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Club Fair served as a lifeline to many TJ students. The fair opened up much needed doors for the recovering youth, and it did so in a fun, engaging manner. With the past in the past and the future approaching rapidly, many people are in desperate need of some sense of normality, and getting involved in a club could be the first step in that direction. And even if they missed out this year, TJ students can rest easy knowing that the club fair will more than likely be back next year, bigger and better than ever.