Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Plugged in to Meet and Compete

Posted 11/20/2020 by Olivia Oss

For the foreseeable future, clubs will participate in competitions and conferences on a digital platform. photo byEngin Akyurt 

Clubs and other school funded organizations across the U.S. are learning to adapt to survive in the remote world. 

Although not every school district in the United States is learning virtually, most competitions for clubs and other organizations are being held over Zoom or other conference call platforms. It is uncertain when academic competitions will return to normal, but for now, clubs like SkillsUSA, Speech and Debate, 5280, and DECA will have to adapt to a new normal. 

Ivonne Hernandez, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School and a member of the Challenge 5280 team, has experienced the changes to competition first hand. 5280 is an important part of student representation in the Denver area. As a social justice club, they develop policies to combat social injustice within DPS high schools. Before COVID, the 5280 team at TJ was able to compete against other schools in DPS by sharing their policies. We had a competition my sophomore year. Eighteen DPS schools showed their policy in a presentation to a panel of judges. Our team won second place, so we scored a trip to Puerto Rico, but ever since COVID, our competitions have moved over to virtual meetings and writing essays or narratives,” said Hernandez. 5280’s competitions used to be held in the McNichols Civic Center Building in Downtown Denver, which could hold many people, but since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, this layout has not been safe.  Being an important part of the community, it is slightly detrimental that the competitions and meetings are now on a virtual platform. “It isn’t the same, but we have to learn to adapt. Our team wasn’t ready for the transition so we missed out on a lot.” Like many other clubs and organizations, 5280 hopes to return to normality in the spring, but nothing is guaranteed. 

As a junior at TJ and an officer of the SkillsUSA team, Evan Valdes-Halterman has had experience with both in person competitions and virtual ones. SkillsUSA is a career and technical student organization with over 395,000 members working on training in trade, technical, and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. As a sophomore, Valdes-Halterman participated in video and web design and he hopes to do the same this year. Last year, Valdes-Halterman participated in a school-wide competition for SkillsUSA. “We made a web page for an amusement park. We had five other pages which were linked to the homepage. To make it visually appealing, we added graphics with a consistent color scheme.” While projects like this are still attainable from a remote setting, not all students have access to the technology needed to make a proficient website, which will be a roadblock for any competition during COVID-19. As an officer, Valdes-Halterman has participated in a few workshops, both in person and online. “Conferences, normally, consist of different in-person workshops in order to improve leadership skills for SkillsUSA members.” At the in-person workshops, hands-on collaborative activities help members of SkillsUSA build their leadership skills. “However, in remote learning, we have had to meet online and try and mimic the same workshops remotely.” 

Needless to say, in order to continue with any normalcy, school funded clubs and organizations will have to continue adapting to the current climate.