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It’s no secret that the life of a high schooler can be busy and stressful. After attending classes, completing homework, and attending to at-home responsibilities you may feel as if you haven’t spent any time doing something for yourself.
Joining a club is an effective way to use personal choice and passion to balance out required responsibilities. In a club, you’re able to interact with like-minded peers while working toward a common mission. This goal could be as simple as de-stressing by playing chess or as complex as joining the fight to end global poverty.
But what if I’m not interested in the clubs offered at my high school?
Depending on your school, you may or may not have a wide selection of clubs to choose from. No matter the offerings, if you don’t see anything that speaks to you, then it’s time to start your own club.
Starting a club in high school is a great way to practice leadership and organizational skills. These are important qualities you will retain for the rest of your life.
However, this process also allows you to take direct action to pursue your passions and connect with your peers.
In this guide, we’ll outline the steps you should take to create a new club at your high school. Don’t let the process overwhelm you, if you stay organized and work on one goal at a time, you’ll have your club up and running in no time!
1. Do Your Research: Club Offerings and Rules
Before starting the process of creating a club, you should do some research on the clubs that already exist at your high school. This information can usually be found on your school website.
If you have a difficult time finding it, ask the front-desk receptionist if they can point you in the right direction.
At this point, you may already have a club in mind or might still be looking for inspiration. If you already know the club you want to start, check the list at school to see if it already exists. It might be that the club is not well advertised or it may have become dormant after its leading members graduated.
- If this is the case, try to find out who sponsored the club.
- Let that teacher know that you would be interested in revitalizing the club.
- You may find that the club already has a mission statement and other important documents that you can draw from rather than create from scratch.
However, if you are still looking for inspiration, use this list to find out more about the different types of clubs at your school.
Do you see a trend? Perhaps there are several language clubs, a variety of sports and theater groups, but no clubs whose mission is to serve the community. This realization could begin to give you direction in creating a new club.
2. Identifying a Mission and Choosing a Title
Before moving forward with forming your club, you need to figure out the purpose or mission.
For what reason do you want students to gather together regularly? Clubs can have a variety of driving forces including:
- Learning a new skill
- Practicing a skill
- Job training
- Service to community or school
- Social justice organizing
Depending on your interests, you may want to start a chapter of a nationally recognized group, such as the Future Farmers of America or Model United Nations. If so, be sure to check out their websites for the requirements of starting a chapter. The site may also provide important forms, documentation, rules, etc. that you should be familiar with before making a decision.
- Find out who is in charge of clubs at school and what documentation you need to fill out to get started.
- It’s likely that you will need to establish a mission statement, commit to a regular meeting time, and keep a roster of participants for school administration.
Stay organized by keeping all of your files in one place, either in a binder or word processor, such as Google Docs. The benefit of using an online system is that you can access it from anywhere with an Internet connection, it’s easy to share with other people, and it can also be a useful collaboration tool.
If you are not creating a chapter of an established organization, you will need to think of a name.
Keep the title of your club short, but it should convey enough information that your classmates will have a clue to what the club is about.
- For example, a club called “Game Club” might be too vague.
- Your classmates will not know whether you mean sports games, video games, board games, etc.
- Conversely, a creative but more specific club name such as “Checkmate Challengers” would convey that your club involves playing chess.
Now that you have an idea and a title, it’s time you write a mission or goal statement. Here are a few examples:
To provide a means for public school students to participate in realistic education activities that are of assistance in making valid career decisions.
Gain insights into working with children and peers in public schools
Provide a variety of educational and cultural experiences through active participation in an FTA Chapter.
From UNICEF Clubs:
UNICEF Clubs are grassroots, student-led groups that partner with UNICEF USA to educate, advocate and fundraise on behalf of children, and in support of UNICEF’s lifesaving work. The clubs are supported by UNICEF USA staff and by a student-led National Council.
How long and how specific your mission statement and goals are will depend on your high school. While some schools have no such requirements, others may necessitate extensive planning and writing.
- When creating a mission statement, be sure to use a formal tone and the third person point-of-view.
- Ask yourself: Is this mission statement universal? Once you graduate, it should be a mission statement that could be continued on by another group of students.
3. How to Find a Teacher-Sponsor
Finding a teacher-sponsor is an important part of the process of creating a club. Not only do they add legitimacy to your organization, but they can help you and your club members wade through some of the paperwork and communication with administrators that are required for clubs.
You have two options when asking a teacher to sponsor your club.
- The first is to ask a teacher with whom you have a good relationship. They are likely to want to help you reach your goal.
- However, a more effective approach might be to find a teacher whose expertise or interests align with your club’s mission.
For example, while it’s nice that your P.E. teacher is willing to sponsor the Math Olympiad club, it would probably be more effective to ask a math teacher. Not only might they have previous experience with the club or similar ones, but they also have more connections in the math community that could be beneficial to you.
When asking a teacher to sponsor your club, you should be prepared.
- Have an idea of what the club will be about and what you hope to accomplish.
- Be professional and respectful in your conversation or email.
- It’s also critical to understand that teachers are busy and have family and kids at home that might need their attention after school.
- Therefore, if they say “no,” that’s okay!
- Thank them for their time, and ask if they know of another teacher who might be willing to work with you.
Don’t give up because, often, they will be able to give you a great suggestion of which teacher you could ask next.
4. Selecting Officers and Recruiting Members
It’s likely that, as you created the idea for your club, you already had in mind a group of friends and classmates who would make up its core members. Perhaps they have even helped you all along this process.
If so, it’s time to start gauging interest for which of these students would like to take leadership roles in your club.
If you have been running a solo operation, it’s time to begin recruiting members.
- The best way to do this is to hold an interest meeting.
- This is a meeting where people can come to learn more about the club, but attendance is not a commitment to join.
- Advertise this meeting to your friends, make announcements in class, and put up posters around your school.
At your interest meeting, explain what you hope to do with your club, and ask your audience what ideas or experiences they have related to your mission.
- It’s important to collect names, numbers, and emails from the students who participate in this meeting.
- This way, once your club is fully established, you can communicate with them and let them know of future meeting dates.
Think about what roles you need to establish the leadership of your club. Some roles to consider are:
- President: leads meetings and is the primary person responsible for organizing events
- Vice-President: leads meetings when the president is unable to, responsible for advertising and communicating with members
- Secretary: takes meeting notes and is responsible for maintaining paperwork associated with the club
- Treasurer: responsible for managing money related to the club and for organizing fundraising
If there is only one person interested in each of these roles (or roles of your choosing), you have a leadership team established. If not, you may need to hold an election amongst your first members.
- Especially when you start out, recruiting new members will be quite a challenge.
- Be creative with how you advertise to your peers.
- In addition to spreading the news by word of mouth, consider creating posters, making a social media account for the club, and hosting a table on club day.
Don’t be discouraged if you start with only a few members. Over time, people will learn about your club from your actions as a group.
However, it is a good idea to continually recruit members throughout the school year. The more members you have, the more you will be able to accomplish as a club.
5. Choosing a Time to Meet
With your new leadership team and teacher-sponsor, you should come up with a regular time to meet. Depending on the mission of your club, this might be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or even quarterly.
Discuss amongst yourself which day of the week and time of day is best.
At some high schools, you may have school time built into the school day to participate in clubs. At others, you may need to plan to meet before or after school.
Try to be consistent with your meeting times. If, for whatever reason, you need to cancel or reschedule a meeting, communicate with your members promptly. It doesn’t feel good to be waiting around for a club meeting to start, only to find out it was canceled and you were not notified.
6. Determine Your Financial Needs
Depending on your club, you may require money to be able to accomplish your mission.
- For some clubs, such as a board game club, you may be able to get away with donations of board games and/or a few purchases to get your club started.
- For other clubs, such as a fishing club, you might need to raise money in order to pay for expenses related to field trips.
- As a leadership team, make a decision about whether you will collect dues from your members.
- Dues are annual fees for joining a club.
- This money can be collected and used for expenses related to the club.
- While this is a great way to raise money, be warned that high dues will prevent and discourage some potential members from joining.
- If you are aiming to be a club that emphasizes inclusiveness, try to keep dues low.
When possible, seek donations from the community and your families for items to help you start your club. If you’re going on a field trip, you could require that each member pays his or her own way.
You should have these conversations upon starting your club in order to avoid future roadblocks. Talk through your ideas with your teacher-sponsor as they may provide a perspective or know of a resource that you may not have thought about.
7. Sustaining Your Club
Once you have established your club and achieved some measure of success, don’t forget about developing ways to sustain your club. High school is a unique situation: Each year, you will lose members due to graduation.
At the end of each school year, meet with your club to identify ways you will recruit members over the next year. Successful clubs put on frequent events, interact with the school community, and use advertising to boost membership.
8. Future Participation: Moving Forward
At some point, you will face the bittersweet realization that you will soon graduate and need to walk away from your club. Don’t worry. There will be plenty of opportunities in college to join new clubs!
Continue to pursue your passions and use them as a vehicle to achieve school-life balance.
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