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The UltraViolet

Marlborough School Student Newspaper
The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

The Student News Site of Marlborough School

The UltraViolet

Lizze Small Contributing Illustrator
How to help our Earth
April 12, 2024

What does it take to build a strong leader?

Graphic by Schessa '12.

By Christina ’14, Erika ’12, Suhauna ’14

Last October, the Board Room was filled with club leaders from all grades as Student Activities Coor­dinator Sarah Wolf and Coordinator of Community Outreach Miranda Payne led a mandatory leadership training meeting for club officers. Payne and Wolf shared tips on how to successfully organize a club and explained the specifics of this year’s new rules, including policies that require clubs to donate 100% of fundraiser proceeds to charity, take notes during meetings and increase faculty advisor participation.

Some leaders, such as Hannah ’12, said they felt that while the meeting helped them establish goals, it did not clearly specify how to reach those goals without additional support. Hannah is President of Philosophy Club, Co-President of Model UN and Art Edi­tor of literary magazine The Edge.

“I thought a lot of [the advice giv­en] was common sense,” she said.

Shalom Club President Adi ’14 agreed. “It wasn’t really anything new to me,” she said. Some leaders said the School’s failure to enforce the new rules has prevented club officers from successfully putting these leadership skills into action.

“At the beginning of the year things seemed really intense, and I thought it was a good thing because it would really motivate our team, but I haven’t seen [the enforcement of new requirements] happen in re­ality,” Robotics Club Co-President Gwen ’12 said.

According to the School’s Core Values, Marlborough strives to “offer an environment in which students are encouraged to discover their poten­tial…develop leadership skills, and expand their self-reliance.” Partici­pating in a club is one of the best ways for girls to “develop their potential,” but students can’t learn leadership skills in one lunchtime meeting.

Becoming a club officer is a rare opportunity for Violets to step up to the plate, but many clubs still face low member participation and struggle to organize events, activities and profit­able fundraisers. So how can the School better support student clubs and there­fore encourage greater leadership de­velopment? Should club lead­ers be solely responsible for the success of their clubs, or should faculty advisors play a greater role? Should the School be providing clubs with additional funding, or at least allow students to keep the money they raise to help real­ize their goals? Or do students themselves need to take their com­mitment to clubs more seriously? How are lead­ership skills developed?

 

HOW MUCH HELP IS TOO MUCH?

The new club rules urge faculty advisors to be more active, but the more teachers help a club accom­plish its goals, the less a student officer will feel the need to step in and run things herself. So where do you draw the line? When do the students take control?

Wolf has encouraged faculty ad­visors to support students as much as possible. Foreign Language De­partment Head and former Clubs Coordinator Leigh Hansen said that if a student chooses to become an officer of a club she must be pre­pared to take primary responsibility for the group and oversee its activi­ties. However, for some club leaders, faculty advisors are critical in ensur­ing a club’s consistency.

Director of Upper School and As­sistant Head of School Laura Hotch­kiss said that a club’s success from year to year varies based on the com­mitment and involvement of both stu­dent leaders and faculty advisors.

“Some years you have really orga­nized people in charge who know what they want to do, and run everything, and the teacher who is the advisor just sort of sits back. And then some years it doesn’t work so well for one reason or another, and the advisor maybe takes a greater role in it, or things don’t hap­pen as much,” Hotchkiss said.

Adi started and ran the Shalom Club during the 2010-2011 school year. This year, a similar club, called Mensches for Marlborough, started, initially with more members than Shalom, so Adi was encouraged to merge her club with theirs and do a joint fundraiser. However, Adi was soon left adrift when the new leader­ship floundered on their own, without significant help from a faculty advisor.

“I don’t think they really got their act together,” Adi said.

Co-President of Alliance Alana ’12 said she has been able to develop her leadership skills and organize the club independently rather than relying on the faculty ad­visor’s guidance.

“[Faculty advisors are] a great re­source, but I think a lot of it, for me at least, I get from seeing how previ­ous presidents had handled it. I think [our success] came more from the students rather than the faculty advi­sors,” Alana said.

 

Graphic by Schessa '12.

INCONSISTENT COMMITMENT

While club leaders are generally passionate about their goals, many younger members sign up without the intention of ac­tively participating. It may be up to club leaders to in­spire students to be more committed, but some say the School could help club meetings be more pro­ductive and prevent time conflicts by reviving the A periods designated specifi­cally for clubs.

Every year at Club Fair, students swarm Booth Field to check out the tables piled with Otter Pops, Skittles and other enticing goods club leaders provide to attract new mem­bers. Many clubs get a large number of sign-ups at Club Fair, but once the Otter Pops have melted and the tables are stowed away, new members’ enthusiasm often fades.

In order to encourage commitment in Robotics Club, Gwen said that club officers divided the mem­bers into smaller groups and assigned them spe­cific tasks.

“As long as you give each person something to do, they’ll feel like they’re an important part of the club and therefore more invested,” Gwen said.

GreenTeens President Alexa ’13 said sometimes it is difficult to organize the newer members, but having a Facebook page helps a lot. She said that she wishes student lead­ers in clubs could start and manage their own Haiku pages so that mem­bers could be more organized and know when meetings are.

DJ Club President Bianca ’13 said that only a small frac­tion of people who sign up for her club became active members.

“We have our table at club fair and everyone sees it and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so cool, I wan­na be a DJ!’ and so every year we get 30 or 40 people signing up, but we only have a core group of less than [seven] people,” Bianca said.

Although other clubs may rely on large membership, Landfield said that DJ Club has managed to stay afloat with its small group of dedicated members. Bianca said that if all 40 people who signed up during Club Fair came to the week­ly meetings, it would be difficult to schedule a meeting time that would accommodate all of the members.

According to Gwen, this scheduling problem could be solved if an All-School club period was integrated into the schedule. Gwen, along with many other club leaders, said that meetings during lunch are not ideal, as 40-minute periods once a week are not enough time, espe­cially when you factor in the ten minutes it takes to get lunch from Café M.

“I feel like we hardly get anything done. We’ll start talking about some­thing, and we’ll want to begin to work on our robot, but then the bell rings and everybody leaves,” Gwen said.

Paige ’17 said she signed up for Mensches for Marlborough and Crafty Club this year but never attend­ed more than two club meetings.

“I just like to have my lunch periods free, so I didn’t really like having to go to something that I didn’t really enjoy that much,” Paige said.

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

While it is important for students to learn to fund-raise, monetary support from the School or more opportuni­ties to raise money could help student leaders accomplish their objectives more easily. This year, the new club rules make it more challenging for clubs to control their own budget.

Many students said they are con­fused about how exactly the funding policy has changed this year. In the past, 75% of money gathered from a bake sale was required to go to charity, while 25% could be spent at the discretion of the club of­ficers.

While the policy for the 2011-2012 school year origi­nally mandated that clubs had to give 100% of the money they raised at their one permitted bake sale per year to charity, after Com­munity Service Coordinator Nadia Hopper, who oversees club funding, made what she called a “special arrangement” with the DJ club allowing them to keep 40% of the money they raised to buy new headphones, she and Hotchkiss decided to reevaluate the policy. Clubs may now appeal to Hopper on a case-by-case basis to ask to keep 50% or less of what they’ve raised. Hopper said she will ap­prove or deny these requests depend­ing on whether or not she feels the club needs the money to continue to exist.

Some students and faculty feel that the policy hasn’t been clearly communicated to the community, leading to confusion between stu­dent and faculty leaders.

“I was not aware that there were new club rules, and all of the com­munication that I had was through the student who acts as my president for the DJ club, and her communication was through Ms. Hopper,” Dean said.

In addition, some club leaders said being allowed to hold only one fundraiser per year does not provide them with enough money to accom­plish their goals. While a small num­ber of clubs, such as Robotics, annu­ally receive funding directly from the School, most do not. Many club lead­ers said they wish clubs could apply for money from the School to get the funds that they are unable to raise. In addition many club leaders also not­ed that they would rather spend their time performing the activities and ac­complishing the goals specific to their club rather than investing their energy and free periods into raising money.

According to Gwen, the success of Robotics Club relies on funding. Gwen said that the budget provided by the School is essential, but additional funding would be even more helpful.

“A lot of the money we have right now is going into entering us in the competitions, because there’s an en­trance fee,” Gwen said. “We could use the extra money to buy supplies.” Gwen said, adding that Robotics Club will apply for corporate sponsorship to gain these additional funds.

After Landfield created DJ Club in the 2009-2010 school year with no initial investment from the School, club members dedicated the entire school year to fundraising so that they could purchase a turntable a year later and finally learn how to DJ.

“There really is no opportunity other than a bake sale for [mem­bers] to fund-raise for equipment, or records, or anything that we might need, and it puts [students] in a dif­ficult position,” Dean said.

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