Clubs, academic teams work to connect, maintain community remotely


Miriam Bloom

Students pile plates with food from the potluck-style Blacksgiving spread Nov. 21 in Judd C116. Many clubs had similar events planned for the spring, which now have to be reworked to take place remotely.

Leland Culver, Assistant Managing Editor

It’s Friday morning, April 10, and Nicki Sekhar has just notified several students of a special Zoom meeting planned for that day. The recipients are members of Spectrum, U-High’s LGBTQ+ alliance, and the meeting is the first they’ve been able to attend in four weeks. Nicki and Destiny Strange, the co-presidents of the club, want to bring members, even former ones, back together in a place of community and safety.

Spectrum is one of several clubs working to preserve their communities and morale during the COVID-19 remote learning period. Many such clubs are meeting remotely or reworking their goals for the spring. In particular, members of identity clubs like Spectrum find it important to maintain a space for students who may feel isolated from their communities.

Advisers also understand the need.

“Advising Spectrum during COVID-19 has changed significantly because I don’t have contact with students and so I can’t see them to check in,” Spectrum adviser Deb Foote responded by email. “In the LGBTQ+ community being ‘seen,’ is so important, so I can appreciate how having this extra layer of social removal can feel even more isolating.”

Academic teams have been greatly affected by social distancing, too. Competitions have been canceled, and most teams have moved toward practicing for the next year’s competitions, training new people, and passing the torch of leadership. 

Here’s a breakdown of how some of U-High’s competitive and identity-based clubs are moving forward.


Asian Students’ Association:

Remote meetings begin April 17. The club decided to take a break, so members could get used to remote learning, and is now focusing on discussions and planning a workshop for Social Justice Week.

“Especially with the rise of anti-Asian sentiment surrounding COVID-19, our meetings are going to have some pretty engaging discussions,” President Nikita Kumar said. “We are all passionate about issues surrounding the Asian community, which is why we are going to continue to meet.”


Black Students’ Association:

According to adviser Naadia Owens, she, her co-adviser Camille Baughn-Cunningham and the BSA board are meeting soon to discuss plans going forward.

“Most important to us is being available to any BSA members who may need extra support or someone to talk to or connect with during this time,” adviser Naadia Owens said, speaking on behalf of both herself and Ms. Baughn-Cunningham.


Meeting via videoconference using Google Hangouts. Competitions have been canceled, and members are also practicing individually in preparation for next year’s season.

“It has been a little disappointing, especially for the seniors, because we were unable to attend the end-of-year tournaments, but other than that, there hasn’t been a huge effect on the morale of the team,” team captain Annette Kim said. “A lot of us are close friends, so we’ve also been keeping in touch outside of debate work.”


Jewish Students’ Association:

Meeting via videoconference using Zoom. JSA elected a new board on March 13, and the board is still working on plans for the next year and for keeping the community connected.

“We are looking forward to finding these methods to regain some sense of connection in this time of separation,” new board member Elena Stern said.


Math Team:

Currently not meeting. The remaining scheduled math competitions, including ICTM state May 2, have been canceled, but team members are practicing independently using materials posted by coach Joseph Scroll.

“I think a lot of people were disappointed, but we understood,” team captain Neha Ramani said. “We got to end our season on a good note because we finished 1st in state in the Illinois Math League competition.”

Model United Nations:

Meeting via videoconference using Zoom. Members are practicing for the next year, and elections for next year’s board are moving forward as planned for the week of April 27.

“The team has been dedicated and working hard to develop their skills, despite the fact that there’s no conference being held,” Ananya Asthana, a senior board member, said. “The seniors are really proud of the team, and we’re working to hold some mentorship family bonding event before the end of the year as well.”


Muslim Students’ Association:

Currently not meeting. Club leaders are still figuring out how they wish to conduct meetings and focusing on preparing for Ramadan, which begins April 24.

“I’m hoping to hold more frequent MSA meetings during Ramadan to touch base and have the opportunity to connect with each other again, especially during times like these,” Jenna Nimer, co-president, said. “A big part of Ramadan is being with family and friends and going to nightly worship at our local mosques, so it’s sad that we can’t engage with the month in the same way that we normally do.”


Science Teams:

Not currently meeting. Competitions, including state events for four teams,  are canceled, but practice materials are still available and members are encouraged to practice on their own. 

“I think our spirit is better than ever, even though we don’t meet regularly. We ended our season on a really high note, first at regionals,which was really cool!” Adi Badlani said.



Meeting via videoconference using Zoom. Spectrum leaders are working on new initiatives to support members of the LGBTQ+ community who may be in unsupportive households.

In particular, Ms. Foote and her co-adviser, Daniel Bobo-Jones, want students to know that they and the counseling department are resources available for any student questioning their identity.

“I actually am thinking of and concerned more now about students who are struggling with their sexual and gender identity,” Ms. Foote said. “These issues are complex and scary so being around one’s peers with similar concerns can be helpful.”