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From ukulele to Ping Pong games to graphic novels, East students share eclectic interests. For such students, clubs have served as an outlet for their interests, and students have formed and continued clubs for these exciting and unique interests.
East bookkeeper Joan Burnett organizes and files paperwork for the school’s 90 clubs. Each club requires a staff sponsor, paperwork and, in the case of totally new clubs, approval from Dr. Krawitz, the district and Burnett.
“Clubs are a way to get together with kids that have similar interests,” Burnett said. “I think if you’re getting together and you’re cooperating, you’re learning, even if it isn’t book learning.”
On Wednesdays after school, senior Kristen Shedor can be found strumming up the light and happy sounds of summer in the choir room, using her fingerings on her ukulele to teach others the basic chords to a song of choice.
“I had so much fun playing the ukulele, I thought it might be more fun if more people played with me,” Shedor said.
Shedor founded the Ukulele Club with the hope of introducing a new, joyful interest to its members, envisioning a mid-week relaxation. She received a ukulele for her birthday this past March, and immediately fell in love with the fun instrument.
“I was super relaxed after just playing a couple of chords,” Shedor said. “One strum just sounds like summer, so even when it’s a rainy day or really cold winter and I’m feeling down in the dumps, I can just pull out my ukulele, start playing some songs and go, ‘You know? Today is great.’”
According to Shedor, the rigor of learning a new instrument is not an issue. She assures prospective players that the ukulele is “really, really easy to learn,” which encourages people who may have never played (much less own a ukulele) to come to the meetings. Shedor has three extra instruments available to be loaned out at meetings.
At meetings, the club learns chords, fingerings, how to strum and how to play songs together. At their very first meeting, the club started to play “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” by B.J. Thomas.
Shedor hopes to expand the club and attract even more players, possibly putting on performances. Still, Shedor and the club are all about having fun and sharing a hobby.
“A couple of people stopped by when we played and listened to us playing,” Shedor said. “Which was very exciting.”
Ping Pong balls bounce across tables, paddles fly through the air and games grow in intensity as the elite and novice alike pair up to compete. The hallway outside of room 402 becomes an arena for a coalition of paddle-wielding champions every Monday. Senior president of the club Jakob Yedo and members meet to play the game that unites them all: table tennis.
“The club is just a group of people who enjoy playing table tennis in a friendly environment with lots of supplies,” Yedo said.
The club owns six Ping Pong tables, each costing between $200 and $400, which have been paid for by T-shirt sales of years past.
“No other club that I know of has this big of a budget,” Yedo said. “Six Ping Pong tables is a lot.”
The supplies have allowed many games to be going on at the same time. Senior Sam Rider, a Table Tennis Club member, likes table tennis because the competition is intense yet fun.
“You don’t have to be extremely active to play Ping Pong,” Rider said. “It’s like tennis without the running. Well, without most of the running.”
The lower level of activity allows the club to involve both sport and conversation. Through this atmosphere, members have developed friendships and Ping Pong prowess.
Although some experienced members like Yedo and Rider have been playing table tennis for years, the atmosphere of the club is that of communal learning, according to Yedo. Yedo views the club as an opportunity to play and teach a fun game with friends who by no means have to be experienced players.
“Anyone can join – anyone who wants to have a good time and likes to be around people with similar interests,” Yedo said. “They just need to understand that the ball needs to go over the net to the other person’s side.”
They group around circular tables, drop their bags and greet each other. They reference their favorite inside jokes and parody their favorite scenes. They compare fan art and discuss cartooning styles. They are the Graphic Novel Club and they meet periodically on Mondays in the library to discuss manga.
Manga, Japanese comic books with a distinct style and American comics are an avocation with which not everyone is familiar. Despite their limited popularity, president and senior Elizabeth Locke believes that manga is widely enjoyable.
“Our motto is, ‘There’s a manga for everyone,’” Locke said.
“We usually try to find stuff that everybody likes first, then we try to give love to the more underrated series that people enjoy,” Locke said. “We want people to try to talk about more underrated series to try to spread the love of the underdog.”
Once or twice a month, the club meets to share snacks, to discuss the graphic novels that bring them together and, more importantly, to socialize.
“We’re not only there to discuss comics and stuff,” Locke said. “We’re uniting the fandom so that we can make friends and just talk about something that not everyone really knows about.”
Friendships often stem from meetings as members devote much time to the group’s shared interest. Locke and others plan to buy group tickets at a reduced price and to organize a trip to Naka-Kon, a nearby anime convention, in February.
The club is open to anyone who has an interest in graphic novels or anyone who may be interested in learning more about them. Locke stresses that meetings are open for anyone who shares the group’s interest in manga.
“No matter what genre you like,” Locke said. “There’s a manga that you’re bound to enjoy – that’s for you.”
Video by Mary Newman.