After school club moves online

September 14, 2020

The Creative Change Initiative, an after-school club, was still in its first year when COVID-19 hit, shutting OPS down over spring break. However, the student club leaders Isabella Manhart, Sophia Mason, and Lillian McEvoy didn’t miss a beat. Less than three weeks later, on Tuesday, March 31, the CCI was back up and running with its first virtual meeting via Zoom. 

“We started off with quarantine-based stuff,” Manhart said, “We did quarantine survival tips, and we worked a little bit on a zine about our experience with quarantine.” 

They continued that way, meeting on Zoom each Tuesday for the rest of the school year. Throughout those weeks, they did self-care circles, a photography activity with their favorite quarantine items, and created a quarantine playlist. 

“At the end of school, to send us into summer, we did a dance party with that playlist, and just chilled and listened to music, which was awesome,” Manhart said. 

Once the school year ended, the three club leaders decided they should keep meeting over the summer. 

“We had time and we needed people to talk to,” McEvoy explained, “A big reason why people came was that they needed that socialization, that safe space, and, really, just anything.” 

Their first meeting of the summer was on May 26 and for the first time, they opened the club to any high school student who wanted to join whether they go to Central or not. The club leaders feel this is part of the CCI’s identity: to be as inclusive as possible, and to make everyone feel welcome. They exercise this through small things like starting each meeting with everyone in the group sharing their name and pronouns. 

“We know each other,” Manhart says, “but we start every meeting like that so everyone knows that they have the freedom to present themselves exactly how they want to and that they’ll be validated in that.” 

After their first meeting of the summer, protests regarding the killing of George Floyd began, so in their second meeting, they held a discussion about George Floyd, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“I think that was a really powerful meeting,” Mason said. “Just talking about and processing what was happening in America at that time; there was a lot of power in that.” 

The club leaders felt that this meeting was one of their most successful meetings of the whole summer. 

“It was one of our first meetings that was really discussion-based,” Mason said. “And that’s kind of what I want to see us do in Creative Change, just having those discussions.” 

After that, they held a hope-themed meeting to decompress and remember the things that bring them joy. They did a virtual whiteboard activity, where people could write and color, and they made haikus and talked about hopeful and informative media sources. 

They continued throughout the summer, trying new things and keeping up their focus on change. For example, they did an activity using playwriting to explore the national conversation about racism. Additionally, they held a virtual Pride Prom where McEvoy DJ’ed, and they held some relaxing meetings including activities with origami and a show-and-tell. 

The adult sponsors of the club, English teachers Jennifer Stastny and Deron Larson, attended the virtual meetings during the school year, but not in the summer. The club leaders value their support and enjoy the freedom the two teachers give them to run the club. 

“Mrs. Stastny and Mr. Larson have been awesome, they’ve contributed a lot,” Mason exclaimed, “But I think it’s really cool that ultimately it is student-led, that it’s everyone’s club.” 

Looking back on the year, the club leaders agree that moving to virtual meetings wasn’t easy. 

“It changed a lot, because in person we work so much with materials and collaborating with each other, so there was a definite switch in how we were creating and how we were doing art and working together, but I think we adapted really well,” Manhart said. 

They made sure to do activities with basic supplies, usually just pen and paper, or whatever art supplies people had around the house. 

“We put a lot of thought into trying to make it inclusive, so that everybody could participate in the activities,” McEvoy said. 

They also made mental health a priority this year, especially during quarantine. Their focus is on social change, but they don’t want to overwhelm themselves by taking on more than they can handle. 

“We are a safe space to discuss problems in the world and in our own lives, but not to be pressured to fix everything,” McEvoy said. 

All things considered, the club leaders are proud of the CCI’s first year, and they’re looking forward to starting up again soon. They’re always looking for new members; students can get involved with them through their Instagram account, @creative_change_initiative. 

“There’s so much going on in the world that we can have discussions about, and create with, and work to change,” Manhart says. “There will not be a shortage of things for us to discuss and work with as youth.”

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