Your donation will support the student journalists of Omaha Central High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.
Seniors reflect on club leadership
December 2, 2021
Seniors Isabella Manhart and Sophia Mason started the Creative Change Initiative club three years ago, along with the now-graduated Lillian McEvoy. The club has survived through the school closure in the second semester of its existence and a full year online, all due to the pandemic.
Now, they have returned fully in-person and are meeting in 229, English teacher Jen Stastny’s room, again, as they did when the club started.
“It’s really nice to be in the same space again,” Manhart said. “There’s a lot more freedom of what we can do. We’ve done a lot of things just running around the hallways, just because we can. We can take up space in a way we couldn’t before, which feels powerful.”
Mason says this is key to the club’s identity.
“A lot of things we’re doing are about expression and how we express ourselves in a space,” Mason said. “We did it really well online, and now we have this 3D element back, which is really nice and makes it easier to collaborate on a lot of activities.”
Manhart and Mason do think that the year of online experience, despite all its drawbacks, did help them to grow as club leaders.
“I think we have become very flexible in a way that we weren’t necessarily intending,” Manhart said. “I think it was good that there was a lot of big ideas that we had that we had to change because of the pandemic, and we got really good at that. Now, we get to change those things back into in-person activities that are really effective and engage everyone in a different way. We’ve become very adaptable.”
Now that they’re set up to lead the club for the remainder of the year, Manhart and Mason are thinking about what will become of the club when they leave.
“It’s weird to think about leaving it behind, but it’s exciting to think about how it will continue to evolve when we’re not running it,” Manhart said. “I think there’s a lot of very capable leaders who are in our club and have been doing it for a while, or who have just started and could absolutely do what we’re doing ten times better.”
Yet Mason says that those people might not end up continuing the club.
“There is the potential that it might just end this year; I don’t know,” Mason said. “But, whatever happens in the future, I think we did a lot of good with it and were able to help a lot of people be able to express themselves and find a safe space.”
Manhart agrees, saying that they don’t want to force the club to continue to exist. If it is to continue after they leave, they want it to happen naturally.
“If people need it, it will exist, and there will be an effort made to maintain it,” Manhart said. “Throughout the pandemic, we absolutely could have just stopped doing this club—a lot of clubs didn’t continue—but it was something really valuable for people, so we kept doing it. If it’s not something that’s really helping people, it might not continue, but I think it did a lot of good while it was here.”
Part of the good that it did, according to the club leaders, was help them to improve on a personal level.
“I never dreamed of running a club before this,” Mason said. “My freshman year I was a more withdrawn person. I thought, ‘Oh it would be cool to run a club,’ but I never really thought I would. Then, I met Isabella and we started talking and the idea came pretty naturally. It’s helped me a lot with my own personal growth, trying to find my space in the world as a leader.”
Manhart agrees, saying that they had initially believed that they couldn’t run a club, but that now, the Creative Change Initiative has changed how they think about the world.
“It’s shaped what I think I want to do with my life and what I think I’m capable of doing,” Manhart said. “I love bringing people together and getting to hear different perspectives and ideas, so I cannot imagine doing things in the future that don’t have spaces like that. They don’t have to be this club, but I value those kinds of spaces, and I’m going to continue to seek those out, whether they exist already or I have to create them myself.”
And they have seen that they are, in turn, having a positive effect on the members of their club.
“I got a card from a person saying something like, ‘Hey, I’m taking an art class this year. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it before, but I’ve been in your club, and that inspired me to try something new,’” Mason said. “I thought that was so cool; I feel like we’re helping people find out new things about themselves or find what they want to do. It was really sweet.”
This, they agree, is at the core of what their club seeks to do: bring people together and give them a space where they feel that they belong.
“I think it’s really valuable to have a space at school but not in class, where you can just talk, meet people, chill out, and be yourself,” Manhart said. “There’s such cool people that have continued to come back to the club again and again, and I really appreciate them being there; they’ve influenced inspired me. I hope that there’s some level of that that is reciprocal.”