Student Clubs are Flourishing - and Making an Impact

Gunn Gives Back Through Community Service

Last week, students announced the formation of two new clubs, adding to what is already a thriving number and range of student-led groups on campus this year.

Abigail’s Circle, an empowerment group for women led by Molly Braun ’21 and supported by faculty-advisors Suzanne Day, Senior Associate Director of Admissions & Financial Aid, and Jamie Goldsmith, Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Multicultural Recruitment, held its first meeting on Monday. Named for school co-founder Abigail Gunn, its mission is “to empower young women to feel confident and capable in themselves when it relates to gender,” Braun said. In addition to sharing their own stories, members will hear from guest speakers, and discuss media, movies, books, and more.

A new Documentary Club was established by Serdar Kaltalioglu ’22, Kate O'Farrell '22, and Lily O’Farrell ’22, with the support of Stephen Gritti of the History Department faculty. In January, Gritti hosted a screening of the video game documentary, “The King of Kong,” which follows Steve Wiebe’s quest to become the greatest Donkey Kong player ever. It apparently sparked the idea for a new club focused on screening and discussing documentary films.

Part of Campus Culture
Student-run clubs and organizations have long been part of the fabric of the school and serve as a connection point for students, who typically sign up to join at least one group in the fall, when the annual Club Fair is held. There is something for everyone, from Anime Club and Book Club to Green Club, Investment Club, and affinity groups such as the Black Student Union and Asian Student Association, and offerings continue to expand throughout the school year to support student interests.

Most groups hold weekly meetings, and the schedule is shared, which makes it easy for students to join - or even lead - more than club or organization. For example, in addition to co-founding the Documentary Club, Kaltalioglu is co-leading Poetry Club with Yoyo Zhang ’22 for the second year and serves as Vice President of Green Club.  “It is important to be able to meet up with people who are interested in things you are interested in, and meet new people, and you can make new friends,” he said.

“This is part of the whole campus culture. You’ve got to be part of something aside from academics,” said Eric Zhang ’22, who started the Anime Club because it was a topic he knew well, and he found a lot of his friends are fans of the  genre.

“There are a lot of people who like anime. I’m not that knowledgeable but I do have the enthusiasm,” said Zhang, who established four simple rules for his club:  Have fun. Be nice to each other. Talk about anime. No politics. “If you make too many rules, the club isn't going to be fun.”

Gunn Gives Back
Students are also turning to clubs to give back to others in need and raise awareness while channeling their interests in engineering, sustainability, and community service. Members of the new Engineering Club, led by Sean Hall ’22, Paul Clement ‘22, and Oliver Chen ’22, have partnered with the Hartford Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders to help design a water resources system for the Ndaleta community in Tanzania. During the holidays, members of the new Community Service Club made donations to local food drives and wrote letters to the elderly in their communities as part of a #GunnGivesBack campaign that included a student takeover of the FGS Instagram account.

“We take pride in our sense of community,” said Liam Koval ’22, who co-founded the Community Service Club with Ashleen Hay ’23. Both students were engaged in community service efforts at their previous schools, Washington Montessori and Rumsey Hall, respectively, and said they wanted to find ways to continue that at FGS. While a group trip to a local soup kitchen or food pantry is not possible due to the pandemic, the students have been thinking of other ways to help while following COVID protocols. During Black History Month, they highlighted small, Black-owned businesses such as ScribblesTT stationery and Maury’s Tea Hive at School Meeting, and encouraged the community to support those businesses.

Green Club President Ava Lee ’21 has encouraged students to join her in supporting ConnPIRG’s effort to ban polystyrene foam containers in Connecticut. After being contacted by former Prefect Corinne Bolding ’20, who is now the Zero Waste Campaign Coordinator for the ConnPIRG Chapter at Trinity College, Lee wrote letters to elected officials and to the editors of about 50 newspapers in the state, including The Day in New London, where it was published in January. 

In February, The Green Club hosted its second annual JouleBug Challenge, encouraging teams of students and faculty to practice conservation measures such as turning the water off while brushing teeth, air drying clothes and dishes, and recycling, to earn points using the JouleBug app. “As a community, we saved over 459 pounds of carbon, diverted 26 pounds of waste, and saved about 572 gallons of water,” said Kaltalioglu, who joined the club as a sophomore. “I wanted to do my part in making The Frederick Gunn School a more sustainable place and I saw Green Club as an opportunity to do that.”

Earlier in the school year, Jojo Wimler '24 and Avery Warren ’24 presented at School Meeting on the global pandemic’s impact on sustainability, while Lauren Stark ’21 and Emily Nussbaumer '22 discussed the meaning and myths of the Green New Deal. Green Club advisor Charles Lovejoy of the Science Department faculty said club members are also looking forward to partnering with Hailey Lovallo ’21 of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) on a project to place new composting and recycling bins around campus. Such crossover projects between clubs are definitely encouraged. “These kids are awesome,”  Lovejoy said. “They are super passionate and they really drive the whole thing.”

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