Being a member of a club is a fundamental part of any high schooler’s experience. Freshmen begin high school excited about the clubs they will join and the like-minded people they will meet. Students at Leesville Road High School are no exception; Leesville currently has over 60 clubs for enthusiastic students to join ranging from the Speech and Debate Club to the Bee Club.
However, Leesville has not always hosted such a plethora of clubs. In the 1993–1994 school year, the year that Leesville Road High School opened, there were only about twenty clubs. In the new school, students had to start everything from scratch, including clubs. In contrast to the present-day club creation process, teachers played integral parts in the formation of new clubs during Leesville’s first year.
“The teachers really kind of kicked things off [during the first year],” said Dante Urzi, Leesville class of 1996 and German Club treasurer, through Facebook Messenger. “They pretty much said that anyone interested in forming the club for a subject had to meet after school at the beginning of the year. From there we elected officers and made a basic charter.”
Today, students must take the initiative to form new clubs. Students interested in starting a club must fill out an application on the Leesville website, which includes collecting twenty signatures from interested students, and turn it the main office. According to Leesville assistant principal Kathryn Fehling, Leesville welcomes about 10 new clubs per year, so the number of clubs has been rising since the 1993–1994 school year.
“With more ideas and cultures at the center of Leesville society now, the school has added clubs to represent that,” Heather Dinkenor, a Leesville English teacher who has worked at Leesville for all 25 years it has been open, said via email.
Both current and past Leesville students have started clubs for many reasons. Some students were simply looking to add material to their college applications.
“Extra curriculars [sic] were the name of the game for college applications,” said Urzi through Facebook.
However, some students were seeking communities of like-minded individuals to interact with. Barbara Hinkey, a Leesville junior and historian of the German Club, and several other Leesville students take German courses online over the summer and, by starting the German Club, were hoping to share the knowledge they gained.
“There was…a community of us at Leesville, and so we decided to come together and make the club,” said Hinkey. “That way we could…talk about things that we learned throughout the summer.”
The German Club has a notable history. When Leesville first opened, the school offered German as a foreign language class, and a German Club formed. Later, the school stopped providing German courses, and the German Club died out. However, interest in having a German Club again culminated in the reinstitution of the German Club this fall. So far, students have reacted favorably to the revitalized club.
“The turnout for the first meeting was relatively good. Approximately 30 people attended,” said Miranda Darwin, Leesville sophomore and German Club vice president, via text.
The list of original clubs at Leesville contains several other clubs that have since died out and that students have not restored—for example, Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) and Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (SETA), but many clubs still exist today that were present during Leesville’s first year.
One such club is the National Honor Society, more commonly referred to as NHS, and its popularity has never wavered. It has certainly grown with Leesville Road High School. Leesville opened with less than 1,000 students, but today, over 2,500 students walk through its halls daily. Similarly, in March 1994, at the end of NHS’s first year at Leesville, the honor society inducted 38 juniors; this past September, the Leesville chapter of NHS inducted about 150 juniors and seniors.
Despite its size changes throughout its 25 years at Leesville, NHS has maintained most of its high standards for inductees. Both in 1994 and in 2017, the Leesville NHS required inductees to have participated in service activities, to have held a leadership position, and to possess good character. Nevertheless, 1994 inductees needed to maintain a 3.5 GPA while today’s NHS members must maintain a 3.6 weighted GPA. Similarly, NHS inductees in 1994 had to complete 30 hours of service to retain their statuses as NHS members; now members only need 20 hours of service.
Much larger changes have occurred in the times and places that clubs meet. Before the institution of SMART Lunch in the 2013–2014 school year, clubs mostly met after school or before school. For example, NHS met at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesdays. Before SMART Lunch, students who participated in sports could not participate in as many clubs, especially the ones that met after school, but now, most clubs meet during lunch.
Despite the more convenient meeting times, Dinkenor does not believe students are taking full advantage of club meetings during SMART Lunch.
“I think one of the original hopes for SMART lunch was that students who might not have been able to stay after school for club meetings would get involved in clubs during lunch and feel a connection to the school, and I don’t think that has happened,” said Dinkenor.
Even club involvement in the Homecoming Week festivities has drastically changed over the past 25 years. Today, only clubs with the special “Honor Club” status participate in the Homecoming Week festivities by having floats in the Homecoming Parade, but once upon a time, all clubs could take part in the celebration.
“All clubs did once participate at the School Carnival during Homecoming Week at the Powderpuff game, and that was one of the highlights of the year,” said Dinkenor. “It was very community oriented.”
Leesville Road High School’s 25th anniversary gives students, teachers, and alumni the opportunity to reflect on the numerous changes that have occurred at Leesville over the years. Clubs, groups that are able to have tremendous impacts in students’ social lives, have undergone significant—and insignificant—transformations during the past 25 years.