When it comes to extracurricular activities we can safely say that COVID-19 hasn't canceled everything.
Reimagined to be online, students and teachers are tackling the pandemic head-on through integrating club and sports activities with a digital twist. With the power of social media and the internet on our side, unexpected positives are coming out of distance learning for the Wilson student body.
*Source: Data collected from anonymous survey responses compiled by Phi Delta Kappa International Educational Foundation*
COVID-19 has undeniably disrupted the educational environment not only in terms of academics but also extracurricular activities. From cooking clubs to school newspapers, activities that are normally conducted in school have been canceled. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International, there is a glaring difference in overall concern between secondary students and educators on maintaining extracurricular activities during distance learning.
Extracurriculars are only a piece of this complicated puzzle of distance learning. And like puzzles with many outside factors involved, the absence of the “physical” form of peer-to-peer activities highlights the importance of unstructured student platforms.
Rather than preparing for the annual Golden State Field Classic this year, Wilson’s Marching Band went from striding on the football field to rehearsing along in Zoom. With school-provided instruments, band currently operates through members learning new scores—a written form of a musical composition—from the director in preparation for post-COVID competitions.
As the trumpet co-section leader, senior Gardenia Garcia has a lot on her plate from recording instructional videos on marching, leading in breakout room practices, and working through technological barriers to guide newcomers. On top of all her band responsibilities, most of Garcia’s day is spent working part-time and taking care of her family, which she admits can get stressful at times.
“I’m like a stand-in mom for my niece, a full-time student, a part-time worker at my church and a section leader in the band,” said Garcia. “I do have time to practice my instrument, but it is still stressful and difficult for me to deal with all at once.”
Upon further questioning, it seems like an imbalance of workload is the culprit, but why does the current situation seemingly entail more work for the students?
The answer lies within a lack of support from coaches: a side effect of absent funds.
“Each year, we have different coaches that come on campus to help us prepare for competition,” said Garcia. “We have always had to fund for our own coaches as the school does not pay them directly. We still had to [compensate] for them this year even though it was virtual, and they were only able to [stick around] for a few months.”
Insufficient funding has always been a large issue for many classes, clubs and sports. However, the impact of the deficit on one of Wilson’s most highest-achieving cohorts is concerning, to say the least, as pressure is primarily left onto the students themselves to maintain the program without coaches guiding them.
“Just having your coach there means a lot because it is your last year, and you have spent a lot of time growing together,” said Garcia. “It is definitely tough not being able to talk to them on zoom [regularly] on Zoom.”
Garcia’s account highlights a need for more support in extracurriculars like band; perhaps, even some aid from the school as students have to get as much assistance as they can, especially since it is the last year for seniors like Garcia. With once-in-a-lifetime school events like Mr. Wilson, senior sunrise and prom unlikely to happen, it is not difficult to see that the graduating student body had it the hardest this year. In this regard, more communication and teacher support can lead to better morale of the student body, particularly when many feel uncertain about the future.
For students, extracurriculars provide a sense of community and connection, and that feeling is important to consider: especially during a time where many feel stressed and drained from the pandemic. As the district claims that students' emotional well-being remain top priority, it should be taken into account that extracurriculars play an important factor in this area. During quarantine, doing activities helped me stay sane, Garcia explained.
This mindset especially rings true with many students involved in athletics at Wilson. While COVID-19 has forced many activities to turn remote, Wilson athletes are still in a predicament on what exactly is next for sports. This year’s athletics began with fall sports in August, winter sports in January, and spring sports in March: some having a full season, while others, like Girls Volleyball, were canceled altogether. Wilson’s Cross Country team, for example, announced a return to in-person practice on Feb. 22.
The return signals a time to begin constructing a running course and training more frequently, sophomore Katie Tao explained while nodding to the fact that not much has changed from pre-pandemic as the routines conducted remotely stayed the same in-person.
“There are still a few things we need to figure out to make the most of our time, so we still do our regular remote exercises and team bondings,” said Tao.
There are some worries, however, with the current status of returning back to school. Particularly, a concern for the safety of students gathering together, voiced by a large majority of parents. However, the administration confirms that it is not a requirement for the student to attend in-person practice in an effort to pacify any unease amongst the students and their families.
*Source: Student Athlete COVID-19 Monitoring Form from Glen A Wilson website*
“Especially when parents are uncomfortable with letting their children go outside, our coaches are very understanding of our situation,” Tao clarified.
Nonetheless, the positives of just going back to spend time with the team, in proper social distancing conditions, are enough for a large portion of students, including sophomore Eric Zhu.
“Cross country is both one of the most physically and mentally challenging sports,” said Zhu. “[However], I have made a lot of fun memories in cross country, and it is a great experience overall.”
Despite all the disadvantages, resilience is still shown by Wilson students through their ability to adapt to the current pandemic. While unable to continue her second year physically, sophomore Jennifer Yang opted to create her own non-profit organization in collaboration with one of her closest friends. Inspired by their love of baking and medical workers, Doctor Cookie Foundation sells cookies and donates proceeds to the University of Los Angeles Medical Center.
*You can help support Doctor Cookie Foundation and UCLA Medical Center on their social media*
“We were both influenced [to create the organization] because of our parents’ experiences [as medical workers] and wanted to help in whatever way we could,” said Yang. “In the beginning, I had to learn how to build and manage a business. However, as I [gained] experience, the process gradually became more efficient.”
The follow-up of the disaster of a year revealed a much-needed fix in the school’s approach to extracurricular activities. It has always been necessary for schools to maintain active communication with students and organizations to address social and economic needs, and it is now more important than ever to help and fund such efforts.
While spirit rallies canceled, sports games suspended, and with great sadness, club food days postponed, students, still, gripping tightly onto their passions.
“Music has been my outlet over quarantine. I remember spending my first paycheck on a piano keyboard so that I could learn music from Twilight and Harry Potter,” said Garcia. “Being able to tell stories and creating something with music is an activity that I really enjoy doing and [motivates me to continue].”
Note: Of course, these are by far not the only activities at Glen A Wilson High School. Wilson prides itself in hosting a wide variety of clubs, sports, and organizations.
“EoTE: Extracurriculars going digital” is the second part of our GAWHS Distance Learning Series.
Check out part one here: https://www.pawprintsweekly.org/post/eye-of-the-editors-a-remote-learning-meltdown
It is more important, now than ever, for students to support other students. Support student run coverage of distance learning at Wilson HS by following Paw Prints Weekly on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates.