By Marina Renton          

It is around dinnertime on Wednesday, May 15, and the Andover High School cafeteria has been partly cleared to form a sort of showroom. As pop music plays in the background, representatives from a number of clubs at the high school stand welcomingly by or behind cafeteria tables covered with alternating blue and yellow plastic tablecloths. Some groups are running PowerPoint presentations while others have the traditional tri-fold board displaying the club’s name and other pertinent information. A metallic robot controlled by the Robotics Club turns slow circles in front of its table. Groups of eighth grade students and their parents drift in and begin to circulate.  Various school administrators, including Superintendent McGrath, two assistant superintendents, and Dr. Lord are present as well. Some of the middle school students seem reluctant to be there; they hang back with guarded expressions while their parents come up to club tables and ask questions. Other middle schoolers, however, come up to club representatives on their own and ask earnestly about the opportunities available to them next year.

Arya and Diya Anand, twin sisters and eighth-graders at Wood Hill Middle School, stand quietly in the center of the cafeteria, listening as Assistant Principal Mark Seide awards prizes to attendees who provide correct answers to AHS trivia, such as “Which celebrity did not graduate from Andover High?” The sisters, who have come to the showcase with their mother, respond in unison when asked whether their parents encouraged them to attend: “Yeah.”

However, Diya acknowledges that she is finding the Club Showcase “pretty interesting.”

“There’s a lot of different things you can look at…and there’s a good amount of things you can join next year,” she says.

Arya adds that she came to the event “to see what clubs were there and to see what we can join” and that “everyone’s really friendly.”

Mr. Seide organized this year’s AHS Club Showcase, which was the first of its kind. Inspired by AHS’ annual Club Fair, a fall event at which clubs recruit new members, he felt that an additional fête at the end of the year was in order. “I thought [the Club Fair] was a great event,” he said, “and I thought how important it would be to have something at the end of the year as a celebration of the clubs and just have folks kind of show off what they’ve done.”

In addition, Mr. Seide said, “Clubs are co-curricular instead of extracurricular, meaning that they support the learning in classes in the school….[The Club Showcase provides] evidence of what kids are doing, where they’ve learned something over the year through their clubs.”

Twenty-two of the high school’s documented 66 clubs chose to sign up for tables at the showcase, a number that Mr. Seide said was “about what [he] expected,” due to the significant number of evening events that are held this time of year. According to Seide, around 50 eighth-graders and their families were present and were the primary attendees.

“I have to give a shout-out to Ms. Bergey [of the counseling department],” he said, “because it was her idea to invite eighth-grade families….That was a great idea and it really made the Club Showcase that much more meaningful.”

“I’m glad it became this thing that could link the middle schools to the high school,” he added.

UNICEF Club, affiliated with the UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) organization that focuses on looking after children facing unfavorable situations, elected to man a table during the Club Showcase. “We signed up for a table at the Club Showcase to get more publicity about our club and to be able to inform incoming freshmen about our club,” said senior and club Co-President Theresa Yeo, adding, “We also wanted to advertise our cause, UNICEF, and, even if they didn’t wish to join the club, raise awareness of the cause.”

Yeo said she interacted only with eighth-graders and their families, and she did not see any AHS students aside from those manning their own tables. In order to entice prospective members, UNICEF “made a quiz based on statistics that UNICEF raises money for,” Yeo said. “People seemed quite interested in taking it.” The club offered a choice of prizes as incentive for taking the quiz.

“It made the experience more interactive, and [students] had fun seeing who was able to guess the best,” she concluded.

Mr. Seide mentioned that he had heard only “good things” from eighth-graders and their parents who were in attendance, as well as from Dr. McGrath, Dr. Lord, and the two assistant superintendents who stopped by.

With regard to next year, Mr. Seide hopes to publicize the Club Showcase more widely. “There was a nice newspaper article in the Townsman that helped, but I think we’ll have to just brainstorm some ways to make it grow,” he said. “I think we can do that. I tried to [draw people in] with the raffle and the food. I thought that was one hook, but that only worked so much, I guess.”

Mr. Seide sees a bright future for the Club Showcase.

“I would love next year to see to see many more clubs. It’d be great to get all the clubs…represented,” he said. “It would be great to just build on the momentum and have two or three times as many folks come and check it out.”