Opinion | Join clubs in order to create meaningful change

It’s a well-known fact in high schools that a student’s path to college can be helped along through the simple process of getting involved in clubs that their high school offers. This fact is often heavily reiterated by teachers, guidance counselors and parents throughout a student’s time in high school—and it’s especially true at ETHS. For me, this proved to be true even during my first year. So coming into the 2021 school year, I knew it was finally time to join one.

When deciding which clubs to join, there was one question that pervaded my mind, and that was ‘which clubs will be the most beneficial to my college application?’ It makes sense for a student to think about clubs in this manner, especially with the immense pressure to expand their college options and to appear as the ‘best’ candidate possible. But, in practice, this mindset often drives students to join clubs that they aren’t really passionate about, and, after seeing multiple examples of that at ETHS, I realized that I needed to change my thought process.

My mindset changed to ‘which clubs will help me make the most out of my time at ETHS?’ With this outlook, the Community Service Club resonated with me the most, because it does more for Evanston than any other club at ETHS, and I’m interested in making a positive change for my community.

“I think it’s a great way to, you know, slowly learn about different issues, and maybe [joining] can be a jumping off point to get more deeply involved in the community,” claims Diana Balitaan, the Community Service Coordinator here at ETHS.

Balitaan has been at ETHS for a total of four years, originally as an intern under Mary Collins, but more recently as the Community Service Coordinator. Although the club is mostly student-run, her job is important for supporting student leaders and working with teachers, clubs and sponsors.

Balitaan’s first year as the Community Service Coordinator took place during an intensely challenging time, at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, but she notes the importance of helping the club step up to the occasion and making activism possible through the toughest of times.

“In the spring, when the pandemic first started, we had training on a phone zap, and [learned] how to make phone calls to either people in power, whether they’re legislators, or even noting that many people were stuck in prisons and weren’t able to leave because of COVID. We learned how to use phone calls as a tool to address that,” mentions Balitaan.

Every year, the club figures out new ways to effectively create change in the Evanston community, but there are some things that always stay the same, year to year. One of the most astounding features about the club are its traditions. These include different events and fundraisers such as the ETHS thrift shop, St. Baldrick’s and the Empty Bowl Project, which give students the opportunity to make real, lasting change.

“I think the club does a really great job of being able to sustain those different initiatives throughout the years, which is really amazing,” comments Balitaan.

Of course, the Community Service Club isn’t the only club at ETHS creating positive change for Evanston. Some other clubs that are worth mentioning include the Clean Water Club, Students Without Borders, Student Union and Black Student Union, among many others.

At the end of the day, I truly believe that, for a student, one of the most important aspects of high school can be getting involved in clubs. Whether it be at the Community Service Club, the Chess club or the Evanstonian, each club is different and can provide students with unique experiences. But, I’d encourage all students to think about the clubs that can help them make the most out of their time at ETHS, not which ones would look best on their resumes.

As Balitaan puts it, “There’s a way for every club to do service, and I think as long as you’re finding your space here at ETHS, then you are in for a fun four years.”