GJPS Middle School Clubs Exploring Passions through Clubs

Extracurricular clubs at Gahanna-Jefferson middle schools are giving students the opportunity to explore areas they may not otherwise learn about, while providing advisors with the ability to teach leadership skills and real-world experience outside of the classroom.

Teacher Laura Urda warms up the Gahanna Middle School West Show Choir Club.

“Staff members thoroughly enjoy advising clubs,” said Steven Tartt, principal at Middle School West. “It gives them an opportunity to interact with students around an activity that they have in common. Clubs allow the students and staff to form genuine relationships, which is something we aim to do everyday as educators.”

Tartt notes the increasing number of students participating in clubs as a sign of their popularity. Not only are they able to make new friends with similar interests, students also are able to pursue activities that have a positive impact on the school and community.

Show Choir Club meets before and after school!

For example, the East Buds club at Middle School East focuses on fostering peer relationships with special needs students who are in the Extended Support Services (ESS) and Functional Support Services (FSS) programs. East Buds participants help the special needs students with academic assignments and classwork, as well as form lasting friendships that benefit them both.

East Buds is a popular club that meets during the day at Gahanna Middle School East.

Amie Waits and Kat McKee teach the special needs students daily and act as the club’s advisors. They say the club has made a significant impact on all of the students.

“The students learn valuable, life-long skills through East Buds,” said Waits. “Our hope is that they learn the importance of empathy and continue to model it throughout adulthood to make their communities more supportive to people with disabilities. We want them to see that not everyone has the same needs or comes from the same background, but we’re all capable of being good students, good friends and good people who can all be inclusive.”

About 80 middle school students volunteer up to three times per week with East Buds, and Mckee and Waits have had the opportunity to get to know and mentor all of them.

“It has been a wonderful experience to advise the club,” said McKee. “We get to see our students make friendships and become valued members of the school community. As ESS teachers, we get to make strong bonds with the students in our program, but East Buds gives us the opportunity to form relationships and mentor other students outside of our classes as well.”

East Buds focuses on fostering peer relationships.

Waits and McKee say that many East Buds students have gone on to volunteer and work with people with special needs because of their experience with the club. Previous club members have pursued careers in special education, physical therapy, speech language therapy or occupational therapy. McKee and Waits like to think that their time in East Buds has something to do with their career tracks.

Another club doing good in the community is the Enviro Club at Middle School South. Led by advisor Cailin Sendelbach-Shelton, students in the club are dedicated to making Gahanna a better, greener place. This year, students are working with Make Gahanna Yours to pick up trash, organizing a winter campaign to raise money for Charity: Water, building a composting bin for the community garden, starting a more comprehensive recycling program at the school and rebuilding bluebird boxes around the campus. The students in Enviro Club learn valuable leadership skills and get real-world experience.

Enviro Club at Gahanna Middle School South is dedicated to making Gahanna a better, greener place.

“The club inspires students to speak up about their concerns with the environment,” said Sendelbach-Shelton. “They take initiative and inspire others to make changes in their daily lives to positively impact the environment around them. This year, students are taking a more proactive role in the communication with businesses and community leaders to get projects moving forward.”

Through the multitude of club offerings in all three middle schools, students are encouraged to be leaders, make their voices heard and pursue new interests from show choir and jazz band to gaming and drama. Students interested in joining a middle school club can find a list of clubs available in the main office of their school.