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Student organizations adapt amid COVID-19 restrictions

Kappa Pi’s Spring 2020 class meets outside of Duke Hall for their socially distanced initiation ceremony. This event was originally planned for the Spring 2020 semester, but had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

SUMMARY: Student organizations learn to restructure their meetings, events and gatherings due to COVID-19 restrictions.

By Grace Zacharias, photography assistant

Learn, adapt and continue pushing forward; that was the motto of 2020. The past year has been challenging for many students, schools and organizations as they have had to adapt to the challenges COVID-19 has presented. Social distancing regulations and constant mask wearing have been required to protect the safety of students. Many classes also transitioned to online or hybrid formats to reduce the spread of the virus.

These have been large adjustments for students, but also for organizations and clubs. Leaders of student organizations have redesigned events, meetings and practices to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, and also to provide a fun break from online classes.

Kappa Pi, an art honorary fraternity, and the largest chapter in the nation, has made changes to help students who are struggling with the new world. Renessa Rabenda, the 2020-21 president of Kappa Pi, decided to make mental health a focus.

“In general, the pandemic has affected people’s mentalities, so this semester we decided to focus on our members’ mental health, which has been super-helpful,” Rabenda said. “Our person, Emily Robertson, has been working with the Counseling Center to set up events that are interactive. We learned breathing techniques to manage our stress and anxiety levels in class or in our apartment.”

After only communicating with each other through Zoom, Kappa Pi members gather in person to catch up and help bring in the next class of pledges.

Kappa Pi has created a strong line of communication among members to improve the mental health of students.

“Opening the lines of communication is always great, and I think that has been a major benefit of this semester,” Rabenda said. “In the past, people were scared to say, ‘Oh, I am not doing too well right now,’ because they did not think anyone else can relate to it. But now, everyone is getting through this pandemic together.”

Members of A Moment of Magic after their visit to Ride with Pride, a nearby therapy barn.

Other organizations have followed this path of open communication by not only connecting with their own members, but also members of the community.

A Moment of Magic is a nonprofit that provides creative programming, such as superhero or princess character visits, for children facing medical vulnerabilities. According to Aly Coppage, the magical experience coordinator, A Moment of Magic has worked to adapt to COVID-19 guidelines by holding Zoom meetings with kids, live streams and hospital drive-by visits.

“It is still not the same, but I am really grateful that we are still able to do something for these kids,” Coppage said. “It’s hard enough being a kid fighting cancer anyway, and being a kid fighting cancer in a pandemic is really hard, so I am grateful to do anything for them, and I am happy to be on Zoom longer.”

Just as A Moment of Magic has worked to bring some normalcy to the kids and their members while still protecting their health and safety, so have athletic clubs.

Club Archery has established new rules to account for the safety of its members, allowing them to still practice, focus on their sport and relax. 

To account for social distancing regulations, archers must now stand 6 feet apart when shooting.
*Note: photo was taken before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.   Photo courtesy of Liv Mumma. 

"In a way, it is a time away from school even though you are still at school,” said Jacquelyn Nanko, the club’s range safety officer. “You don’t have to worry about the stressors of homework. You can just take the time to see friends from a distance and socialize.”

Archery members support one another on and off the range.
*Note: photo was taken before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Photos courtesy of Liv Mumma. 

Club Archery has had to implement rule changes governing meetings and practice. Members are allowed to shoot without masks, but they must be at least 6 feet apart when shooting.

Similarly, Swing Dance, a partner dancing organization, has had to adapt their sport to protect the health and safety of its members.

Members of the Swing Dance Club take a break from virtual meetings to practice on the Quad.

“This semester has taught us just how important it is to focus on more than just dancing alone,” said Kira Lambert, vice president of the Swing Dance Club. “In swing dance it is really important to get to know people around you and know the roots of the music and dance steps. Moving forward, we want to continue implementing this teaching of swing history as well.”

Lambert also detailed the effect online events and COVID-19 guidelines have on the restructuring of events and organizations as a whole.

Members of the Swing Dance Club let go of some of their nerves as they practice on campus.

“We have had to experiment a lot and figure out what works for us,” Lambert said. “[Campus groups are] learning what is really important to the core of your organization in order to keep it running. Even if you can’t do it in person, there are still elements of every organization that you need to emphasize to keep your group cohesive, to help your group connect to each other. That should be required. That should be something that doesn’t just happen when you’re face to face.”

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Published: Friday, February 19, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, April 8, 2021

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