With over ninety clubs available to students at Cupertino High School, there is no doubt that some clubs are overshadowed by much larger organizations on campus. While nearly all students are familiar with Speech & Debate, Robotics, and FBLA, many niche clubs, such as Astronomy and Women in Tech, offer vastly different experiences and opportunities for their members.
“I think the dynamic is really nice [in Astronomy club]. The people who do come, even though it’s about 10 to 15, they’re very excited about what they learn; they actively participate. So that’s what we’re looking for; we don’t need a lot of people as long as there are people who are relatively interested in what we’re doing,” Lipika Chatur, sophomore and Astronomy Club president, said.
Small clubs tend to depend on significantly more passionate students and often, that requires more specialized leadership skills. In the case of Chatur, she learned that the public relations skills she developed in Robotics were not applicable in Astronomy Club.
“It’s really different because when you’re the person in charge of running a club, you encounter a lot of things that you don’t know about when you’re in a big club. I do PR in Robotics, but PRing for my own club is way more of a big deal for me because I have to outreach in so many more places: email, instagram, facebook,” Chatur said. There’s also a lot more responsibility put on each person compared to large clubs with more resources. Chatur explained, “I’m the only one doing [public relations], so it’s definitely major compared to something like Robotics where you have a team of people [with you].”
From her experiences, Chatur has seen a tighter community around a smaller club.
“I really like the people who come. Even though in the beginning there was a huge number of people and it kind of declined, the people who come now ares constant. The same people start again and again and then you start seeing friendly faces and they become more comfortable, so the environment becomes friendly enough where they can actually ask questions,” Chatur explained.
Despite being a small club, Astronomy Club has big dreams.
“We’re trying to create interactive activities, so things for them to hands-on do while they’re listening to our presentation or whatever. We’re thinking about things like Light Spectrums and actually making them. I wanted to partner up with the SJAA which is the San Jose Astronomical association, and they will basically loan telescopes and stuff like that which is pretty cool,” Chatur said.
Other smaller clubs such as Women in Technology (WIT) face vastly different situations. A key part of running a successful organization on a school campus is recruitment. Large clubs, such as FBLA or Speech & Debate, have an easy time with finding new members as they have more resources to offer. Moreover, many students join clubs with friends. Since smaller clubs do not appeal to as large of a portion of a student body, friend groups tend to collectively sign up for these large clubs.
“Typically when [members] don’t have a group of friends to go to a club or don’t know anyone [in it], it is harder for [them] to come back. A big challenge is making sure that people make friends within the club itself, so that they feel they’re getting the experience of a larger club,” said WIT President and senior Nithya Attaluri.
Another key challenge WIT faces is inciting interest in computer science and engineering within women, a typically underrepresented group within the industry.
“Being a woman in tech club is definitely another reason why getting new members can be difficult. There are not that many girls in technology compared to other fields,” said Attaluri.
Despite these difficulties, WIT continues to successfully organize outreach to teach children to program and offer educationally enhancing opportunities for their members.
While smaller clubs may lack the resources and breadth of opportunities a larger, more established club may have, examples such as Astronomy Club and WIT suggest that small clubs cater to a niche population of the student body and provide a unique way for members to engage with their interests. In the end, it is these organizations that enable students to customize their “Tino” experience and identify their passions for years to come.