Making Connections With Friendship Club

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Art/Photo by Samantha Takeda

West High’s Friendship Club is back on campus with a ton of new in-person events! After almost two years of missing out on activities due to the pandemic, West High Chapter co-president Faith Iwanaka (11) is “super excited to get going again this year.”

Alexssa Takeda, News Editor

   During the almost two years of quarantine, many of students’ social interactions had been limited to impersonal Zoom meetings and the occasional socially-distanced outing with friends. For some, maintaining friendships and establishing new bonds are now difficult, especially being so fresh out of isolation. But West High’s Friendship Club is returning to campus with a great solution to get students back into the swing of things! 

   West High’s Friendship Club is one out of 36 school clubs sponsored by the Friendship Foundation throughout the South Bay area. The club works to support students with special needs by creating a fun and safe environment for them to make connections with other students on campus. Through a one-on-one buddy system, members can expect to be matched up with another student and encouraged to play board games, eat lunch together, and talk during recess. 

   While the club is open to all students, it is mostly for those with special needs to practice their learned skills in a more casual setting. Therefore, there is a large emphasis on inclusivity, especially when it comes to the disabilities or limitations the students might have. This might mean they opt for sitting instead of standing, walking instead of running, and ensuring craft projects are done with a buddy.  

   Unfortunately, the club was put on hiatus during quarantine due to health restrictions. But during this time, the club’s board members diligently planned and developed new ways to improve the club, allowing them to return back to campus as enthusiastic and full of many new ideas for the upcoming school year. Aside from the bimonthly meetings, Faith Iwanaka (11), one of the co-presidents of the club, is looking forward to the larger events the most. In previous years, members could participate in fun field trips to the Aquarium of the Pacific or other museums towards the end of the year. In addition to bringing those back, the club anticipates hosting a handful of festive holiday parties, the first being for Halloween. 

   It seems that other students are looking forward to participating as well. At Club Rush on September 15th, the Friendship Club booth was visited by around 80 to 100 passionate students, a number much larger than the club was originally expecting. Iwanaka explained that this gave them hope for the future of their club saying, “We’re just really excited that there’s so many people who are interested in our mission to foster acceptance for everybody in the school community.” 

   Viraj Ala (12) is the other co-president of the Friendship Club on campus this year, but has been working with the foundation since seventh grade. Something that has stuck with Ala along his volunteering journey was the special bond he created with one of the third graders from Victor Elementary. Unfortunately the shutdown separated the two. But one day, Ala received a call from his buddy’s mom, asking to schedule a Zoom reunion. With all the changes that had been occurring over the course of quarantine, Ala was worried his buddy might lose interest in him. But when he entered the call, his fears were washed away as he was greeted by his buddy with just as much energy and enthusiasm as before. Together they watched movies, did arts and crafts, played video games, and caught up with each other after the hectic time they’d spent apart. Ala shared that the Friendship Club gave way to a touching realization: “I made an impact on somebody so tremendous that…. they still think about me, they still want to be around me.” It has taught him morals and values of how to be a great friend that he wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. 

   If you are a committed student looking to make a difference in West High’s community and nurture lasting relationships, consider stopping by room 5141 on Wednesdays for more information. As stated by Iwanaka, “You just need to go in there with the open mind to meet new people and learn something new.”