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Photo Club held its Holiday Social gathering through Microsoft Teams on Dec. 9 to foster relationships between new and existing members, as well as to welcome other students sharing an interest in the art of photography. Junior and Executive Vice President Gaby Carstens said the event was held for the first time this year to adapt to the social obstacles posed by virtual learning by serving as a way to bring participants together under a common interest.

“This event was important because we’ve noticed that it’s been a bit difficult for people to make new friends on Teams,” Carstens said. “For the freshmen that are just joining a new school, forming bonds with people online can be difficult, and this event allowed them to get to know each other and have fun.”  

Preparation for the event came from the collective effort of Photo and Art teacher and club adviser Elizabeth Jenkins and officers Paige Yam, Liz Bagatini, Sabrina Lopez, Thiago Lesende, Riley Bernard, Humberto Melosolano, Madison Casanova and Isabella Coronel. Carstens said the process for organizing the event entailed collectively forming a scavenger hunt list with all-inclusive holiday items, planning break-out rooms and promoting it on Remind, Instagram and the club website.

“The preparation was affected by COVID-19 because we had to make sure the break out rooms were working,” Carstens said. “Having physical groups in person would not have been a very smart decision due to the rise in cases, so we found ways to keep it interactive while just being online.”

The event featured a holiday and photography themed scavenger hunt in which several pre-assigned groups found as many ornaments, candles and presents as possible and submitted a photo collage of the items within the allotted time. Jenkins said this specific activity not only fulfilled the overall goal of the club to engage students in photography but also to socialize with each other.

“I feel it is extremely important in this time to provide ways for kids to connect with their peers and have a time and place to do something fun that requires teamwork,” Jenkins said. “It provides a fun opportunity for people to try out the club and for members to interact with others on a joint project.”

The club has had fall socials situated at locations such as Markham Park in the past, but this year’s winter social was the first such event held online because of COVID-19. Sophomore and Public Relations officer Humberto Melosolano said another reason the Holiday Social was different from other events was because of its social rather than competition-based purpose. 

“It is different because it isn’t a contest and it has a more social aspect to it,” Melosolano said. “This celebration is important because you didn’t need to be a member of the club to join it, and it was meant for everyone, so they could see if they liked the club or not.”

Carstens said one obstacle that arose during the coordination of this event was a difficulty experienced by some participants with uploading images of their photo collages into the chat, but this was solved by using the Microsoft Teams app rather than the web link. Carstens said she considers the event successful when taking into account its social role amid the pandemic.

“I’m glad that we are able to come up with new ways to interact and make new friends with people with common interests in hard times like these, and we just have to remember to keep our heads up and stay safe,” Carstens said. “Our goal was to bring them all together and break through the awkwardness of having meetings through video chat, and we considered having members turning on their cameras and bonding with each other a success.”

Like Carstens, Melosolano said he believes the event had a fortunate outcome. He said the resulting product of forged friendships, shared fun and discovered skills overcame COVID-19 and any other obstacles in the end.

“It was successful because it was fun and interactive with everyone in the club,” Melosolano said. “I have involved myself because it is fun and to have something to do and to be with friends.”

Jenkins said she encourages all students to join Photography Club for events like the Holiday Social. She said the simple skill requirement for the social can serve as an incentive for those looking for a creative outlet without the stress.

“Come join us for a fun, interactive virtual social with no experience required,” Jenkins said. “Meet new friends, connect with current friends and practice your photo skills while having some holiday fun.”