BY GOWRI ABHINANDA

Web Features Section Editor

The Bay’s Key Club attended its annual Florida District Education and Leadership Conference (DCON) on April 8-11 in Orlando, Fla. Senior and President Jacalyn Woodford said the club participated in this conference to expose members to lessons about leadership and service, as well as to mark a new beginning for the club with new leaders. 

“It is important that Key Club members participate in order to become better leaders, which is a pillar for Key Club,” Woodford said. “[The conference] helps build connections, and overall, we learn more about our international organization.”

Language Arts teacher and Key Club adviser Cecilia Fonseca said district coordinators responded to the pandemic by adopting a hybrid model in which DCON could be attended either virtually or in-person, with a restriction on the number of members allowed to participate in-person. She said it was due to these parameters that only one member from the Bay was able to attend in-person, while four members attended virtually.

“Measures have been strict and Broward County Public Schools did not allow any field trips outside of the county with the virus, so one member attended, but through her mother and on her own,” Fonseca said. “This was a very reduced experience compared to those in the past.”

For junior and President-elect Amanda Campos, who attended this year’s DCON in-person, this was her first time attending the conference. She said she felt the workshops led by Kiwanis administrators and District-level Key Club officers like the Fundraising, Membership Growth and Leadership seminars were very helpful.

“The DCON experience was inspiring and very valuable; the workshops I attended were interesting and informative, teaching me not only about the specifics of Key Club and how to increase membership and organize fundraisers but also how to become a better leader,” Campos said. “As the club’s President-elect, these lessons and pieces of information were really helpful [and] I took way too many notes during the workshops.”

Fonseca said fewer members than usual attended DCON, as 10 to 20 students on average attended in years prior, because enthusiasm for the conference had been curtailed due to the school district’s restrictions. She said before the hybrid model, the event was a more valuable experience for members because the interactive activities weren’t bound by social distancing guidelines.

“Usually, there are various socials where the members can exchange ideas, get to know each other better, network and simply just enjoy each other’s company,” Fonseca said. “Honestly, very few people would attend if it did not give the kids a legitimate excuse to miss class and have fun away from their parents; therefore, with the hybrid model, not as many participated.”

Woodford said she agrees with Fonseca’s sentiments by how DCON was a more fulfilling experience when it was held in person. She said although her virtual attendance this year contrasted starkly with her in-person experience in 2019, she was still able to learn through workshops and discussion.

“Usually DCON is full of energy and I was able to learn more about leadership and also build amazing friendships, which is harder to do online,” Woodford said. “Nonetheless, I have loved both times I’ve attended DCON because it is truly an amazing experience.”

Campos said while she had not attended DCON before, she is still able to recognize how global health concerns have taken a toll on engagement levels and procedures. She said while she was still able to create valuable connections with individuals, she sensed the virtual aspect was a hurdle to cross because the event suffered from technical issues.

“The technical difficulties made me miss the other officers who were not inperson,” Campos said. “They were attending online and virtual attendees couldn’t hear what the presenter was saying, so I had to stand really close to the laptop so that everyone could hear my comment[s], which was slightly funny as it has become something I am used to due to virtual learning.”

Campos said she thoroughly enjoyed the event and hopes normalcy will return so she can continue attending DCON. She said she is hopeful to experience the true essence of DCON and bring the spirit of Key Club back to full swing next year.

“In the future, I would like to attend DCON with other officers from my club, since I was the only in-person [attendee] this year due to the pandemic,” Campos said. “I hope that we can all go next year and learn about how we all share the common goal of improving our communities so that we can have remarkable DCON experiences.”