Caring for Our Community - Maintaining Community in a Time of Social Distancing

Caring for Our Community - Maintaining Community in a Time of Social Distancing

By John Bracco, Vice Principal of Student Affairs

The importance of student involvement in co-curricular programs has long been understood as being an integral part of their development as teenagers. These programs offer opportunities for the development of leadership skills, provide important social interactions and allow students to learn more about themselves. Our co-curricular offerings are led by adults with area expertise who provide guidance and structure while allowing students to learn by doing and experiencing rather than simply watching. 

This time of imposed isolation, however, provides unique challenges when it comes to co-curricular programs. How can you have a swim meet, a spring musical, a robotics competition, a speech and debate tournament or a spring mixer in the “new normal” of shelter-in-place and social distancing?  After all, one of the main benefits of co-curricular programs is the wonderful community that is formed both on and off campus. In this time of social isolation, the importance of a community of people passionate about their activities is more important than ever.

Despite the challenge of social distancing, and shelter-in-place, Notre Dame’s co-curricular programs march on! Program directors have devised a variety of creative ways for students to stay connected and I’d like to highlight some of these.

  • Athletics - Despite spring sports season being cancelled statewide, coaches are still setting up Zoom meetings, posting work-outs and generally offering a variety of options for students to stay connected and physically in shape. In addition, teams are working on ways through social media and other technology to celebrate and honor seniors since we are not able to host traditional “senior nights” this season.  
  • Robotics - The robot was completed prior to the shelter-in-place orders and 11 students and 5 chaperones were in San Diego when the FIRST San Diego Regional competition was cancelled. Fortunately, the group was able to rent vans and travel back to school for the last day on campus. The Janksters are meeting every Tuesday, planning their end-of-the-year acknowledgements as well as preparing for the FIRST Robotics Worldwide Virtual Showcase scheduled for next month.
  • Speech and Debate - Despite all remaining in-person speech and debate tournaments being cancelled, Coast Forensics League coaches have worked together to develop several “virtual tournaments” to fill out the schedule for the remainder of the year.  In addition to preparing for virtual tournaments, students are meeting weekly to work on various speech and debate-related projects, including creating instructional videos, blog videos about current events, end-of-year recap videos, creating online debate events, and planning for next year.
  • Student Leadership & Activities - The Associated Student Body (ASB) School Council developed Notre Dame’s first ever “Virtual Assembly” with over 600 students logging into Zoom for that event. And who can forget Mr. Novotny’s DJ skills at the first ever virtual mixer! Student Elections are proceeding with virtual speeches and online voting. They plan to have a complete slate of officers in place before the end of May. The ASB School council, class councils and clubs are all conducting weekly Zoom check-ins.
  • Music - Regent Harmonies, Fleur de Soleil and the string ensemble are all checking in weekly, working on alternative projects and developing a “virtual performance” for each group. We will look forward to a “virtual concert” in the near future. In the meantime, click on the link to hear the music ministry group, students, faculty members and alums join their voices in singing “Here at This Table”.
  • Dance - Both the dance class and the Regent Collective Dance Company are meeting weekly to choreograph and record a virtual dance show. Students are choreographing their own dances and teaching each other virtually. 
  • Theater - Unfortunately, “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe" is the spring musical that never was. The show was cast, all music was taught, 75% of the choreography and 50% of blocking were completed prior to the shelter-in-place.  Rehearsals were conducted digitally for the first two weeks, until it was clear that distance learning would last until the end of the school year. The group is in the process of creating a "Nevermore Memorial" where students are posting reflections, remembrances and pictures of their work. The theater program will also be performing a "Digital Staged Reading" of "The House of Bernarda Alba" for the wider community on Monday, May 4th at 6pm. This is a collaboration with the Spanish IV AP class and our ND actors.