BY PAUL BOREHAM
“I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member,” said Groucho Marx in jest. But it begs the question: Who would want you in their club? At Conestoga College there is a vast army calling out your name to join.
There are 33 clubs and societies reaching out for members, and a sampling of these set up shop in the hallway outside Tim Hortons and in the atrium at Doon campus, Oct. 15. The information boards were up, pamphlets were out and even goodies were being displayed in hopes of attracting recruits.
“A lot of clubs transition year after year, but we have so many new and interesting ones this year, so it’s exciting,” said Justine Voll, student engagement co-ordinator for Conestoga Students Inc., who arranged the event.
The Conestoga Mature Student Association is one of those newly-formed clubs. The club was set up in the atrium and had a pile of suckers in every colour of the rainbow out to entice people. Michelle Belonzo, a third-year business administration-management student, is the president and said it is high time there was a support group for older students at Conestoga.
She turned to some statistics written on her information board and said 61 per cent of college students are over the age of 22, adding the age would be higher if university students were excluded from those numbers.
While a mature student at Conestoga College is technically defined as over age 19 and without a GED, “To us, a mature student means you just need help. You’ve been out of school long enough for it to be a problem,” said Belonzo.
Standing beside her, helping out, was Robbin Melrose, a first-year general arts and science student. It has been 22 years since he graced the halls of a school, he said, and his arrival this past January was quite a shock.
“I had my paper, my pen and my textbooks, and I find I don’t need all these things ¬– it’s all on computers.” There was a learning curve and the use of computers is one issue mature students need help with, including using eConestoga. Other issues are juggling home-and-school life and dealing with the stress of getting assignments in on time.
The club, he said, is meant as a support system for older students, to get together and discuss each others’ challenges and simply just for the social aspect.
“I just woke up one day and realized, ‘I’m going to be 50 and I’ve never done what I wanted to do when I was 20, and I’m not going to have that,” said Melrose, who is now in his 40s and realizing that dream.
Both Melrose and Belonzo laughed recalling the times they have been mistaken for faculty. “’Oh, the guy with the grey beard must be the instructor,’” said Melrose, mimicking comments he sometimes overhears. Belonzo is still young, in her 20s, but if she dresses up even a little, she is treated differently, she said. Age difference is another issue members have in common. They come from another time, creating a big gap between younger students, but at the same time bringing with them a host of experiences to share.
The club is still setting up a schedule for weekly meetings.
Jess Wright, a second-year health office administration student, was calling out for singers outside Tim Hortons. She has started an a capella group and is raring to go.
All that is required is “you have some singing ability and you’re not completely tone deaf,” said Wright, adding there is an audition, but she has yet to bang the gong and send anyone away broken-hearted. The club has over a dozen singers so far, but they need more, especially male voices to round out the choir.
“We had one girl who sang for less than 30 seconds and jaws dropped to the floor,” she said of an audition. She was that good.
The first song the club is working on is Under the Sea, from the Little Mermaid. Wright also plans on working on some songs from Pitch Perfect, “a huge a capella movie,” she said. She is planning an inter-school competition and a Christmas concert.
The club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively. Wright said there is a cut-off date of Oct. 31 for auditions this semester.
Not to ignore a more established club, the Conestoga College Accounting Association – with a membership topping 50 – is a must for anyone studying accounting at the school, according to Voll. The club’s booth had pens as give-outs and the students minding the store had everything laid out in perfect order. Asked why they liked accounting, they both smiled and admitted they love to see a balanced worksheet. The Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario were mentioned as speakers in November – a chance to mingle with would-be employers and be seen.
Voll said joining a club is a great way to get involved. She stressed the opportunity for networking, but also just to meet friends outside of regular class and have fun. “These activities will go on your co-curricular record as well,” she said.
Anyone wanting to start a club will need to apply on CSI’s website for Voll’s approval. A minimum of seven members is required, with one event planned for each semester. They are provided with $200 along with a $100 credit for printing costs. Voll said they will also help book a classroom for meetings.
All of the clubs will be listed on CSI’s website with their contact information.