McGill clubs and student groups reflect on the 2020-2021 school year

The COVID-19 pandemic forced student organizations to redesign their events this year. Nevertheless, many of McGill’s student groups found ways to adapt to these challenges, even spinning some of them into positives—a testament to the strength and resilience of the McGill student body.

McGill Students’ Chess Club

During the pandemic, the McGill Students’ Chess Club joined forces with the University de Montreal’s Club d’Échecs to organize joint meetings and tournaments. Roman Sarrazin-Gendron, a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer Science at McGill and the club’s president, sees the community as a place where students can share their love of the game.

“We are proud of still being able to have weekly meetings in which people can come [online] and play chess,” Sarrazom-Gendron wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “Most of the fun of the game, at a casual level, comes from interacting with people and talking as you play.”

These virtual meetings and online games have been so successful that the club is planning on continuing online play even as campus activities transition back to in-person.

“There is a wide group of players who […] prefer to play online,” Sarrazom-Gendron wrote. “Going forward, we cannot wait to meet in person again, but we will also keep hosting online events.”

McGill Girls for Ghana

McGill Girls for Ghana, a philanthropic club that raises money for girls in Ghana living in poverty, was founded in Fall 2020 by Elizabeth Rampersad, U1 Arts, and Anne-Clara Sanon, 1Law. During the pandemic, the club’s membership base grew to over 40 students and surpassed their initial fundraising goal of $1,000, raising over $3,500 since the club’s inception.

“This year, we were able to take advantage of the online context by opening our events to family members and students from other CEGEPs and universities,” Sanon wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “We learned that families are a great asset to our club not only in terms of donating, but also as a support system.”

Despite the challenges of coming up with new fundraising ideas during the pandemic and creating incentives to attend events, Rampersad said the club hosted a series of successful trivia nights.

“With the help of our general members and fantastic [executive] team, we were able to […] secure over 85 attendees for our most recent Trivia Night,” Rampersad wrote. “We more than [doubled] our initial goal of $500 and ended up raising over $1,000.”

McGill Students for Greenpeace 

Although environmental activism often depends on in-person action, Mariana Lebrija, U3 Arts and vice-president external of McGill Students for Greenpeace, explained that the group has managed to grow their online presence this year.

“Before COVID-19, our club did not even have a website,” Lebrija wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “Shifting to an online model has been a challenge because it meant basically starting from scratch, keeping members engaged, and learning how to attract new students without the possibility of meeting in person.”

The club has focussed on building their website and growing their community. They are currently planning a variety of virtual events for the upcoming months, including trivia nights and workshops.

“Even with [our] larger ambitions to contribute to a large-scale movement, this year has shown us the value of community,” Lebrija wrote. 

McGill Yoga Club

The McGill Yoga Club has found ways to bring the joy of yoga to students’ homes. Maggie Sessenwein, U3 Arts and the club’s co-president, explained that the organization improved attendance at club events by using social media. 

Sessenwein was pleased that the club has followed a weekly schedule all year, and hopes to sustain momentum in the Fall.

“This year, we’ve definitely realized just how important it is to stick to a schedule and practice self-care,” Sessenwein said to The McGill Tribune. “We […] have a weekly yoga class schedule that we are really proud of, [and we] do our best to cater to people of all skill levels.

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