Got a club for that?

Students start clubs to cater to their own interests


There are over 100 recognized clubs at UTM, but some of us still find no place for our interests. Personally, I’d love to see a club dedicated to the TV show addicts hiding around on campus. Where’s the support group for the House Stark fans suffering through every episode of Game of Thrones? Everyone has their own passion, but most of us who don’t have a group with whom to share our own shrug and accept the selection of clubs that are already established.

But a group of first-year students refused to in this case.

Aida Jahjah, Amara Malik, and Myra Farooq have banded together to form the UTM Scribes, a club preparing to be officially registered. The idea for the club, initially called the Writer’s Club, was developed last summer. But as the fall term started, they encountered a lot of discouragement from both students and their own members.

“There’s a lot of negative energy around at UTM,” says Jahjah, the president of the club. “You need to not get discouraged—forming a club cannot be done alone, so you definitely need to find people to help you out.”

The Scribes have had a rough go of it. The last two presidents have stepped down to focus on their studies. But today the Scribes are now on ULife and hope to meet the summer deadline for UTMSU approval.

“We’re currently working on our blog, which we plan to have up and running within two weeks,” adds Jahjah. The blog will feature categories such as poetry and riddles. They intend to show off our cultural diversity and perhaps offer a behind-the-scenes view of UTMSU.

Jahjah also plans for a magazine next year. “People are claiming that a magazine won’t work out, that not many people will read it, but I’m not going to get discouraged again,” she says. “I’m a dreamer, and I’d say this to anyone: stick it out and find people to help you, and you can form your own club too.”

Another new club this year is the Islamic Relief chapter, under the leadership of Sania Shenwari, a first-year life sciences student. The club was recognized in January.

Shenwari’s biggest obstacle was being unaware of the procedure for gaining club recognition. But since being recognized, the Islamic Relief hasn’t slowed down. Within a month they held their first event, Lend a Hand, during Alternative Reading Week, where 20 volunteers spent a day at the St. Felix Centre in downtown Toronto cooking and serving lunch at a soup kitchen. They then distributed care packages known as “Happy Kits”.

Shenwari’s motivation came partly from the organization of the same name. Islamic Relief received its first ever donation from a 12-year-old boy. The donation of 12 pence was a spark that set off the entire charity. This story is an important inspiration to Shenwari: her club is small, but they have big plans.

“I love what Islamic Relief stands for: the empowering of communities,” she says. “It’s where people respond as one to the suffering of others, and are ready to answer the call of anyone in need. We can all be that 12-year-old boy too, and it’s our actions, big or small, that can have a positive impact on this world.”

The third club I’ll discuss wasn’t created by a passionate first-year, but took time. Ongelle-Lise Burnett, a fourth-year double major in biology and classics, knows that good things come to those who wait. Burnett has been nurturing her love of squash—the sport, not the vegetable—for years. When she first arrived at UTM, squash was only available at St. George.

“I made dozens of excuses,” says Burnett, for not starting a squash club. She didn’t believe that she could lead one, nor that she could balance her time between it and her course load. “But then from first year to third year, I was able to strike off my excuses and then last July I thought, ‘What’s my excuse now?’ ”

Back home in Guyana, there were only two rather exclusive squash clubs. “It wasn’t expensive to play—the equipment itself was affordable. It was just that the membership was hard to gain,” says Burnett. “Last summer, I was playing squash with my friends and I was teaching them also. I realized I wanted to have the same environment here, and that’s probably what helped motivate me.”

Burnett and her team of executives working together over the Internet over the summer rushed to meet last summer’s deadline for UTMSU approval. Thanks to their efforts, today the UTM Squash Club is open to all for no fees whatsoever. The members will attend their first tournament later this month.

Next time you wish you had friends you could practise your hobby with, why not take the first step like these students have done?