Stephen Nichol, Grade 12, Staff Writer
With High School of American Studies students at home during a pandemic, fostering a strong sense of school community may seem to be a reach. But Chocolate Milk Club has succeeded in creating an online school culture that is a haven for intellectual discussion, ridiculous conversation, and plain old fun. Whether it was having Mr. Evans talk about U.S. History for six hours, playing Among Us, or getting to know the new freshmen, the Chocolate Milk Club has played a pivotal role in many students’ online school experiences.
However, the question must be asked, what will happen after this year? In June, one of the club’s most prominent advocates and founders, senior Gabriel Sender, is graduating. What will happen after he is gone? What does he hope his club will be remembered for? What role will CMC play in the future?
In a time like this, there are no definitive answers, but Sender remains incredibly optimistic about his club’s role and future.
“It gives the school a community, first and foremost,” said Sender. “I think our school was really lacking in the communal spirit that made our school so unique among high schools in New York City during this time. Spending those hours together kind of restores what we used to have, and we are going to keep trying to do that for as long as we have to.”
Chocolate Milk Club has been an important source of social interaction for many HSAS students. Participants were quarantining all over the country, making the weekly (and summertime bi-weekly) Zoom calls the best method to virtually hang out with their peers.
During times of great stress—like those brought on by the pandemic, college applications, the election, and the Black Lives Matter movement—Chocolate Milk Club provided a constant in its members’ lives. Each week, participants would know that they could look forward to typing in the same Zoom code at 8:00 on a Friday evening. That peace of mind—the space for free thought and an open platform to converse with others—is the magic Sender wishes to preserve with Chocolate Milk Club.
“What I want its legacy to be is that when school goes back to in-person, this can be something kids go to after school, in a classroom, to be together in a lively atmosphere,” he said. “Ideally, it’ll be a community under the umbrella of the amazing school community that we have. I want it to be another piece that adds to the appeal of our school.”
Fortunately for Chocolate Milk Club, things will not end with the departure of this year’s senior class. In fact, Gabe is confident in the hands he has left the club in. “Anyone that cares about this club is going to carry it on,” he said. “Obviously, Luke Caramanico, who co-founded CMC with me, will, but anyone who cares about it will as well. If their experience is similar to mine, they know it’s something special, and something people will want to continue and share with other students.”
For Chocolate Milk Club and its senior leader, the future is bright. Sender is currently working his way through the school “bureaucracy” to finally make the club official and cement it into HSAS history. There have been roadblocks, but it’s only been because of the nature of the times. He’s checking all his boxes and is sure that the club will be official by the end of the year. When asked about future plans, Sender replied, “The only real plan we have for the future is to have this grow. To have more people join this community.”
Even for the lactose intolerant, Chocolate Milk Club is the place to be on Fridays for now and the future.