High school: an imposing place filled with strangers and crowded hallways. Bisma Murtaza and Nabila Murkhtar, two grade nine students at Marc Garneau, wanted to make new students feel more comfortable in this new and large environment. So, they created the Freshmen Club. Held in Room 248 every Thursday after school from 3:15 to 4:15 pm, the club offers Grade 9 students the opportunity to meet other freshmen and escape the stresses of high school.

The first meeting for the club was held on 1 October 2015. The club operates on a drop-in basis and is supervised by Ms. Jamal, a guidance counselor at MGCI, and Charuka, a youth worker at the Hincks-Dellcrest centre. All grade nine students are welcome to attend meetings and participate in the activities.

“This is a club only for grade nines,” said Murkhtar, “As we are new to the school, the club is for relaxing and having fun.”

Currently, the Freshmen Club is still in its planning phase, deciding on its schedule for the next five weeks. Though it is not finalized, the plans include playing soccer, watching movies, talking, and arts and crafts.

As supervisors, Charuka and Ms. Jamal offer a source of support for the students, especially if they are more comfortable talking in a club environment than in a guidance counselor’s office. The Freshmen Club is meant to create an environment of openness that is free from judgement.

After the first two meetings, the club has roughly twelve members, and is always open to more freshmen who would like to join. When interviewed, participants stated that they joined because it seemed like an interesting and relaxing way to spend time.

Photo: Cindy Cui

The group brainstormed their plans for the upcoming year. Photo: Cindy Cui

Though the club has already started, the two founders are still encouraging more students in their grade to join by putting up posters and advertising on Facebook.

It is unclear if the Freshmen Club will open up to more than just Grade 9 students in the future. Murtaza and Mukhtar plan to observe the success of their club first, before making any decisions.

“There’s just a unique feeling to being in Grade 9,” said Ms. Jamal, talking about the club, “All the members here experience it, I remember experiencing it, and that’s what makes this club special.”