VANIA KHAN ‘22 and SAANVI BHUTEJA ‘23
The Assertive Teens Against Cancer (ATAC) Club at Edison High School is an extracurricular club that raises awareness for cancer patients in New Jersey by donating its fundraiser money to the Rutgers Cancer Institute. Led by Mrs. Patton-Stein, ATAC began as one of EHS’s most student-involved clubs with huge club turnouts and large participation. Over the years, ATAC earned donation money from the annual ATAC track event (usually occurring on the half-day right before Thanksgiving or Christmas break), game days, and other fundraising events—all huge hits amongst students.
However, with the ongoing pandemic, most of these events are impossible to organize due to health risks. This year, the board came up with new ways to both involve students and expand their interactions. “A drastic change I have noticed during our shift to a virtual setting was that many students were looking for more opportunities to stay involved in activities,” said Meha Sheth ‘21, ATAC president. “Thus, we saw an increase in the number of committed students. Although we were faced with our share of road bumps while initially establishing a virtual platform for the club, we were able to collaboratively develop solutions for such instances. Thus, we were able to successfully hold interactive meetings and events.”
A general club meeting during the COVID-19-free school day would be after school on Thursdays to discuss fundraising possibilities. This past holiday season, club members demonstrated their active involvement in the club, despite the virtual circumstances.
The club board members decided to put together a holiday-themed video montage during the winter season to send to cancer hospitals and research centers in New Jersey. This video montage was a huge success and fulfilled its utmost purpose of spreading holiday cheer during the Christmas and New Year season. Participants were encouraged to wear festive attire such as Christmas pajamas or a Santa hat. Over twenty club members participated in this activity and made the holiday season a bit more cheerful for cancer patients around the community with kind words, well-wishes and hope for a better holiday season next year due to the hindrances caused by the ongoing pandemic to family and friend gatherings this year.
Despite the inconveniences COVID-19 introduced this year, ATAC put smiles on faces through their three-minute holiday video montage, which was also posted on their Instagram. It gain traction and was even featured on Rutgers Cancer Institute’s own Instagram page.
After the success of the first two large events of the year—Movember and the club holiday video montage—the board plans to carry out many more interesting activities and awareness events in the future. “To boost the future of the club, I plan on implementing and organizing unifying more events to give students the opportunity to contribute to advocating for urgent causes and stay connected with peers with similar interests/goals,” said Sheth.
One of the new events that the board is planning is the ATAC scavenger hunt, in which club members will virtually hunt for household objects. The board is also planning on hosting future virtual movie nights and game days as alternatives to the events that the club would have held after school if not impeded by COVID-19. On virtual game days, students were allowed to choose between breakout rooms with different games in each, such as Among Us and Pictionary.
This event has been popular among other clubs as well. “Even during these tough times, we have been finding ways for their efforts to make a difference in the lives of others as well,” said Sheth. “From the Movember movement to our virtual Scavenger hunt, the board and members have definitely shown their commitment to the club through their continuous efforts and contributions.”
Even during this pandemic, ATAC retained its large meeting turnout, created a new board, and offered leadership opportunities. The board devised a new system of leadership this year to make future leadership determination more convenient. With the hopes of expanding the club as well as raising awareness for childhood, men, and women’s cancer, the club started to offer leadership points for contributions made to the club, such as participating in the holiday montage, avidly attending club meetings, and recruiting more friends and peers to the club and meetings as well as following club social media and reposting important reminders through the use of social media as a platform to raise awareness. With the large turnout of club members currently and with the attitude and active participation they demonstrated in these past few months, ATAC hopes to continue to raise awareness and help those in need.