Finding Your Niche

by Isabella Starkman and Angela Tao, Features Reporters
photos contributed by K-Pop Club, Asian Makeup Club and Cheese Club

From Cheese Club to Asian Makeup Club to Social Topics on Air, South’s range of ‘niche’ clubs extends well beyond typical school offerings. The smaller communities provide a diverse student body with the opportunity to meet people with similar interests and try new things. While these groups may appear unconventional, there is much more to them than what meets the eye.

For Adam Cohen, senior and co-president of Cheese Club, the club is much more than its simple moniker. Cohen said that Cheese Club creates a relaxing environment where students can converse about cheese, life and beyond.

“We’re a lot more than cheese,” he said. “It’s an engaging club, and it’s a tight-knit group of people that share a common interest.”

Senior and co-president Luke Beckett said that meetings often start with members describing their past seven days with a single “cheese of the week”. 

“At the end of the day, it’s just a bunch of friends hanging out and a bunch of people getting to know each other that weren’t already friends,” he said. “You can just be you.”

Senior Kriste Bernard, president of Fashion Club, shares the experience of a tight-knit club community. She founded the club to create a space for students to work on fashion projects and discuss brands, fast fashion and careers in the field.

Bernard said that from the beginning, Fashion Club’s smaller community provided a social safety net, something popular clubs might not have, especially for more introverted people.

“It’s just nice because everyone has their own little voice in the club, so it’s comforting,” she said.

Senior Kexin Huang started Asian Makeup Club, which she said is another open space for students to connect over common interests, including makeup and nail polish. Huang said that the group has become a genuine community that helps members find confidence in themselves.

“We felt like there is a need for our school to have the space for people that are willing to do this,” she said. “They don’t have to be shy about putting on makeup.”

K-pop Club, where students gather to appreciate Korean culture through music, trends and dance, has participated in school-wide events including Asian Night, a show hosted by the Asian Student Organization that features performances from various Asian-affinity groups.

“K-pop is a culture, it’s a Korean culture, and Americans have their own culture,” senior and club president Jisun Yoon said. “Being foreign makes it niche because you’re not familiar with it, and you need to have interest. You need to be willing to have interest in that foreign culture.”

Although one might assume niche clubs like the Classics Club are specific, the club’s advisor, Latin teacher Matthew Williams, said Greco-Roman culture is a much broader topic than it seems.

“Yes, it’s a club for students with a very peculiar interest, something that’s not very common,” Williams said. “But when you delve into it, you realize how much influence the classics have on culture at large. Everything from the days of the week to the months of the year to our system of government — medicine, law, even things like architecture, teaching, science, have a lot to do with the classics and have a strong connection.”

The Classics Club hopes to expand to the point of attending competitive conventions, where club members can participate in arts and crafts projects and even chariot races, Williams said.

It can be easy to compare the popularity of traditional and niche clubs, but neither is inherently better, said Natasha Layer, a senior and founder of Social Topics on Air, a club where students discuss social justice issues through podcasts.

“Niche clubs offer a unique interest that people are going to explore, and [mainstream] clubs offer the other advantage of what is expected from that club. I don’t think that one is better or worse than the other. They have very different roles,” Layer said.

Yoon said that a significant difference between clubs lies in the operations, rather than the community or dedication to the club. 

“There’s some financial difficulties, like we need to fundraise,” Yoon said. “People pay more attention to popular clubs, so they’ll be more supportive, but for niche clubs, it’s kind of difficult to operate.”

For Cohen, the uniqueness of South’s clubs is what makes them stand out.

“A niche club is going to be more authentic, in my opinion,” he said. “It’s going to just set out what it was meant to be, and it’s going to do it regardless of what people think.”