Student organizations adapt amid COVID-19 restrictions

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Kappa Pi’s Spring 2020 pledge class meets outside of Duke Hall for a physically distanced initiation ceremony.

SUMMARY: Campus groups are discovering what is really important as they carry out their mission while also providing members with a much-needed break.

By Grace Zacharias, photography assistant

Learn, adapt and continue pushing forward—that has been the motto of the 2020-21 school year. The past year has been challenging for students, faculty and staff as they learned had to adapt to COVID-19. Physical distancing, mask wearing and other regulations were implemented to protect the safety of students and the broader JMU community. Many classes also transitioned to online learning or hybrid formats to reduce the spread of the virus.

Leaders of student clubs and organizations have made adjustments too, redesigning events, meetings and practices to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines while providing a fun break from online learning.

Kappa Pi, an art and art history honor fraternity at JMU, has made changes to help members who are struggling with the new pandemic. 

“In general, the pandemic has affected people’s mentalities, so this semester we decided to focus on our members’ mental health, which has been super-helpful,” said Renessa Rabenda, the chapter's president for 2020-21 president. "We been working with the Counseling Center to set up events that are interactive. We learned breathing techniques to manage our stress and anxiety levels in class or in our apartment.”

Masked Kappa Pi fraternity members chat in person.

Kappa Pi has also opened the lines of communication among its members to improve mental health.

“In the past, people were scared to say, ‘Oh, I am not doing too well right now,’ because they did not think anyone else could relate to it," Rabenda said. "But now everyone is getting through this pandemic together.”

Members of A Moment of Magic after their visit to Ride with Pride, an equine therapy barn.

Other organizations have followed suit, not only connecting with their members, but also with members of the community.

A Moment of Magic is a nonprofit that provides creative programming, such as superhero or princess character visits, for children facing serious medical issues. The organization has adapted to COVID-19 guidelines by holding Zoom meetings with children, livestreaming events and coordinating hospital drive-by visits.

“It is still not the same, but I am really grateful that we are still able to do something for these kids,” said Aly Coppage, magical experience coordinator. “It’s hard enough being a kid fighting cancer anyway, and being a kid fighting cancer in a pandemic is really hard. So I am grateful to do anything for them, and I am happy to be on Zoom longer.”

Just as A Moment of Magic has worked to bring a degree of normalcy to the people it serves, so have club sports at JMU.

Club Archery has established new rules to account for the safety of its members, while also allowing them to practice, focus on their sport and relax. 

To account for social distancing regulations, archers must now stand 6 feet apart when shooting.
*Note: Photo was taken before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Photo courtesy of Olivia Mumma 

"In a way, it is a time away from school even though you are still at school,” said Jacquelyn Nanko, the club’s range safety officer. “You don’t have to worry about the stressors of homework. You can just take the time to see friends from a distance and socialize.”

Club Archery members support one another on and off the range.
*Note: Photo was taken before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Photo courtesy of Olivia Mumma 

Club Archery members are allowed to shoot without masks, but they must remain at least 6 feet apart.

Similarly, Swing Dance, a partner dancing organization, has had to adapt to protect the health and safety of its members.

Members of the Swing Dance Club take a break from virtual meetings to practice on the Quad.

“This semester has taught us just how important it is to focus on more than just dancing alone,” said Kira Lambert ('21), vice president of the Swing Dance Club. “In swing dance it is really important to get to know people around you and know the roots of the music and dance steps. Moving forward, we want to continue implementing this teaching of swing history as well.”

Lambert also detailed the effect online events and COVID-19 guidelines are having on events and organizations as a whole.


"[Campus groups are] learning what is really important to the core of your organization in order to keep it running," Lambert said. "Even if you can’t do it in person, there are still elements of every organization that you need to emphasize to keep your group cohesive, to help your group connect to each other. That should be required. That should be something that doesn’t just happen when you’re face-to-face.”


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Published: Friday, February 19, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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