At the start of a new semester, representatives from more than 120 student organizations brought a renewed sense of purpose to St. John’s University’s Spring Activities Fair on January 30 in Taffner Field House on the Queens, NY, campus.
As a steady stream of students perused the tables that featured posters, decorations, and giveaways to pique their interest, representatives shared exciting plans for this semester and beyond. Some described challenges their organizations encountered; others highlighted collaborations made with fellow organizations for service opportunities.
One group was especially pleased to be welcomed back to the active roster after more than four decades of dormancy. The newly re-established Ukrainian Cultural Club was last active in the 1980s, according to junior Maya Bidiak. Standing in front of a table adorned with a traditional Ukrainian embroidery tablecloth, Maya shared reasons for the club’s resurgence and several upcoming activities designed to bolster students’ spirits and sense of community.
“With the breakout of the war last February, I felt like it was really important to bring Ukrainians together on campus,” Maya said.
The one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is February 24. The club, open to any students interested in Ukrainian culture, plans a fundraising effort to support those affected by the ongoing hostilities. Events include pierogi/varenyky traditional food nights as well as pysanka, an Easter egg decoration art form.
“We have lots of ideas, including crafts, presentations, movie screenings, and cooking nights,” Maya said.
Meanwhile, junior Cynthia Adebayo—from London, England, but ethnically Nigerian— represented the African Students Association. She said the group was one of several student organizations eager to recognize Black History Month.
“We’re really about bringing a sense of home and belonging to the African community on campus,” she said.
Other Black History Month events include the Black and White Ball sponsored by Haraya, the Pan-African student-run organization. The 31st edition of the formal event will take place on February 8 with the theme of “Old Black Hollywood.”
The Crafts Club, formed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, offers Johnnies unique opportunities for releasing stress and promoting mental health via arts and creativity.
“We started in 2020 to give students a way to destress and relax, especially during COVID-19,” explained club representative Laiel Bravo. “We continue now in person to give students a way to have fun and destress away from their academic lives.”
Like the Crafts Club, the anime gaming club Meta uses creativity to help students connect with one another. Denise Maldonado, a junior from Texas, said the club’s plans for the spring semester include its yearly café event. This year’s theme is “Pokémon.”
“We decided on the theme because it still seems to be pretty popular and since the video game Pokémon Scarlet and Violet just came out,” Denise said.
The popular Chappell Players Theatre Group plans a spring performance of “Drop Dead!,” directed by club President Abby Ballard. Vice President John Castricone, a sophomore History major from Orange County, NY, said the group also will produce a children’s show.
“We will invite children from local elementary schools around Queens and show them our theater,” John said. “Then we will put on a nice, short engaging show with them.”
Service and community building were the focus of many of the clubs rooted in the Vincentian heritage of the University. Carlos Baten, a 36-year-old sophomore and a member of the Vincentian Community Club, said the Vincentian spirit can be found everywhere at St. John’s.
He added, “It’s beautiful to see that we do different jobs, but in the end we all try to do one thing—help others.”