Pali High Offers Over 120 Clubs and Organizations for Students to Join
By SPENCER JUNG | Intern
One unique attribute of Palisades Charter High School is the number of clubs available to students.
For comparison, Granada Hills Charter High School offers around 60 clubs, while North Hollywood High School and Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies both have about 90 clubs.
Pali High, on the other hand, has over 120 clubs and organizations. These groups are divided into two categories: service based and interest based, with the main difference being service-based clubs focus more on community service activities while interest-based clubs support student interests and hobbies.
The clubs are led by students and meet either during lunchtime, after school or both. Under the supervision of the Associated Student Body and Commissioner of Involvement, these clubs cover a wide variety of topics, from mock Supreme Court hearings to environmental competitions. Here is a look at a few of them.
Envirothon is a club that focuses on environmental topics like “managing natural resources such as water, trees, wildlife and soil,” club advisor Steve Engelmann said. Engelmann currently teaches AP Environmental Science at Pali High, along with a class called Environmental and Spatial Technology that allows students to independently or collaboratively design a community service project using technology to improve the environment.
“[Envirothon meets] once a week during lunch and once a week after school,” according to Engelmann. Students who join Envirothon will mostly engage in hands-on activities during meetings, such as identifying wildlife, studying different soil texture and measuring trees.
The Envirothon club participates in competitions. The club starts off by competing in the California State competition against other high schools on a variety of environmental subjects such as forestry, aquatics, soils and wildlife.
The winner of the State competition will then move on to compete in the North American competition against schools from the rest of the United States, Canada and China.
The Pali High Envirothon club won State competition eight times, winning three consecutive years from 2015 to 2017. The 2016 team landed in third place out of 54 teams during the North American competition.
The activities and competitions that Envirothon participates in have proved to be beneficial to students.
“The competition opens up numerous pathways for college majors and careers,” Engelmann said.
Engelmann added the only prerequisite needed before joining the club is “having the willingness to learn and try new things.” Envirothon is open to students in all grades.
Another interest-based club that was founded several years ago is Moot Court. Rising sophomore Mason Binder will succeed Nathalia Wyss, who recently graduated from Pali High, as the new vice president and explained: “Moot Court is a great place where students can develop their problem-solving skills [and] public speaking skills, as well as meet new people and argue case law.”
Binder explained that Moot Court is a simulation of legal proceedings practiced in appellate courts. Students who join Moot Court will have the opportunity to discuss Supreme Court cases, practice public speaking skills, and formulate arguments and rebuttals during meetings.
Moot Court meetings are generally held once per week during the entirety of lunch. A specific day of the week for the upcoming academic year has not been decided, but will be announced when club lists are published on the Pali High website at the beginning of fall semester.
Students in Moot Court occasionally compete in “local” competitions against teams from other schools or intrasquad competitions against their classmates. However, the major event of the year is a tournament hosted by the Princeton University Mock Trial team in late April.
Students are given the opportunity to travel to Princeton, New Jersey, to compete against other teams from around the nation on Princeton’s campus. The tournament is known for inviting “the state’s top practicing attorneys and retired judges to judge in the final rounds of the competition,” according to the Princeton Mock Trial website, and takes a duration of two days.
Whereas other high schools hire law professionals to help prepare their teams for the Princeton competition, Binder shared that Pali High competitors learn from their more experienced classmates and local competitions. With this approach, Pali High teams have found success at Princeton, as demonstrated in 2018 when a Pali High team made it to the final round.
Students in all grade levels are welcomed to join Moot Court, and no previous knowledge is needed.
Coding Club, as its name says, focuses on coding and computer science.
“The purpose of our club is to create a space for those who are interested in coding to collaborate on projects,” Co-President Theo Jiang said. “We also expose members to different coding concepts such as machine learning.”
The club meets every Monday, but has yet to decide if they will meet during lunch or after school in the upcoming school year. Meetings typically range from 30 minutes to one hour, but may change depending on what time of the day the club cabinet decides to hold meetings.
Students have the chance to play educational games, such as Kahoot and Ricochet Robots, to increase their computer science and critical thinking skills. The meetings also consist of discussions and practicing coding skills by interacting with coding project walkthroughs using snake and kNN algorithms.
It is encouraged that students who are interested in joining Coding Club have fundamental coding knowledge, but it is not required.
“Students who do not have prior knowledge, but have passion for coding will have the opportunity to learn from experienced classmates who have been coding for several years, before they even started high school,” Jiang said.
While Coding Club is a place for computer science enthusiasts to interact and program for fun, it also offers preparation for competitions, such as the USA Computing Olympiad and Microsoft Imagine Cup, both of which are international competitions.
This past spring, a group of three Pali High students from the Coding Club, including Jiang, ranked as a 2021 Lifestyle Category World Finalist in the Microsoft Imagine Cup.
“Thousands of high school and college teams entered this competition this year,” Jiang explained. “To be selected as one of only a handful of winners was unexpected, to say the least.”
Although students are encouraged to have fundamental computer science knowledge, anybody interested is welcomed to join and learn from experienced classmates.
Junior State of America
Junior State of America is a national student-run organization that focuses on political education and “allows for an exchange of ideas by stimulating student debates, thought talks, problem-solving and various simulations,” as stated by its website.
The Pali High JSA club is run by rising senior Alexandra “Sasha” Schoettler, who will be serving as the co-president and has participated in JSA since her freshman year.
The club meetings are once per week and range from 45 minutes to one hour. As Pali High prepares to transition back to in-person learning, JSA will continue to meet once per week during lunch on a day to be determined.
Meetings consist of debates and discussions on topics such as the electoral college and solutions to wealth inequality.
Three times per year, JSA chapters in the Southern California region meet at overnight conventions, where they write, debate and vote on bills. Students who attend these conferences may also have the opportunity to interact with adult professionals familiar with public policy.
“JSA is unique in its diversity of ideas and its wide variety of opportunities for JSAers,” Schoettler shared. “Members are able to meet people from all over the state and country, share their ideas in an open and inclusive space, and develop their passion for politics, advocacy, and social justice. It’s not often that you see young people with such strong views and open minds collaborating and conversing, and I believe that is what makes JSA special.”
All Pali High students, regardless of grade and experience, are able to join the JSA club.
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