My first WHS Club Fair was nothing short of a safety hazard. Mobs of dazed and impressionable underclassmen forced themselves and their 10-pound backpacks through the cafeteria doors. Slews of club presidents were planted outside next to last year’s poster boards, luring unassuming freshmen to their tables with the promise of a Tootsie Roll. I was scared, overwhelmed, and positively flattened beneath the mass of my peers.

That year was an exception, since the school had decided to hold the event outside, and to crowd the tables so close to each other that the attendees could hardly move their arms. In general, the Club Fair is actually a vital school tradition, giving underclassmen a glimpse into the post 2:50 p.m. world that will soon become an integral part of their WHS experience.

Since the fair has moved to the field house (a roomier alternative), its purpose and worth have become more obvious. As a freshman, seniors demanded that I “join clubs!” and “get involved!” At the time, I thought this was mostly a recruitment ploy for whatever school organizations they were endorsing, but I came to realize that clubs were, in fact, they key to social and academic success. As someone with an extreme shortage of athletic talent, I had a lot of time on my hands during my first year, and the activities I joined therefore played a significant role in defining my four years as a Wilton student.

The Debate Team, for example, has not only made me a better public speaker, but a better essayist. It has provided me with new and lasting friendships, as well as the opportunity to create my own traditions (the team’s weekly stops at the Wilton Deli, that is). The Art and Photography Clubs act as my creative outlets. Model Congress is my chance to dive into the world of politics. Peervention pushes me to make a difference. I stand by all student organizations because they create unique student environments, student experiences, and student relationships.

I go to school for seven hours a day, five days a week. I migrate to the same set of classes just as routinely as my peers migrate to Florida for spring break. I sit at the same lunch table, talk about the same teachers while eating the same cafeteria food. The consistency of my routine has made it difficult to realize that everyone’s high school experience is vastly different, and especially difficult to realize that I could create my own. My schedule and teachers are, of course, out of my control, but the people I choose to surround myself with and the activities I participate in are exclusively up to me. Every deli run, club meeting, or bake sale reminds me that “getting involved!” (as many a Wilton senior so enthusiastically put it) really does matter.

Niamh McCarthy is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.