On the first day of being officially back on campus, more than 1,400 FSC students and 84 on-campus organizations participated at Blast Off! — the first in-person event of the semester for all on-campus students.
The Student Government Association hosted the event alongside the Center for Student Involvement and assigned each organization a table. Each club adorned its tables with pamphlets, photo displays, games, candies or tokens that describe what their respective organizations are all about in order to entice students into signing up.
Katrina Schell is a sophomore student at Florida Southern College. She attended Blast Off! last year and she explained the differences between last year’s event and this one. Blast Off! was held on Zoom where potential club members joined breakout rooms with the clubs that interested them. Schell explained that holding Blast Off! virtually felt “awkward” and that she wasn’t able to visit all of the clubs that she was interested in.
This year, Schell tabled for Beyond Campus Ministries and also had a chance to visit other booths at her first in-person Blast Off!
“I signed up for a few clubs (maybe more than a few people working the tables are really persuasive), and I’ve already gotten some emails from the new clubs, so that’s really exciting,” Schell said.
The event was lively, music played throughout the night, as club members from each table welcomed students from all grade levels to learn more about their organizations.
“It was great to meet some of the new faces on campus and give them more connections as they make their way through their freshman year,” President of Flosoco Claire Bonham said.
Multiple times throughout the event, SGA members chimed in through the cacophony of the music and earnest chatter to remind students to mask up whenever inside.
“We as SGA wanted us to just have a first event […] where all of our students were able to participate and have that interaction portion of some normalcy,” SGA’s Executive Vice President Manny Vacarez said.
The Florida Southern campus looked a little different last year: half of the student population was remote and the majority of events were held online in lieu of COVID-19 before vaccines were available to the public.
Since the last in-person Blast Off! was held in 2019, it was important for SGA and CSI to create an event that was enjoyable but also safe. Therefore, the event was split inside and outside. According to Vacarez, 50 tables were located inside the George W. Jenkins Field House and the rest of the tables were located outside on Mr. George’s Green.
This arrangement allowed students outside to be socially distanced and gave them the “capability” to be maskless while socializing on Mr. George’s Green.
This year’s Blast Off! gave clubs an opportunity to start working on their membership numbers again.
“We just got about 80 signatures which is a lot more than last year! I would say last year with virtual [Blast Off!] we maybe had 30 sign-ups, so we are very excited to be expanding our club members this semester,” President of Psychology Club Katelyn Shibilski said.
After their first meeting, Shibilski reported that they had a turnout of 50 people, about half of which she “recognized from Blast Off!”
According to Co-founder and President of Poetry Club Lexi Potter, her club was launched right before the pandemic started and that being at Blast Off! was helpful in order “to get things up and running again.”
“Although everyone did the best that they could with virtual [Blast Off!], Florida Southern students and clubs thrive doing it in person, and [I’m] glad the new students got to have that experience,” Potter said.