What is a College Club?
Colleges and universities in the United States encourage free association of students who have similar interests or share a common purpose. This includes social, professional and religious groups. These clubs have to apply through the Student Activities Office and follow the requirement of the college. This may include a constitution, a board and a faculty member sponsorship. Once approved by the appropriate Student Activities Office, they usually reserve a room on campus for a certain day and time, either weekly or monthly. They should have a charter explaining the purpose and proposed activities. They often have a speaker and hold discussions with ample time for socialization.
Development of College Clubs in Southern California
A few Coptic students met informally at various colleges beginning in the 1990’s. The first formal club was started in 1993 at the University of California in Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.) by undergraduate Coptic students and spearheaded by the twin brothers Hany and Nagui Abdelsayed (currently Fr. John Paul Abdelsayed and Fr. David Abdelsayed). This was shortly followed at California Polytechnic University in Pomona, California. Over the years these clubs have increased to twelve in Southern California, ten at various public universities and two at private universities.
The clubs receive several benefits from their host Universities to achieve their goals. They can reserve a space weekly, or monthly for their meetings, register their activities at the College website and publications, and occasionally receive monetary assistance. The Coptic Clubs have been very helpful in getting Coptic students, who could be lonely in a 20,000 student campus, or who are from out of town or state, to come together for both religious and social activities.
Dynamics of a Coptic Club
The meetings are usually held in the afternoon or early evening, depending on the class schedules of students, and have a semi- structured program. They often start with hymns, prayer from the Agpeya (prayer book of the hours) followed by a guest speaker and a discussion. At the end, future activities and meeting times are announced. Often there are refreshments and time to talk with one another. The speakers usually discuss topics of interest to the group and their life on campus. Many speakers at first were laymen from various churches. Now, there is a large pool of English speaking young priests as well as an occasional visit by H.G. Bishop Serapion. I have been invited to several clubs as a speaker and am always impressed by the cordial and open atmosphere of the meeting and the enthusiasm of the students. Presently, there is a small committee headed by a young priest and representatives of various clubs to coordinate activities, speakers, meetings, and retreats.
These clubs have been very helpful to Coptic students, especially those who are from other states. Club members form lasting friendships, and occasionally these friendships result in matrimonial bliss. Coptic Clubs also feed members to the Young Professionals Group. Several clubs organized seminars, open to the public about the Orthodox faith as well as other topics of general interest. These clubs are now sprouting throughout California and other States as well as Canada.
More information is available at www.copticclubs.org regarding how to organize, register, and find a club in your area. This site offers a sample of a model constitution as well as very useful and helpful information and a directory of Coptic Clubs at colleges in U.S.A. and Canada. It also has links to websites related to Coptic History and other areas of interest to Coptic youth.