Space to Gather

Bryan Geary
Creative use of indoor facilities gives SPS students an opportunity to be together
In the fall, shortly before students departed for an extended absence from Millville, and in concert with the shifting weather, the Dean of Students Office sought to create more indoor space for activities. An emphasis on outdoor events made the most of mild fall temperatures, but Winter Term would bring higher demand for indoor space.
 
In a meeting with Director of Athletics Dick Muther, a big question was posed: “Can we use one of your biggest facilities for the entire term?” Without blinking an eye, Muther said “yes,” and the planning to turn the Stovell Indoor Tennis Courts into a student center was underway.
 
Weeks later, with the help of the SPS Facilities crew and the repurposing of furniture, movie screens, and more, the courts offer an opportunity for up to 100 students at a time to lounge, play pool or ping pong, and use one of three video game systems. Director of Student Activities Joe Bernier is also coordinating with clubs and organizations to use the space for different events, such as the Lunar New Year celebration at the end of February.
 
Combined with the Friedman Community Center, movies in Memorial Hall, and more active events like skating on Lower School Pond or laser tag in the Matthes Cage, Bernier anticipates being able to safely offer choices for all students.
 
“Even in normal times, having spaces like this is great,” he says. “There’s always going to be a group of kids who really want to tap into the programming we have going on, but there’s also going to be groups of students who just want to have informal social time.”
 
Though the new space gives the School more options for night and weekend programming, Ellie La Voie '21, a member of the SPS Saturday Night Life (SNL) organization, says developing more events to accommodate all students safely has required creative thinking. “I think this has ended up being a positive thing because there’s more for everyone to do," says La Voie, who plays a central role in developing student activities as a member of SNL. The goal is to design events that are inclusive of all students and that bring as many people together as possible. In particular, she's excited about Winter Carnival as something for the whole community to look forward to, especially in this school year like no other.
 
“With all of our COVID protocols, students need a space to gather with their friends and the rest of the community,” she says. “These events have been a great place for us all to be together.”

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