The room is filled with loud, warm conversation and laughter. The Ohana members are clustered around tables, discussing their Thanksgiving plans and taking bites of pumpkin pie brought in by the officers. Stickers, colored pencils and construction paper litter the tables, along with yellow sheets of paper. Members bend over the papers, writing down what they are thankful for this Thankgiving. Others make cards for whom they are grateful for. Senior Kelly Morali, an Ohana officer, surveys the room, proud of the meeting’s success.
“There are a little more people than there usually are,” Morali said. “People are very engaged in the conversation about what we’re grateful for. We’re just [enjoying]being together.”
Similarly to Morali, Ohana member sophomore Shivani Gupta observed that more members attended the Thanksgiving meeting on November 15, creating a more energetic and warm atmosphere.
“I just like the fact that everyone’s here together and also how there’s also food,” Gupta said. “I think that brings everybody together and lets us have a great time without having to worry about forcefully making conversation.”
This year, Morali and the officer team created worksheets for the members to create gratitude lists and provided materials for them to make thank you cards. Morali believes that this activity can be really illuminating and invoke deep thought about gratitude for those who choose to participate.
Gupta liked the fact that members had the opportunity to brainstorm about what they are grateful for and then make cards for the people they appreciate. She believes that the exercise helps people recognize what they have in their life that they may take for granted.
Sophomore Nandini Saldi, a second-year Ohana member regrets not being able to attend the Thanksgiving meeting. However, she explains that she still practiced gratitude during the Thanksgiving season.
“I really regret [missing the meeting]because I heard they did a lot of fun stuff to show their gratefulness and appreciation for the people around them,” Saldi said. “Thanksgiving is all about appreciating the people and relationships you have in your life. I intend to come to the Thanksgiving potluck next year and I always try to show my appreciation and gratitude to everyone.”
Morali is proud of the outcome of the meeting, happy that so many members enjoyed it. She describes the preparation that went into planning the meeting, explaining that this meeting did take more thought and creativity for the officers to plan out and execute. However, after witnessing the product of all the preparation, Morali believes that the extra time was worth it.
“Every Tuesday before meetings, we meet up during school and after school, we go out and buy materials,” Morali said. “[This time] we organized a potluck. We brought pies and other people brought their own food.”
Gupta thought the meeting was well-executed, explaining that while Ohana always has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, the Thanksgiving meeting made the club feel especially like a family.
“I like how many people came and how everyone’s making an effort to talk,” Gupta said. “It feels like a family rather than a club meeting.”
Morali agrees that this meeting felt like a family. Morali is really passionate about the club and its mission, to foster relationships between Ohana members and special needs students. Ohana has always been Morali’s way to escape academic stress briefly and she explains that this meeting specifically really pulled everyone away from their worries.
“My favorite thing about Ohana is that we forget about academics, just for lunch,” Morali said. We all talk about things that aren’t related to school. We do activities we wouldn’t do in class.”