Club Connection: Green and Gold Academy

The Green and Gold academy is a relatively new club focused on diversifying students’ experience at West through accountability, opportunity and unique prizes.

Academy members enjoy an outing to the local bowling alley as a treat.

In the fall of 2019, the Green and Gold Academy was formed with the purpose of providing unique perspectives and experiences to students. The Academy was originally started by English teacher, Garrett Hartwig, in hopes of supplying more opportunities as well as diversifying student interactions

“Often students are involved in extracurricular activities, but we noticed that these same kids mingle in the same groups. We wanted to start an organization that brought kids together from all over the school to work together, have some fun and open some options,” Hartwig said.

Hartwig also notes that although students have a plethora of teachers around them, they may not be able to make direct connections with them; this lack of connection is an aspect the Academy would like to fix. “All students have multiple teachers, but they may not have direct connections with any of them. The G&G is a smaller group with the same teachers [where] beneficial connections are hopefully made,” Hartwig said.

All students have multiple teachers, but they may not have direct connections with any of them. The G&G is a smaller group with the same teachers [where] beneficial connections are hopefully made.”

— Garrett Hartwig

Math teacher Karen Meyer, one of the all-online leaders, also notes the importance of providing kids a strong support system. “I wanted to contribute to making West High an even better place to be. When students feel connected and supported they can succeed,” Meyer said. 

Both Meyer and Hartwig have similar goals to increase the amount of students who have access to this supporting community. “I would like to see it grow and create stronger support systems and learning communities for more students.  More connections. More accountability. More opportunity,” Meyer said.

One way Hartwig hopes to expand Green and Gold ideals and reach other students is by student recruiters. “Our own members know the type of student who is a good fit for the Academy, so I rely on that a lot. I also receive teacher recommendations as well,” Hartwig said. 

Since COVID-19 has imposed many complications with communication, the Academy has had complications growing past its current 74 members. “For now, I only communicate with the students in my classes and in the G&G. So personally, I am not recruiting at the moment. However, we have had new enrollees at other student’s suggestions, which is what I am relying on now.” Hartwig said.

Another unique component to the Academy is rewards. These rewards are achieved through good grades, good attendance or simply knowing some random trivia. Last year, Academy leadership was able to provide many unique prizes through the funding of the district and local business. “Everything from trips off campus to climbing walls, bowling alleys and trampoline parks.  We also like to throw out a lot of swag to represent the program.  Food is also a commonality when we are together,” Hartwig said.

 At the moment, the Academy is split into an all-online group and a hybrid group, but there are whole-club meetings every Thursday. This division has created some challenges, especially for all-academy meetings.

“A big part of the G&G is being together throughout the week, interacting.  We also are unable to get off campus at this time. Many places are closed, the school has understandable restrictions. It’s been frustrating,” Hartwig said.

A big part of the G&G is being together throughout the week, interacting.  We also are unable to get off campus at this time. Many places are closed, the school has understandable restrictions. It’s been frustrating.”

— Garrett Hartwig

Jibreel Mustefa ’21, an Academy member, has also observed the effects of the unfortunate circumstances on the Academy. “Last year the whole academy used to get to meet up in the little theatre and have fun. We also used to have teams which would compete with each other every trimester. We also used to have field trips and Academy completions like dodgeball,” Mustefa said.

Although the Academy cannot be together physically, Mustefa commends the Academy’s ability to adapt. “Mr. Hartwig has improvised in a really impressive way. For example, one of the ways the Academy has been able to stay connected with each other is that we started to have a lot of trivia competitions over Zoom.” Mustefa said.

Once the pandemic has calmed, Hartwig hopes to get everyone back together and enhance the Academy from what it had previously been. One way the Academy leaders intend to do this is by exploring new activities and opportunities.

“Our plans are to get involved in the community and to show students what is available to them in Iowa City and beyond.  We want to take students all over: to museums and plays to natural parks and rec centers,” Hartwig said. “We would like to show students different business opportunities that exist in the professional world as well with the hope of sparking future interests and making connections to people in the Iowa City community and beyond.”

Another way they hope to improve is by providing students with leadership opportunities. These students will become “captains” in the Academy and will assist with a wide variety of tasks. “I’ll have captains lead group activities when we work together. They will also provide suggestions for off-campus trips, determine apparel orders, organize and run games, etc.” Hartwig said. “… They are the first students I will go to when I need help with another student or situation.”

If interested in joining the Green and Gold Academy, contact Garrett Hartwig @[email protected]