Whether it’s by blasting music in Olshan Lobby on Friday mornings or sending the school colorful weekly emails, Happiness Club co-Presidents Kelly Troop (11) and Leah Rakhlin (11) have made it their mission to brighten everyone’s day.
Though the activities that the Happiness Club plans for the 15 minute break in the library—such as the wreath toss grade competition in December and the Halloween-themed cookie decorating in October—may seem easy to organize, Troop and Rakhlin call each other every night to discuss the club’s upcoming pursuits.
The executor of all of the Happiness Club’s initiatives is Director of Upper Division Student Activites Caroline Bartels. “I basically say to [Kelly and Leah], ‘Whatever your crazy ideas are, just tell me, and I can tell you whether we can make them happen or not,” Bartels said.
However, Bartels has been involved with activities in the library long before the Happiness Club was created in 2015 by Rahul Kukreja ‘16. When the school first decided to have the 15 minute break in the morning, a handful of students asked to help her figure out fun things to do in the library during that time, thus creating the Fun Committee, Bartels said. Though the committee no longer exists, the Happiness Club has since stepped in to serve the role of promoting liveliness in the school’s library, which is the “hub of the school,” according to former Student Body President (SBP) and Happiness Club co-President Janvi Kukreja ‘19, who is Rahul’s sister.
Recently, the Happiness Club has been extending its initiatives beyond the library’s purview. Since both Rakhlin and Troop are also leaders of Maroon Monsoon, the pep squad for student activities, they have been trying to bring more life into all extracurriculars whether in the arts or sports, Troop said. “[Maroon Monsoon] is about school spirit, but school spirit isn’t only sports, even though that’s a large part of it,” Rakhlin said.
Often times, sports games garner a lot of the school’s attention, especially for large events such as Buzzell and Homecoming, while theater productions tend to get less recognition, Troop said. In light of that, earlier this year, the Happiness Club has offered pizza before various student productions and concerts to encourage students stay after school to watch their classmates perform.
Showing her peers support in their activities is very important to Rakhlin, which is why she and Troop, with the help of Bartels, brought flowers to those involved in the fall play Comic Potential and the Student Choreographed Dance Concert — a tradition they plan on continuing for all future theater and dance productions, Rakhlin said.
Although Troop initially joined the Happiness Club as an underclassman because she hadn’t yet found an activity that she was particularly passionate about, the club has since become a large part of her school life, Troop said. “Sometimes I’m sad, and I’m like, ‘I really want to do something for Happiness Club this week.’”
Rakhlin joined the Happiness Club as an underclassman simply because she liked the idea of a having an activity called ‘the Happiness Club’ at the school, and she anticipated that it would be a pretty low-commitment extracurricular, Rakhlin said. Now, as co-President, it has been her goal to alleviate some of the pressure students feel with food and fun activities to look forward to throughout the week. “Even just chalk drawing gets people outside and moving and thinking more positively, [which] helps,” Rakhlin said.
However, for Jaden Richards (11), the Happiness Club’s initiatives haven’t effectively improved his emotional well-being at the school, he said. “I hate to sound so evil, but it all just seems like it’s trying to put a band-aid over a bullet wound. If students are unhappy, then a bouncy castle isn’t really going to fix it, honestly.”
To Troop, the purpose of the club is to “do any small thing to make people feel better” given the stressful and competitive nature that is a large part of the definition of the school, she said. The initial purpose of the club for Rahul was very similar: simply to spread happiness, club advisor Dr. Jessica Levenstein said.
During Rahul’s time at the school, he was known to be “constitutionally one of the happiest, most optimistic human beings,” so he sought to create an official organization to promote positive energy within the student body, Levenstein said.
Since 2015, the club has grown mainly through its initiatives. In the early years of the club, it was primarily just Rahul Kukreja organizing small events, such as a bubble day where the club brought in bubble wrap and a bubble machine, Levenstein said. Eventually though, as the club grew in size, Rahul’s ideas grew in ambition, leading the school to bring in a bouncy castle in the spring.
When Janvi took over the Happiness Club in 2018, she recognized that there were some similarities in the missions of the SBP position and the Happiness Club, but she deliberately distinguished the two, she said. “I loved being silly with SBP too, but with [the] Happiness Club it was important for me not to let it get overlapped or lost in each other.”
However, being co-President of the Happiness Club does not come without its fair share of stress. Troop sometimes feels nervous that the club’s initiatives are overbearing, especially the music played on Friday mornings and during break, she said. “I don’t know if people are like, ‘Shut up.’”
On the contrary, Levenstein feels that having music on Friday mornings is true to “the original mission of the club,” which to her is “being together in community and enjoying each other and trying to find moments of happiness,” she said. “[It] costs no money [and] is a just a bright way to end the week.”
The Happiness Club’s activities during break have made transitioning into the school more seamless for Cecilia Coughlin (9), who is new to the school this year, she said. “I wouldn’t say that I necessarily participate in these activities, but they’re fun to watch, and it’s kind of a stress reliever in the day.”
Although the Happiness Club has certainly made break more “lively,” and she wouldn’t want Troop and Rakhlin to reel back their initiatives, the music during that time sometimes makes it difficult for Grace Ermias (12) to study on the second floor of the library, she said. The library is already too loud anyways, and the music just serves as “fluff that causes more people to crowd into that area,” Richards said.
Kate Bown (11) has heard a similar sentiment reflected among her peers, who are occasionally annoyed by their peers dancing to the music during break when they’re in a bad mood, but it doesn’t negatively affect her, she said. “If I’m in a bad mood, I just won’t come here, so usually when I’m here during break I’m excited to be involved in whatever’s happening.”
When Bown was a freshman, she thought that the presence of the senior class during break, especially when music was played, was scary. “They’d all be dancing, and you just didn’t really know how to fit into it,” she said. Now though, since the Happiness Club plays music every day during break, Bown thinks that the environment of the library is holistically more welcoming to all grades.
“The thought of having fun in the library or having a dance party is less intimidating,” Bown said. “It used to be an event, so you didn’t really know what to do, but now that it’s almost every day you just go with it.”