ALLENTOWN – A volleyball club at Allentown High School has received approval for the 2017-18 school year from the Upper Freehold Regional School District Board of Education.
Board members approved the creation of the volleyball club for the current school year during a meeting on Oct. 10. Funding for the club will come from fundraising activities.
A volleyball club at the high school was proposed by juniors Matt Geleta, Charlie Carey, Trent Berrien and Ben Mashkevich, who have been working to establish the new organization since January.
According to the students, the club runs from 4:30-5:35 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday in the high school’s newer gym. About 45 members attend each session for practice and open play.
The volleyball club will be a seasonal sport and will have competitive and non-competitive leagues in the school district. The students said the club’s season will take place in the fall and also possibly in the spring. Due to a lack of access to the gym, the club will not meet during the winter.
Allentown High School does not sponsor an interscholastic volleyball program and did not have an intramural volleyball club prior to the board’s recent approval of the students’ proposal.
The inspiration for the club came after Matt noticed that students at the high school enjoy the sport, but lacked resources to pursue it.
“There are so many people here who love playing volleyball,” he said. “It only makes sense to give them someplace to play. Volleyball is everything to me. I play with my friends every day after school and the weather is never a factor.
“We have played through rain and snow and still love it. I really started getting into volleyball during the summer when [Charlie and I] played a beach volleyball tournament. We lost every game, but we absolutely loved playing.
“I have been playing volleyball since sixth grade. If volleyball didn’t mean this much to me, I wouldn’t even be trying to make the club. Ben is in the same boat as me and has also been playing since middle school. We frequently meet up to play and also to plan how we are going to make this club work.”
Matt said he and Charlie reside in neighboring Plumsted Township, but transferred from the Plumsted Township School District to Allentown High School in accordance with a program that permits them to do so, in part because of additional opportunities they believed they would receive at a larger high school.
According to Matt, New Egypt High School in Plumsted also does not have a volleyball team or club.
During the 2016-17 school year, the students, who were sophomores, created a petition seeking to establish a volleyball club. The petition received more than 300 signatures, but the students were informed by Allentown Principal Constance DeNicola Embley that as a result of financial restrictions, no new clubs could be approved for the year.
The students decided to finance the club themselves and created an online fundraiser seeking $1,400 in donations to cover the expenses of the volleyball club, including equipment and gym space. The fundraiser exceeded its goal and received $1,800 in donations.
To also help finance the club, a volleyball tournament was held in March and raised $700.
The students said they would meet with school district Business Administrator Margaret Hom to discuss managing the finances of the club.
Board members spoke favorably of the volleyball club and commended the students for funding it themselves.
“The problem we have as a board is helping with funding, but we will do our best to support you,” board President Patricia Hogan said to Matt, Charlie, Trent and Ben.
The students said their goal is to provide the club’s financing and not to ask the board to pay for any of its expenses.
For the future, the four students hope the volleyball club will inspire and provide more opportunities to future Allentown students.
“We all have younger siblings whom we expect to instill the same amount of passion we have into the club,” the students said in a presentation they prepared before the board. “We want every student who walks into Allentown High School to have an avenue to play a sport they previously did not have access to.”
They said the ultimate goal is to establish a volleyball program for male and female students that would join the roster of Allentown’s interscholastic sports teams.