They're a herd of nerds and proud of it
They're a herd of nerds and proud of it
NORTH PROVIDENCE - Being nerdy is one of the fastest-growing trends at North Providence High School, where nerds from every corner of the building are coming together every week to enjoy the things that nerds enjoy.
The "Nerd Herd," an after-school club designed specifically for nerds, has caught on like few other clubs in the school, with nearly 40 students now attending after just a few weeks, according to Michael Gianfrancesco, the English teacher who advises the group.
Students, many of whom have never found a club they enjoy, choosing in many cases to do high school life on their own, are meeting new friends and coming alive in a way that's been special to see, said Gianfrancesco. Many who have never known acceptance are welcome in a club where it's OK to love comic books, science fiction or Pokemon.
"This is a place where kids who aren't into something like sports can feel like they belong, that they can talk about what they like," said Gianfrancesco.
The majority of nerd members are "gamers," said Gianfrancesco, not the "Madden" kind but the kind who love role-playing videogames, but students here are into all kinds of activities.
"There's a lot of energy with these kids," added Gianfrancesco. "I lot of them don't go to any other groups."
The theme for the group for October is "Cosplay," or costume play performance art, in recognition of Halloween, while the theme next month will be superheroes.
Students said they get together to participate in all kinds of activities typically seen as being nerdy, like impromptu skits based on random characters from the nerd world.
It doesn't matter what you're into, said Nerd Herd President Kathleen DaVega, a senior who first approached Gianfrancesco about starting the club last year.
"A lot of people when they hear 'nerd' think of someone geeky with glasses who no one wants to be friends with," said DaVega. "I just see it as people who love what they love getting together."
Brandon Marin, a senior who said he's always been reluctant to join any groups in high school, told The Breeze the Nerd Herd has given him an outlet to enjoy activities, like the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game, that many don't see as cool.
"It lets us express who we are in front of others instead of hiding it," he said.
Marin said he's experienced bullying plenty of times at North Providence High School, and regularly hears comments from students outside the group about how the Nerd Herd is a club where "child's games" are played. The words hurt but he's OK with them now that he has a group where he's accepted, said Marin.
Danielle Lugo, who serves as vice president of the Nerd Herd, loves videogames, superheroes in comics, Cosplay, and plenty of other "nerdy" activities.
"This is a place where they (nerds) can be themselves and not worry," said Lugo. Many teachers at North Providence High have been very supportive of the group, said Lugo, but there is still a long way to go with some students.
Gianfrancesco told The Breeze that the overarching idea of the Nerd Herd is that "we're taking back ownership" of the word "nerd." A term that has at times been used in a derogatory way in the past has become synonymous with a "popular culture movement," he said, with Comic Con conventions "basically being one of the most trendy things you can do," drawing thousands of nerds across the country.
The "Nerd Herd" name is "simple and catchy," and when students hear it they "know they belong," said Gianfrancesco.
Josh Powell serves as activities coordinator for the Nerd Herd, Tesia Polanco serves as secretary, and Kelli Donnelly serves as designer for the Nerd Herd. As designer Donnelly will help create the new "Nerd Herd" T-shirt, which will soon be visible all over the school.
Gianfrancesco said he also plans to attach the Nerd Herd to a specific charity. The group's first fundraiser will raise money to buy copies of a graphic novel for the North Providence High School Book Club.