After-school Disney Club gives MTHS students a place to unwind

During regular class times inside Mountlake Terrace High School’s Room 124, you’ll hear the voices of students engaged in biology lab work or discussions in the field of Earth and space sciences being led by classroom teacher Dana Marsden. But once a week, after all classes have been dismissed for the day, other voices can be heard, including those of Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Ariel and Prince Eric, Belle and the Beast, or Elsa and Anna.

Marsden and her science classroom host Disney Club, an official student-led club at the school, each Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. Club members — and any other students who have a love or interest in the Disney movie library — gather to take in a long-form Disney movie after school gets out.

“It’s a nice thing after a high school day,” said Terrace freshman Beth Parrish.

Although the focus of the club, now in its second year, seems far from the normal scope of teaching high school science, Marsden is happy to open her classroom to the club and to be its faculty advisor.

“I happen to be a huge Disney fan and Pixar fan,” she said.

Marsden agreed to host Disney Club after being asked by a student last year to take on the role.“I had a student approach me and say ‘I want to do Disney Club and I think you’d be the perfect advisor,’ Marsden explained. “We had a good relationship and she was a kid that struggled (socially) and it wasn’t a thing I would say no to. So we found a day and we found a way.”

The club had a modest start under the direction of Marsden and the one student who initiated the group.

“We had a little cadre of what would be five to 10 people that would show up on Thursdays and they would pick movies,” Marsden said. “She really ran it; she had her own video collection and I had mine as well, VHS and DVD kind of stuff.”

That student has since graduated from Terrace, but the club lives on under the direction of Marsden and current club President Tiffany Nguyen, an MTHS sophomore. Nguyen has increased publicity of the club, getting mentions on the Hawk Broadcasting Network — the in-school video newscasts produced by fellow Terrace students — and hanging flyers up around campus announcing upcoming movies scheduled to be shown.

Marsden has also purchased a Disney Plus account — a streaming service that gives the club access to some 500 movies.

Getting word out about the club is a big focus for Nguyen, Marsden and club members right now. “A lot of people don’t know that Disney Club is a thing, and that’s sad,” Parrish said.

While the number of regular attendees is still small — five to 10 each week — that number can occasionally grow big. The after-school activity is one of just a few that gives students a safe space to come to when other areas of the school are being occupied for organized activities or meetings.

“Earlier in the year it was a place where our volleyball team could wait for their practice,” Marsden pointed out. “It gave them a place to hang out. They had nowhere else to go — the library was closed.”

And while the Disney movie being shown up on the classroom projection screen is the main focus of club time, some students will multi-task while there. “It’s just a little place that a lot of them just do homework in,” Marsden said.

Other students will use Disney Club to pause and unwind for a bit. “One of our students that ran the Hawkeye (student newspaper), had four AP classes,” Marsden noted. “(She would) come in for an hour, take a break from all of that and just enjoy, then off to her plethora of huge other duties.”

Whether there for the enjoyment of some Disney big-screen magic or to simply chill for awhile after the school day, the Terrace students of Disney Club seem to be putting into practice the words of Lion King’s Simba, Timon and Pumbaa: Hakuna Matata!

— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski


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