Hike Club falls apart after yearbook photo controversy

Club hopes someone will take the lead to rebuild the club for 2020-2021

by Ashley Mochizuki, staff

At 9:20 a.m. on a normal Friday, hundreds of Shorewood students suddenly stood up from their second period classes and walked to the commons. They made a bustling, packed line stretching from the theater’s entrance to the career center. These students had assembled for the 2018-19 Hike Club yearbook photo.

But, if you look in the yearbook today, no such photo exists. The photo had been pulled from the yearbook. Today, only rumors remain of the Hike Club photo that took Shorewood by a storm.

Hike Club brought people together for their love of hiking and the great outdoors. Senior Curt Tanaka is a leader of the club. “At meetings, we would talk about hiking techniques such as popping a squat in the woods, proper use of a hiking stick, how to walk your dog on the hike, hike choice, snow hiking, and other things like that,” he said.

According to senior Matthew Meadows, another leader, the club became inactive mostly after a controversial yearbook photo that was taken last year. Almost a quarter of the school showed up to Hike Club’s yearbook photo, according to Meadows and Tanaka. Meadows said, “Everyone kind of thought it was a joke at that point. We kind of lost our steam after that.”

Tanaka said the reason for taking the photo was to beat NHS’s photo because Hike Club’s meeting days clashed with NHS meeting days. When he became a junior, Tanaka took up a leadership role in the club. “That year, I made a commitment to myself that we would beat NHS,” he said.

To prepare for the yearbook photo, Tanaka spread word about the photo to everyone. He said, “As soon as we found out when the Hike Club photo was, we started a grassroots campaign. We would go around at lunch asking people, ‘What are you doing at 9:20 Friday morning?’ and they would say, ‘I don’t know; I’ll be in second period.’ And, I would say, ‘Wrong, you’re going to be in the theater for the Hike Club photo because you’re in Hike Club, right?’ and they would always respond with ‘No?’ but I would hit them with the ‘But you actually are. If you think about it, every day you walk, you hike. Done. Easy. You’re in Hike Club.’”

Tanaka and Meadows claim the club’s efforts led to about 400-500 people showing up for the photo, including three full second period classes. “People that never went to a single meeting showed up,” said Meadows.

Tanaka said, “When we made that photo happen, like that huge congregation of people, I was so inspired and I was so excited.” Meadows said, “I thought it was really cool that we brought that many people together.”

But, after the photo was taken, Hike Club fell apart. Administrators had Hike Club retake its yearbook photo with only leaders pictured. Teacher Frank Fisher, the advisor of the club, stepped down. “I feel like the controversy around the photo might have had something to do with that. I honestly feel bad because I really like Mr. Fisher, and I feel like I was a source of stress to him,” said Tanaka.

Fisher said he stepped down from his position because he wanted to make his workload more manageable. This year, he is teaching Algebra II for the first time on top of Math 120 and Calculus BC. “The quick of it is I had to take something off my plate. I couldn’t just pick up a new course and continue with everything I’d been doing. You just can’t do everything,” he said.

Fisher said the yearbook photo did not affect his decision to step down as advisor. “Good people all around, really good people. Just an attempted humor that wasn’t funny,” he said. “I thought the yearbook photo was an unfortunate situation. It was a lack of good judgment. It was something that was supposed to be funny and really wasn’t. But, those things happen.”

After the photo was retaken, Tanaka became demoralized about the future of Hike Club. “It was honestly disheartening to see all of my efforts get wasted,” he said.

I don’t think I’m the person that would lead the comeback… I went down that path, I had my time with it, but I feel like it’s time to let someone else take the lead.”

— Curt Tanaka, senior

Currently, there are no plans to revive Hike Club. But, Tanaka and Meadows are hopeful that it will make a comeback one day. Meadows said, “I think all the Hike Club leaders would want it to come back.”

Tanaka agrees. He also believes a new leader is necessary for the club to make a comeback. He said, “I don’t think I’m the person that would lead the comeback… I went down that path, I had my time with it, but I feel like it’s time to let someone else take the lead.”

Former advisor Fisher also misses Hike Club. “I miss it. I miss the people,” he said. “I struggle with boundaries. I have my boundaries and I’m going to take care of myself. I’m going to not try and do everything. And then, they slowly disintegrate and I find myself spread out like a pancake. And then, I try to put my boundaries back in place, and I just think that’s how we humans are. So right now, I’m just trying not to do everything, but I do miss it.”

Tanaka has high hopes for a new advisor. He said, “Kotwis, if you’re reading this, you might want to be advisor. That’s all I’m saying. Thank you, Big John.”

While Hike Club might not be active anymore, the legacy of the photo will remain for years. Tanaka said, “Everyone that was a part of it will remember it. It’s just such an iconic part of Shorewood.”