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These Park High School students embrace their 'nerdiness'

Members of the Nerd Club meet in the Park High School cafeteria. From left are Ryan Colaizy, Gina Pasuffi, Kody Jackoja and Jaden Landou. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner

If you were in chess club in middle school and moved on to play "Dungeons and Dragons," "Pokemon," "Magic: The Gathering" or "YoGoOh," you qualify to join Park High School's Nerd Club.

The word "nerd" appeared in the Dr. Suess book "If I Ran the Zoo" and evolved to mean someone who is overly intellectual, highly technical, interested in fantasy fiction or inclined to like all things medieval.

The 20 to 30 young men and one girl who belong to Nerd Club are all over the above.

The club, formed last year after Park teacher Joe Adams suggested that the group, which was gathering in the cafeteria after school and during lunch, become a formal club with an advisor.

"We could do that?" club leader Austin Johnson asked him, astonished that anyone would consider his friends a club.

Johnson, a senior, got the club together with a friend who graduated last year, so Johnson took over. Johnson is looking for someone to take over when he graduates in June.

There is no membership roll, dues or election of officers.

Most members play "spell and counter-spell" strategy games, but some, such as Gina Pasuffi, the only girl member, comes to the club meetings to just hang out. She draws with a pencil in a sketch book while others play games.

Group members are anything but a bunch of loners. During get-togethers, there is a constant exchange of conversation as card groups form and games begin. The first nerd member students meet when they approach the group is Landon Lawrence, who'll shake hands, introduce himself and ask to help them.

In addition to playing fantasy card games, political debates are an occasional nerd activity, but members struggle if asked to define what it means to be a "nerd."

"Half of us wear glasses," Zach Schoer said.

Brandon Gilmore said being a nerd is not a negative. They are highly interested in many things. "It's also a good place to come if you've had a bad day," he said.

It's a place where you can be yourself, Lawrence said. "You don't have to hide. You meet people, have fun and embrace your nerdiness."

Dylan Demaris said during a meeting last week that Nerd Club members are not as smart as some people think. He denies that he is a "good student," but he likes school, wants to learn and listens to his teachers. "If you listen, you can learn so much more," he said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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