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The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Joyfully juggling into the new semester

Pins and balls in the air, Bowie’s newest club brings opportunity to learn something new
Unlike other clubs, there are no outside-of-school events or commitments, they just dedicate their time to juggling.

The weight bounces off their hands as pins and balls fly through the air, bringing smiles and laughs to those around them. Sophomores Mia Urrbazzo and Riley Redmer started the Bowie juggling club at the start of the 2024 semester.

“We thought it would be a fun way to hang out with our friends,” Urrbazzo said. “And it turned out to be better than we expected.”

Chemistry Teacher Jacob Slaughter is the juggling club’s host teacher. This year is Slaughter’s first year at Bowie, and he is already making his mark hosting this club for Redmer and Urrbazzo.

“At first, it was kind of a joke, until Mr. Slaughter told us he was getting the club papers,” Redmer said. “And now we have a ton of members.”

The club meets every Friday during FIT in Slaughter’s room, which started as a way to teach Redmer and Urrbazzo, after they took an interest in his skills and juggling pins.

“Mr. Slaughter had juggling pins in his classroom, and one day we just started learning,” Urrbazzo said. “We started to practice and it just went from there.”

We really just thought it would be a fun thing to do with our friends, that looks funny, and entertaining, and it has been.

— Mia Urrbazzo, Co-Founder

Unlike other clubs, there are no outside-of-school events or commitments, they just dedicate their time to juggling. They work on teaching new members the skill and share in the joy that it brings.

“It’s a really fun place to go and hang out with friends and try something new,” sophomore member Zoe Smith said. “I’ve even gotten other friends to come try it out, and watching each other try something difficult has been funny and enjoyable.”

According to Smith learning how to juggle isn’t the easiest task, club members are taking things slow, and starting small, like starting with balls rather than pins, and using fewer balls before moving on to more challenging amounts.

“I started off juggling with two balls, which I’m still doing, before I moved on to three which is more challenging,” Smith said.

For Redmer and Urrbazzo, juggling was also a learning experience, being that they both had never considered juggling before. Almost all of the people in the juggling club are beginners, and the club meetings revolve around helping people progress in their juggling skills. Slaughter has juggling videos up on his TV and walks around the room showing the members new tricks.

“We learn through Riley, Mia, and Mr. Slaughter, but also through the people around us,” Smith said. “I’m not the best at it, but it’s nice to know everyone is learning and there are people around us to help.”

The majority of the club came from friends of the co-founders, like sophomore Jennifer Crawford, a teammate of Redmer, and Smith who is in the same chemistry class as the two jugglers.

“I play basketball with Riley, who is the vice president of the club,” Crawford said. “She told me I should join so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Some perks to this club are its inherent nature to bring joy, along with a fun way to exercise just by juggling and hanging out with friends. According to the National Library of Medicine, juggling can promote positive neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity has been seen as a factor in greater intelligence, and the ability to recover and regenerate from traumatic brain injuries like a stroke. So, besides getting a sweet treat and hanging out with friends, club members are strengthening their brains.

BALLS FLYING: Club leader Mia Urrbazzo concentrates while demonstrating how to juggle three balls at once, for other club members to learn. Urrbazzo has just starting juggling this year, with the help of her chemistry teacher Jacob Slaughter. (Gabby Bochey)

“Sometimes they bring in donuts during meetings, which makes going even better than it already is,” Crawford said. “But figuring out how to do multiple things at once has been challenging.”

Slaughter has been juggling for the last four years after he took an interest in all of the variety of ways you could juggle along with learning something new.

“Juggling has so much variety,” Slaughter said. “It’s not only how you juggle, that is, in what sequence, but also what you juggle.”

This club started because of the juggling pins Slaughter keeps in his classroom and there is a story behind it.

“I wanted to give another point of entry for students who may be interested in juggling.” Slaughter said. “I had shown my students I could juggle during class and Riley and Mia took a particular interest.”

There are a few club members who came in with previous experience, one of whom is sophomore Louis Olmeda.

“I taught myself after my mom bought some juggling balls for Christmas,” Olmeda said. “I’m pretty confident in my basic skills so now I’m just trying to learn tricks.”

There are lots of tricks you can do while juggling. There are easier ones like, cascade, and then extremely hard ones, like the six-ball fountain and five-ball cascade. Along with what you juggle, increasing the difficulty.

“Juggling balls are an easier place to start for more people, which is why club members are starting with them,” Slaughter said. “But, juggling pins just looks so cool, even though they are so much harder.”

This club is also a great way for athletes to improve their hand-eye coordination without even knowing. A combination of rhythm, reflexes, and balance, all factors that contribute to the improvement of hand-eye coordination.

“Practicing juggling can only improve hand-eye coordination,” Olmeda said. “It’s a great environment to be in while not even realizing you improve a vital skill in sports.”

Like Olmeda, some of the members are self-sufficient when it comes to improving their skills during club meetings. Members like Smith and Crawford need more assistance and they are provided with just that.

“Riley and Mia do a great job of teaching people and helping them learn,” Slaughter said. “But I also walk around and provide assistance and encouragement, along with showcasing new tricks, or techniques.”

Juggling has so much variety its not only how you juggle, that is, in what sequence, but also what you juggle.

— Jacob Slaughter, Chemistry Teahcer

Slaughter, the master of juggling in the club meetings, started Redmer and Urrbazzo off on their juggling journeys. While he likes to see his students trying something new, and having fun, this club is an opportunity for him.

“I’m getting to expand my juggling repertoire,” Slaughter said. “I’d love to keep sponsoring the club next year because it allows me to try harder skills, and help the students do the same.”

Even though the club started out of the blue, Redmer and Urrbazzo plan to continue it through the rest of their time at Bowie. Even if that means the basis of the club changes from just learning how to juggle.

“We want to continue this into next year no question,” Urrbazzo said. “As people start to advance, instead of learning how to juggle I think we will all start to learn complex tricks.”

Club members are excited by the idea that this club will continue into the next school year. Being able to improve their skills, and do more impressive tricks.

“They told us when the club started that we would improve in six meetings of the club,” Smith said. “So, next year if the club continues I hope to continue to improve and then finally start learning a few tricks.”

Crawford is practically excited about next year’s club, not only because of the improvement of her skills but also the social aspect.

“It really is one of the funniest fits to go to and I look forward to Fridays,” Crawford said. “I’m hoping more of my friends join and we can all advance and learn more alongside other club members.”

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