When Marieteresa Porcher Allen (MSB ’24) saw an influx of new faces on the Georgetown Ballroom Dance Team, she knew a Valentine’s Day Dance would be the perfect way to welcome them to an on-campus community in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I mean, coming out of that whole isolation period, I feel like it’s so important, you know, to get those connections back and bond with people and, and just, like, be a part of society again,” Porcher Allen told The Hoya.
With a romantic activity like dance, the team recognized the need for in-person connection during Valentine’s Day season and chose the romantic holiday as the perfect setting for their first Zoom-free event of the semester.
For the Ballroom Dance Team, the Valentine’s Day Dance marked an occasion for all students, regardless of their dancing experience, to take some time off from studying, meet new people and partake in the holiday festivities.
Just one month into the semester, clubs across Georgetown found that Valentine’s Day is the ideal holiday for encouraging students to let loose and enjoy one another’s company. From dance teams to environmental activist organizations to retreat programs, communities on campus used the holiday weekend to create spaces for couples, friends and strangers alike to gather in a stress-free environment and build relationships with their peers.
Clubs Playing Matchmaker
Clubs across campus used Valentine’s Day to provide opportunities for students to form romantic and platonic relationships in a time when schedules are getting busier and study days are growing longer.
For example, the Ballroom Dance Team opened their Feb. 12 Valentine’s Dance to anyone willing to learn a few moves. The team hoped to give students a Valentine’s Day themed night where they could learn something new while creating new friends — or even something more.
The event was intended to show students that the Ballroom Dance Team is here to support them, according to Porcher Allen, treasurer of the Ballroom Dance Team.
“We tried to have a nice little activity for people to remind them ‘Hey, we care about you, we love you,’” Porcher Allen said.
The night consisted of two segments — half an hour of learning choreography followed by time for social dancing. Meeting people happens naturally during a night of dancing when students have an opportunity to practice moves they just learned, according to Porcher Allen.
“With dance, I feel like it is just so easy to do that because you are constantly getting a new partner for the social, dancing with a bunch of people, and just talking to people. It is just so nice to meet students you normally would not have met,” Porcher Allen said.
Originally joining the Ballroom Dance Team because of one of their events last semester, Zoe Niazi (SFS ’25) enjoyed the Valentine’s Day event for its role in easing members back into the rhythm of its events.
“Going to the Ballroom Valentine’s Dance reminded me how much fun the club is and has made me even more excited for this semester,” she told The Hoya. “I really enjoyed seeing all my ballroom friends again after such a long break.”
Similar to the Ballroom Dance Team’s Valentine’s Day themed night, ESCAPE, a program that offers retreats for first-years and transfer students, hosted a “Palentine’s” event in an effort to celebrate all types of relationships, according to Justin Bustamante (NHS ’23), student coordinator for ESCAPE.
“For us, we did not want to limit our event to just people who were in a relationship and had someone to call their Valentine. Some of the most fruitful relationships are your pals,” Bustamante said in an interview with The Hoya.
A low-commitment event the Wednesday before Valentine’s, ESCAPE’s Palentine’s function allowed students to pop in, make a Palentine card for a friend or significant other and stay to chat with guests.
The Valentine’s Day themed event aligned perfectly with ESCAPE’s goal of creating a loving and supportive environment for all first-years, according to Bustamante.
“With ESCAPE being all about love and relationships, we thought Valentine’s Day, the day of love, is the perfect day to emphasize that and try to get as many people in the community as possible together, thinking about who they love and who they want to show their affection to,” Bustamante said.
Loving the Community
While some organizations spread the love throughout Georgetown, others looked beyond campus when celebrating the holiday — the Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN) spent the weekend fundraising for the Capital Area Food Bank.
Leading up to Valentine’s Day, students could purchase candy grams from GREEN and send them to a friend. The funds raised from the project were then sent to the Capital Area Food Bank, and, in total, the team raised upwards of $200, according to Grace Jensen (COL ’24).
Camille Vandeveer (COL ’25), co-leader of GREEN’s environmental justice team with Jensen, made sure that GREEN’s Valentine’s Day project remained true to the club’s main tenets.
“We’re sending Valentine’s Day candy grams across campus with silly environmental pickup lines to go with them,” Vandeveer said.
Among the themed pickup lines were, “my love for you is like plastic. It’ll never decompose” and “you’re like last year – the hottest on record.” Using cheeky puns, the club decided, was a great way to not only spread joy on this holiday, but also continue to raise awareness for environmental issues,” Jensen said.
The connection to a charitable organization relieved some consumerist guilt from buyers of candy grams, allowing students to participate in a heavily corporatist holiday while making responsible choices, according to Ari Kane (COL ’24), who purchased a candy gram from GREEN.
“The money that I spend with GREEN goes to a good cause instead of a huge corporation, so that’s a huge plus,” Kane said. “Plus, I don’t have the time to go out and make them myself, so it’s nice I can send [the candy grams] with just a brief Google Form.”
GREEN felt a responsibility to use their resources and the opportunity presented by Valentine’s Day to give back to the community they’re a part of, according to Jensen.
“The membership really expressed an interest in fighting food insecurity, because it is an issue associated with environmental justice and we thought the fundraiser would be a great way to get people involved. It’s also a good opportunity for team bonding,” Jensen said.
Better yet, club members got an opportunity to bond while coming up with fun, punny pickup lines for the candy grams, Jensen said.
“At our general body meeting, we had, like, GREEN members go into breakout rooms and come up with them,” Jensen said. “I think bonding events really strive to build community. So I think bonding activities are really nice way to do that and kind of just like, come together and have some fun while also working towards issues.”
Take a Candy Break
As students themselves, club leaders have a unique insight into what life is like attending Georgetown. With Valentine’s Day coinciding with the start of midterm season, organizations like ESCAPE took the holiday as an opportunity to help students take a break from the pressures of schoolwork.
Students involved in club leadership have the distinctive opportunity to use their own perspectives as students at a rigorous institution and people who can implement fun events, according to Bustamante.
“Everyone at Georgetown is busy. That is one of the reasons why we have a lot of trouble,” Bustamante told The Hoya. “A big part of ESCAPE is recruitment. We can’t hold retreats if no one signs up. And people think ‘Oh, you’re going away for two days, or the whole weekend? How can I keep up with my work?’”
Bustamante said that Georgetown clubs must understand their important role in community-building on campus.
“Well, admin is not going to do it, they’re too busy working on administration stuff. And we’re the ones, clubs are usually student-led, most of them if not all are student-led. Mostly we are students ourselves and so we know exactly what it’s like, we have to step up to do it for ourselves and for each other,” Bustamante said.
GREEN noticed the same problem and was determined to use their Valentine’s Day fundraiser to not only raise money for the Capital Food Bank but ensure that members of the rigorous Georgetown community can take some time for themselves.
“So I think if you don’t have structured opportunities for fun it can be easy to get overwhelmed and kind of, I don’t know, you just, you just sort of get engrossed in your work and without the structured time to meet people and build those relationships, I think it can be a little bit isolating,” Vandeveer said.
By making an effort to provide scheduled time for joy, Georgetown clubs and programs play an important role in the university’s social scene, according to Vandeveer.
“So without clubs taking the time to host or to have opportunities like these for students, I feel like it would be difficult for students to find time to invest this time and build these relationships,” Vandeveer said.