MI High"s proud Harry Potter `nerds"

By Cody Ellerd

Harry Potter fan and student David Morse had a suggestion for the headline of this story: ``Nerds gather once a week.''

Between the chess club, math club and science club, Mercer Island High School students have plenty of ``nerdy'' clubs to choose from, but none draw as many proud geeks as the new Harry Potter club.

With only three meetings under its belt, the club, which honors Harry Potter, a boy wizard made popular by author J.K. Rowling, has about 50 members. The math club, by comparison, has between 20 and 30, and it may have lost some attendance recently to the meddling wizard's club, adviser Kim Schjelderup said with a wink.

``I think that a lot of kids at the high school have a negative image of Harry Potter because they think it's childish, but I really want to change that,'' said ZZ Quinn, a Mercer Island junior and club member. ``I want to inspire people to reconsider and perhaps pick up the book.''

The club was the idea of Claire Goetschel, a freshman who wanted to start up a group of some sort and thought that this would be a good way to meet people who also like Harry Potter.

It shouldn't be that hard to pin down fellow Potter fanatics, considering that the movie ``Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire'' just had the fourth best opening weekend of all time over Thanksgiving. The latest book, ``Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,'' sold 11 million copies within the first nine weeks of its July release, according to Scholastic, publisher of the Potter books.

But Quinn said that sometimes people don't want to keep on talking about Harry Potter for quite as long as she does. That's why she thinks it's good to have time set aside each week dedicated to undivided Potter worship.

``I like having really long conversations about it, and when you're just hanging out with your friends, you get distracted by other things and can't really do that,'' she said.

Besides in-depth discussion, the Harry Potter club has lots of other activities planned, such as a school-wide Potter dress-up day, a trip to see the new movie together (even though some have already been at least twice) and a Harry Potter Cooking Competition, where club members conjure up their best recipes for chocolate frogs, pumpkin juice and butter beer -- which they're quick to point out is non-alcoholic.

The club's ranks are sorted into different ``Houses,'' just like the students of Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Upon joining, members take an online quiz to determine which house they should belong to. Students wishing to become ``heads of household'' had to give a speech on their worthiness to lead.

Despite their self-proclaimed ``geekdom'' and unabashed passion for a children's book about magic and wizards, the members of the Harry Potter club don't seem to fit a certain profile. They include members of the drill team, the gay-straight alliance and other clubs, with roughly equal numbers of boys and girls, freshmen through seniors.

``It's all types of kids,'' said Jamie Prescott, the club's faculty adviser. ``I just think it's a fun club -- a place for kids to talk and meet without any pressures of any kind.''

A sense of giddy excitement commands the front foyer of the high school one recent afternoon as the students decorate signs advertising the club. ``Harry Potter club is HOT! Be there or fry in Azkaban,'' reads one, referring to a prison for evil wizards. Even though its numbers are swelling, the club still wants to recruit more members.

``I hope that we get a really good group of regulars every week,'' said Sasha Gottlieb, who is still upset with her boyfriend for not having read the books. ``Even if you're not already into it, it will be a good way to be introduced to it,'' she said. ``It's going to be a magical club.''

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