Friday, October 12, 2018: There was a storm brewing at our school. We could feel it rumbling under our feet, shaking our hallways, rattling our windows. The chill in the air was no match for Mighty Highlanders decked out in school colors, red and white from head to toe. The Homecoming dance was to be held the following day, but hours of fun awaited students before hitting the dance floor, starting with the football game that night, the hotly anticipated matchup between the undefeated Highlanders and one of our rivals, the Slinger Owls. Instruction the last thing on our minds, we RSVPed in the student section, chanted at the pep rally and gleefully walked in the parade.
With a freshman year like 2018-19, I have always worn the title of “Highlander” proudly. That year, I watched as our football and tennis teams won their respective state championships, as the robotics team gained a world title, as school spirit poured out of every classroom and every student. We created a new winter formal simply because students wanted to dance; apparently, blasting music out of our cars in the parking lot every Friday afternoon wasn’t enough. It’s what I say to all the incoming freshmen as I tour them around the school, a few words that used to put them immediately at ease:
“Homestead is a family.”
It wasn’t until I said those words at freshman orientation this year that I finally became cognizant of a shift. My favorite phrase to describe my school wasn’t the calming catch-all it used to be. Instead of smiling at being welcomed into “the family,” students snickered at my diction, at words that felt trite and rehearsed. When did I stop meaning them?
The truth is, I expected us to come back from the pandemic last year with a renewed sense of spirit. We were back in a place that we loved, back to seeing friends in the hallway and devoting ourselves to our studies. However, the first day of school after the shutdown saw more drawn faces than I had ever noticed before. There wasn’t a single impromptu dance party after the bell, and the official dances we finally got to hold in the springtime were empty by nine p.m.. “Covid year!” we all said. It was an easy excuse; everything was different, difficult, uncertain. For a while, that’s what I believed.
But this year, when I walked into school on the first Monday before Homecoming, a day that has for years been dubbed “Senior Toga Day,” I was one of two students donning a white bedsheet. My classmates looked at me and immediately looked away because, for them, I was the last one standing, a reminder to them of what we used to be, of what we used to have. I struggled to keep it on the whole day, but managed to make it all the way to the end; after all, I do love to make a point.
It’s easy to let school spirit fall by the wayside. We’re overworked, overstressed, and sometimes it is difficult to get behind our school and its decisions. But Homestead is a family, and isn’t that what you do for family? You show up, in spite of everything. I refuse to let my pride for my school, my love for my family here, fade away. We are not just students here, and when we acknowledge the power of the Highlander, we can become something so much bigger than ourselves.
So, is school spirit dead? We are school spirit, so it is up to us. If our class of seniors, those of us who saw the world in color that 2018-19 year, let our legacy be the death of the Highlander, the end of that wonderful storm, then we will have made the wrong choice.
“Homestead is a family.”
We must all say these words with the conviction of those who truly mean them. We must celebrate each other in our victories, hold each other up in our defeats, and enjoy the life that these four years give us. If we keep believing that what others think of us is greater than the community we build, school spirit will be gone forever. So, we must usher in a new era of pride in our school; not one blind to the world around us, but strong because of it. It will not be the same as it once was, but there must be something to sustain the students like me, who look for more from their school than test scores and homework assignments.
September 22, 2021: There is a storm brewing in our school. One that will rattle new walls, shake new windows, sweep up a new generation of students in its wake. I believe that we can bring it about and make our school a family once again.