Leadership students describe their experiences creating school spirit events for students at home
Students around American High School are almost always left wondering what their peers are doing around the rotunda or inside the Student Activities Center, whom many refer to as SAC. There will often be flyers, balloons, colored construction paper, and other various decorations sprinkled about the connecting hallways. These signify American High School’s spirit events for their students, like Love Eagles Week, where students are encouraged to show love for their community and fellow peers through card-making, going out with friends, or showing special appreciation to staff members and teachers. The people who lead these events are not staff members or teachers, however, but fellow students who are a part of American High School’s own Leadership class. This year however, has been very different for the students who have been leading them, especially those part of the Activities (formerly Lunchtime Activities) and Community and Public Outreach (CO/PR) committees.
The Leadership class is made up of nine committees with approximately four to ten people in each. The nine committees are Activities, Athletics, Clubs, Community and Public Outreach (CO/PR), Merchandise, Publicity, Rallies, Recognition, and Videography. All play an integral part in producing events for the student body, and many have had difficulty in garnering student participation through distance learning in 2020.
The Activities and CO/PR committees are responsible for coming up with fun, creative activities and ideas for the student body to partake in. Over distance learning, these mean things like Instagram templates, charity bidding events, and more. The Activities committee in particular has gone through the largest change of all, with their responsibilities before distance learning limited to the 30-minute lunch period and smaller activities like making friendship bracelets outside of SAC. Now, they are responsible for coming up with nontraditional activities that students can do at home during traditionally in-school events like Freshman Week and Halloweek.
The Activities committee has two co-heads, Aditya Gupta (10) and Rishi Matkar (11). Gupta has been in Leadership since his freshman year at American, serving as class president for both his freshman and sophomore years. He has expressed some difficulty in coming up with ideas for the student body becoming more involved during distance learning, but one idea struck him and his committee as they were discussing student participation.
“We realized a great way to get people involved would be through getting the staff and teachers involved. Usually we try to think of fun games that they can do. Sometimes games from Youtubers we know, or just fun party games” said Aditya Gupta (10).
Contrasting Gupta, this is Matkar’s first year in Leadership and did not expect the change in the committee. Matkar himself has not been very involved in the class prior to this year, but was able to observe others in the past during in-person school days.
“Going into this committee, I assumed that it would be lunchtime activities like how it was originally supposed to be. Which based off of what I’ve seen, we’d usually just be the ones to play music at lunch or host some sort of activity to get students involved like costume contests. But this online version, in my opinion, seems like a lot more fun because it’s much more involved in a way,” according to Rishi Matkar (11).
The sentiments of surprise and fun are further expressed in Activities’ general members, including junior Joshua Bascos.
“For Halloweek, we got way more participation than we thought we would, and that was really good. Since it was through Instagram templates, it was pretty accessible to people. So participation has been pretty nice,” explained Joshua Bascos (11).
Since then, the Activities committee has been planning monthly games between staff and students, which they have dubbed “Ca-Cawntests”. The committee releases Google Forms to students who would like to play with staff members, and loopmails any willing staff to participate in some of the games. According to both Gupta and Bascos, the school has been able to get much more participation out of the student body than they had initially thought they would, thanks to the inclusion of teachers partaking in their events.
The Activities committee may have changed from their original purpose of lunchtime activities, but they are continuing to come up with more school spirit ideas for the student body to participate in even without being at school. These have ranged from the Ca-Cawntests, to Freshmen Week, to Halloweek and Spirit Week, and many others. Activities is not the only committee planning these events, as CO/PR is also responsible for planning events such as Love Eagles Week, Pride Week, the Student Support Circle, this year’s election information and much more.
CO/PR is headed by senior Benjamin Tarver, who started his journey in Leadership in 2019. His committee was responsible for the creation of the Black Lives Matter and Pride Month Charity Auction, the Leadership Dare to Care challenge for Lebanon, the election website and many other events.
“It’s very different through virtual school because we really have to find new events that grab people’s attention, while in past years, we could just base events off of what was done in previous years” said Benjamin Tarver (12).
One of CO/PR’s areas of focus which contrasts them from the Activities committee is their events that connect the school to communities outside of American High School. Over the past couple of months, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Yemen Crisis, and the explosion in Lebanon had taken many American students’ focus outside of their own communities. CO/PR was responsible for brainstorming events at American that would give students opportunities to help. New members coming into the committee were unsure of this purpose and what exactly CO/PR’s focus was on. This year is senior Hillary Hernandez’s first year in Leadership and the CO/PR committee. She had not heard much of what the committee was responsible for prior to this year.
“I was not expecting Leadership to be so well-rounded within not only the school, but well-connected to the community. Like the fundraiser CO/PR had done with the Lebanese Red Cross, we were able to raise a lot of money with that which was very shocking to me” commented Hillary Hernandez (12).
Despite students outside of Leadership not knowing exactly what comes about during brainstorming sessions in the class, the events they hold have garnered enough participation to raise over $200 for the Black Lives Matter movement and over $400 for the Lebanese Red Cross through their Dare to Care event. Amulya Manoj, a freshman at American High School was also impressed with what the committee had been able to accomplish.
“I first came into Leadership not really having any expectations as to what it would be like. It’s been really fun, [the committee] extends outside of American itself and I really thought that’s something I liked about CO/PR, it involves the entire community of Fremont as well” explained Amulya Manoj (9).
The common obstacle between both committees this year has been difficulty with student participation and getting word of events out to students who do not have social media. Most of their events are publicized on the social media sites Instagram and Facebook, but not all students have accounts on either platform. Leadership students are currently trying to find ways to get more student involvement, including Activities’ inclusion of staff in relevant games, and CO/PR’s events centered around important topics in media. The class may be responsible for the creation and execution of several school events, but they are still fellow American High School students.
According to Hernandez, “Our efforts in Leadership are to keep some sense of normality within the school and let the students know this is all happening, but we’re still here to help you guys and make you feel good and excited for school, because school is difficult and there’s no denying that”.