At a football game on Oct. 11, 2019, ETHS faced their bitter rivals New Trier… in front of a crowd of about 200 silent fans.
While yes, it was a balmy Chicago night of mid to low 30s, the thing that surprised me is nobody seemed to want to be there. Now I could’ve been missing the point, but the student section seemed practically empty and the stands were filled with parents supporting their kids instead of students supporting their team.
Movies always romanticize high school spirit, but ETHS doesn’t seem to have much.
“I think ETHS’ school spirit levels are okay, but they could be much better […] I feel like only seniors are encouraged to participate in school spirit,” junior Ellie Gavelek says.
Our spirit week leading up to the homecoming dance would be a good place to start improving school spirit. Everyday that week was a themed day, but I would estimate maybe a third of the school actually participated these days, as evident in the hallways and most of my classes, most of whom were freshman excited to show off their newfound school spirit. These days are only advertised a few ways: over email and on the announcements, neither of which are effective. The announcements seem to act as background noise for everybody else’s activities, and the emails tend to be dismissed as junk or useless because of their frequency.
One way to improve awareness and involvement in spirit week is by physically putting up signs in the hallways letting everybody know what the theme days are going to be. If this practice has ever been used, I haven’t been able to see the posters myself. Students could volunteer to contribute to making the posters visible a week in advance. This could be a great way of getting all grades of students involved.
Another thing that goes in hand with this is improving the quality of the theme days. Monochrome Monday was a good idea in thought, but was poorly executed. One way of changing this would be to let people wear whatever monochromatic outfit they want or have as opposed to just colors according to grade level, which would allow for more individuality while still fostering school spirit. This week could all lead up to the final spirit day, which could be a blackout or whiteout theme, something I’ve seen is popular among other schools, which leads me to my next point: themes at football and basketball games.
ETHS hosts one themed football game per year, Pink Out, a game where students are expected to dress in pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As somebody who has a connection with the Breast Cancer Awareness movement, I was in full support my freshman year. I donned a pink shirt, salmon shorts and a pair of pink socks to my first pink out game expecting the entire stadium to be looking similar to how I did, but to no avail.
“It’s depressing…nobody does football theme weeks, and they aren’t publicized, so people who want to dress up don’t know about it,” junior Kristen Stocks says.
Many other schools in the North Shore like New Trier, Glenbrook South and Loyola have at least one type of theme day that many students participate in, so why doesn’t ETHS’s theme days have that much popularity? My proposal to address this problem would be to have more themed football games. These themes could range from tropical/beach themed day to a jersey day, ideas that may have been previously used and should be revitalized.
Dressing up shouldn’t be made mandatory but extremely encouraged via usage of an incentive for participating in the themed dress, an idea Stocks proposes.
“If you [participate in] the theme, you could get your ticket for cheaper,” Stocks says.
For many schools, the homecoming football game is the best part of the early semester, and the dance that follows is memorable as well. However, my freshman year — two years ago– was the last year that ETHS ran the freshman-sophomore formal due to a lack of attendance for a few years. Since then, there hasn’t been a single formal dance for students until senior prom.
“A lot of times, the formal dance is just more expensive,” Student Activities Director Nichole Boyd says.
Boyd comments on the cost in terms of dressing up, hair, makeup and the ticket prices themselves as being a reason why many students didn’t attend the dance.
While ETHS is more diverse economically than other schools in the North Shore are, school dances are something most other high schools have, and ETHS not providing any formal dances for non-seniors until prom seems like something that could be fixed while making the dance more reasonably priced.
It seems like there is a lack of opportunity for underclassmen if only seniors get to participate in an event like this, and forcing students to wait four years for that chance seems like a waste of an opportunity to garner school spirit and to develop a sense of camaraderie among the classes.
One way that this could be solved is by making the homecoming dance a semi-formal attire dance as well as having a theme to go along with it. The expenses of these dances could also be modified in order to ensure greater affordability for more students. Now, I’m not saying make it like prom or anything of that nature, but having the students in a blazer or a dress or something of that nature wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. If students are encouraged to attend a formal dance by creating hype leading up to the dances and by making a theme for the dances, then there would be more appeal to attend the dance.
However, it is important for themes to be re-evaluated by the student body every year. Boyd speaks to her experiences both as a student and faculty member at ETHS and describes the complexity of selecting dance themes and how they’ve changed over the years, especially given the potential for some themes to be culturally insensitive or to even exclude a race or identity from participation.
“For some of the themes, it’s fun to dress up, but some of the themes aren’t necessarily inclusive either,” Boyd says.
The ETHS Pride, a student-run social media account dedicated towards bringing student representation towards all sporting events, is helpful and part of solving this issue. ETHS Pride can broadcast themes more efficiently since social media can be used to create a healthy environment at these games. Teachers can also get involved by talking about these themes and upcoming games in their classes.
All this is a lot to handle in a course of one year, so this could be done gradually over the course of time. One great way of doing this could be through appointing student roles such as a school spirit liaison. This position could be held by an experienced senior who would help coordinate spirit days and act as a leader for the younger classes theme days as well as lead chants at sporting events.
ETHS is a great school in so many ways, so by increasing the interactions among students within the events, students can bond even more and express what it truly means to do everything the Wildkit Way.