School spirit: it’s in the cheers and whistles that sound as athletes sprint down the straightaway on the track, the high-fives and embraces after the last show, and the Hawks sweatshirts that students proudly don. It’s not hard to see the importance of incorporating school spirit into our daily lives. Hallway murmurings, though, have raised the question about how strong school spirit really is at IACS. What is school spirit exactly? According to Junior Cassidy McCauliff, school spirit is “being proud of the school you go to. Both of what you’re learning and the people you learn with.” To this IACS student and many others like her, school spirit is the happiness brought by being with classmates and enjoying the other aspects of school like intellectual growth. When questioned, the majority of students said that school spirit was lacking because they believed it required more physical, or at least visual engagement, like an additional chorus concert or more colorful hallways.
Yet, there are many examples of this physical and visual engagement already at IACS. IACS athletics display a substantial percentage of school spirit because most students are involved in sports at least once during the year, and the games and meets are very popular attractions for IACS students and families. Most important is the bond that an athlete forms with their team. As McAuliff said, a big part of school spirit is the social aspect: being proud of “peopleyou learn [or play] with.” Our drama program has the same kind of family-like bond that contributes to the school spirit already prominent at IACS. IACS Performing Arts Director Rhonda Hawthorne said that one of her favorite moments from the fall production of Peter Pan was at the end of the show when Peter Pan, played by Sophomore Joseph Harrington, finished his last song and walked offstage, as if going back to Neverland. “The kids in the back would make a space for him and he would ‘fly’ into it. All the kids would dive on top and around him in a giant cast hug. There was just so much love in this group!” she said. Even at Exhibition Night, students show off their work and give presentations that are meant to communicate their pride.
One of the biggest differences between IACS and our larger public school neighbors, Tyngsborough High School and Chelmsford High School, is the lack of football in our school culture. Football has been an American staple since the late 1800s, and is celebrated with an outpouring of fanfare in the major league, college, and high school levels. Football is also traditionally where cheerleaders perform, symbolizing the celebratory nature of the game. IACS does not currently have a football team or the equipment needed to start one, but if we could, would it be a good idea? Senior Nicholas Scarsdale doesn’t think so. He said, “We are more well-rounded than most schools, keeping the drama department and sports department more equal. We don’t need a football team to have more school spirit. If each department supports the other, we can increase the school spirit.” So in hindsight, football may not make the school “spirited” enough to offset the fact that it may not fit into our current school culture very well.
Pep rallies? Why not have a pep rally perhaps on a Saturday when there are back-to-back boys and girls home games, or even before the big State meet? Although the school follows a strict health code, they’ve hired food trucks before for fundraisers like the Hawk Walk and annual 5K. The other gaps could be filled in with some music, good advertisement and enthusiastic volunteers. Wouldn’t the mere process of making a pep rally happen be good for school spirit?
Another thing that students have expressed interest in is a high-school band/orchestra. IACS has two bands, one of which is available to advanced middle schoolers and high schoolers. There are only four high schoolers in the band. Middle school music teacher and band teacher Jess Destramp said that she would love to get more instrumentalists from the high school involved, and would even look into creating a “high school only” group if there was enough interest.
What about a new Mascot? Scarsdale mentioned being dubbed the “Red-Tailed Hawks” in the 2010-2011 school year was not the choice of the student body. “We shouldn’t have been called the Hawks! That was a scam, and a lie. It was clearly a set up,” he said, referring to the elections that the school held in order to choose a new mascot. Although students got the chance to vote on their favorites, the real decision was made when, according to English teacher Thomas Hinkle, the Board of Trustees took the top ten mascot choices based on the results of the elections and chose for the student body. If any of the popular options were not viable, they should not have been on the ballot in the first place. Giving students the ultimate choice might be a good way to promote school spirit because they would feel empowered, and that the school mascot truly represents them.