Sami Frankel '20
Waves of shock rippled through McAleer Stadium on the night of October 25th.
The freshman class had just won spirit week, defeating the class of 2020.
Senior class president Lexi Levin was deflated. “We all worked so hard. It’s our last year and we lost to freshman,” she said.
The seniors had spent nearly a month working on their themes and wall decorations. Class officers and student volunteers stayed after school hours to help finish their class walls for nearly a month. Needless to say, this was not the fairytale ending they had hoped for.
Spirit week is an iconic aspect of American public high schools that has existed for decades. Its purpose is to boost student morale with a variety of activities and contests, but nine years ago, Eastern seniors took it too far.
Senior class advisor Mrs. Pearson-Youse remembers the week clearly. It was her first year teaching at Eastern (she had come from teaching at another high school) and the seniors had lost spirit week. In retaliation, during field events, they threw paint and bleach in the parking lot, in the school, and on the school building itself. After this event, administration buckled down on the student body. “Once they did away with field event, it became very much a non-event,” said Youse.
“There is nothing as exciting as having the entire student body outside the stadium cheering on their class,” Mr. Lindenhofen, student council co-advisor of 18 years and current junior class advisor, said. “There was definitely something to the field events that was a school wide event and when that went away it took a few years to recover.”
This year, however, seemed like a turning point, like the Saratoga of Eastern’s spirit week saga. “I felt that this year we started to get a little bit more interest,” said Youse. “I was really pleased to see the seniors stepping up and getting more involved than they had in past years. That being said, the freshmen wanted it. They worked very hard and they earned their win. So as much as it was disappointing, I don’t feel that we lost because we were apathetic- it’s just that the freshmen did more.”
The freshman class came ready for spirit week, and this showed with their participation in most of the categories. “I believe that all of us in the class could do great things, so I thought second or third I would have been pretty happy with, but I knew we wouldn’t be coming in last,” said freshman class president Gavin Ems.
“I have never ever seen a class with so much spirit before and they really have set the bar really reallly high. I don’t even know if they can surpass it next year,” said student council co-advisor Senor Gary.
After forfeiting the academic challenge, the class of 2023 didn’t seem as much of a threat to the class of 2020, until that fateful Thursday tug-a-war when the freshman class pulled their lead by beating the senior class.
Many seniors opted out of dressing up for theme days, especially TV show day where seniors were assigned Nickelodeon. “We picked Nickelodeon because we thought it would be easy to make a wall out of, but people just didn’t care to dress up,” Levin said.
The homecoming dance was seen as a success this year, as nearly a third of the student body showed out. Ems used this popular event to raise money for his class’s dollar drop jug. “Personally I would ask for the extra dollar because it was $9 to get in [to homecoming]. I would go to TIR rooms and shake it in peoples’ ears.”
In total, $1,200 was raised, half of which went to the Food Bank of South Jersey and the other half to the Alisa Rose Foundation.
Junior class historian Eddie Wu was “the can man” during spirit week, bringing in a total of 200 cans himself. These cans were donated to St. Andrews Catholic Church in Voorhees.
Participation is vital to racking up points during spirit week, but the student body as a whole could’ve seen more of it.“We could’ve seen more participation from the rest of the grade, the more hands the better,” said Wu.
“What I honestly like about spirit week now is you’re not forced to participate. Students who want to be involved and want to participate do and have a great time. It builds throughout the week,” said Lindenhofen.
“Our school has no spirit, no matter how hard you try. Everyone thinks they’re too cool to dress up and participate,” said student council president Ariana Nam.
Spirit week coordinator Jason Finberg agreed, saying, “I have respect for [the freshman class]. They cared enough to dress up and we didn’t.”
As for what classes can do in the future, Mr. Lindenhofen urges students to be more inclusive. “It shouldn’t be 5% of the class doing all of the work and participating in all the events. You need to reach out to people and encourage them to do their share and get involved.”
Ems will never forget the moment the news was announced. “I was at the football game and I was with the other class advisors and we went bonkers. It was pretty insane,” he said.
Insane it was, and insane it will be next year, as the class of 2021 has to be on its toes for the class of 2023’s school spirit take over.