Op-Ed Contest Winner #2
By Camilla French
There is a beauty to standing in a cheering crowd and celebrating the final goal, to standing on stage with your classmates and basking in the glory of the lights and applauding audience, and to walking through the doors on that first day of school to be welcomed by friends and teachers. Your chest swells with pride and you feel like you belong. Although Beacon is known as one of the top public high schools in New York City, it is lacking in a greater spirit. Already disadvantaged by being an urban school—with no campus, football team, or small-town drama—Beacon doesn’t promote schoolwide camaraderie. As Beacon students we belong to our cliques, our after-school activities, and our individual classes, but not to the school as a whole. If Beacon were to encourage school spirit and have a more prominent student government, the energized environment would improve the academic and social experiences of all its students.
As a young child, I imagined high school to be like it is in the movies—cliques, carpools to school, pep rallies, and house parties. Caroline Kelly, a high school student in the suburbs of Massachusetts, described this fantasy as her reality: “we easily express [our school spirit] externally through wearing pajamas, all black, or whatever else the day calls for. I thoroughly enjoyed the Pep Rally sitting in the overflowing junior section, wearing black and screaming for the junior class pie-eater, Sam Phillips. The gym buzzed with its green, white, black, and red sections, all eager to represent their class. The music was energetic, the dances, well-choreographed, and the football players, contagiously excited.” However, the city fosters a different environment. I personally like the network that is created among city schools, but a small part of me yearns for a football game and a bonfire. Perhaps, we don’t need those activities to achieve the same goal and can instead form a family through pride.
Most of the students at Beacon like the school, but this doesn’t mean they have school spirit. When asked about the school, students jumped at the opportunity to complain (not to say that this is wrong—it is natural for teenagers to have a complicated relationship with school). In a quick poll I conducted, 61% of students said that they were proud of Beacon, yet only 14% believed that Beacon has school spirit. When in school, students should want to be a part of activities and events, and to feel like part of a greater whole—that is the root of school spirit.
While I transferred from Stuyvesant High School this semester, entering Beacon felt like a large shift in terms of environment, among other differences. The students overall felt happier and more energized to pursue their passions beyond academics. However, at Stuyvesant, since everyone was working under immense pressure, the struggle brought the student body together in a unique way. Perhaps we needed to justify all of the work we did or perhaps, it was because we truly were proud of our accomplishments, both academic and practical. Looking back on my own experience, I would argue that it was both. The Stuyvesant Student Government, the clubs, and the performances were all completely student-run. When they achieved incredible feats, the success was even more satisfying. One of the most difficult parts of leaving Stuyvesant was losing that spirit—that family. As soon as I was no longer crushed under the weight of school, no longer staying up late in chats debating in student government, I didn’t belong.
This exclusion is a potential disadvantage of increased school spirit at Beacon. When freshmen and transfer students enter the school, they should be welcomed into the environment, just as I was this year. Students didn’t look down upon me because I was from Stuyvesant; rather, the diversity was celebrated. Beacon should preserve this environment by promoting spirit for the school that already exists—one filled with passionate students open to discussion and new ideas, one that cares more about the learning process than the numerical grade.
To reach such a utopia, Beacon should instill a more prominent student government than the club we have now. This will empower kids to create an environment for their peers and themselves that they want to work in. It is much easier to be proud of something you have accomplished yourself. When this organization organizes events such as dances, it will both bring the student body together and show them the infinite abilities of their classmates.
A school with high morale and proud students creates a more positive environment, promoting healthy lifestyles and better academic situations. It also increases loyalty to the school, increasing involvement post-graduation. More alumni support would give more financial opportunity to Beacon—providing more potential for the school to be an even greater place.