Unity: The Goal of Spirit Weeks Across New Hampshire

“The goal of spirit week is to bring the school together and know we are one community,” states senior senate member at Oyster River High School, Caroline Wilson.

During late September many schools celebrate the beginning of the school year and the unifying of classes with spirit week. It is an event that brings everyone together or, sometimes it can do the opposite and create dilemmas. ORHS has been one of the schools that has had issues with spirit week. However, ORHS is not alone. As a school, ORHS is trying to shift the focus of spirit week to unity instead of rivalries.

On September 26, 2014 the fun came to a halt at ORHS. Five students made poor decisions which led to some major changes for future spirit weeks. Some of these changes include class colors and the switch that moved class colors day from Friday to Monday. “I do think that some people ruin it [spirit week] for everyone else and it shouldn’t affect everyone. Just one person’s stupid decision. I really don’t think it’s fair at all,” says an anonymous source.

This incident was one of many that has created a need for change. In the past freshman were targeted and harassed by upperclassmen throughout the week. As a freshman you would be tagged with paint if you walked near senior core. Seniors would have a bull run when all the underclassmen were in a contained area. Spirit week was terrifying and set the freshman straight; they were not allowed in the core and the seniors were above them.

ORHS is notorious for their pep rally and field day getting out of control. “I love the cookout and I do love watching the outdoor events but both years now something has occurred that has taken me away,” says Assistant Principal Mark Milliken. The craziness that this day has brought gets everyone on edge; no one knows what to expect. “I worry before the week about what is going to happen,”says Milliken. 2014 was Milliken’s first year at ORHS. He speaks of his first spirit week experience and says, “after my first year I think we could have cancelled it.”

I love the cookout and I do love watching the outdoor events but both years now something has occurred that has taken me away. I worry before the week about what is going to happen. After my first year I think we could have cancelled it

Because of the changes that have been implemented due to the minority of students who decided to come to school intoxicated and under the influence in 2014, students have had mixed feelings on issues regarding spirit week. Senior class president at ORHS, Alex Szymanski, says, “while the colors have made everyone upset I think that the changes made haven’t removed the positive aspects of spirit week.” Annie Hanley-Miller (‘17) says, “the changes are all good but I feel like we could ease up on some of them.” She continues to add, “I really do like the fact blue and white day is on the last day. It’s a nice way for all of us to come together and connect.” Both Wilson and Szymanski agree that having blue and white day on Friday gives the school a great sense of unity.

Changes to spirit week don’t only happen at Oyster River. Winnacunnet has faced changes in the past as well.

Nearly 6 to 7 years ago Winnacunnet High School was concluding their spirit week with a Friday night football game against their rivals, Exeter. Unfortunately during the event there was a stabbing which led to a cancellation of Friday night football games. Intoxicated students may have been to blame for this but it can not be determined. Matt Long (‘18) says, “people used to drink before the football game on Friday night but that was before they moved it to Saturday.”

With their football game against Exeter moved to Saturday, WHS students make the most of the week and get themselves pumped up for the game. During the pep rally all of the sports teams go in front of the student body to encourage students to go to their games against Exeter and give speeches about how they will win. Throughout the whole week students are very enthusiastic as Long explains: “Everyone goes all out! I mean the freshmen are a little timid on the first day but everyone gets really into it.” Class color day is a student favorite and is the same day as the pep rally. “Last year I painted practically my whole body red because that was the sophomore color and everyone is really competitive, and that makes the pep rally really fun and loud,” Long states.

Unlike WHS, the one day that everyone loves at Dover High School is green and white day. Alex Schlapak (‘18) explains: “green and white day, everyone does that no matter what.” For students at DHS, spirit week does not necessarily unify the school as a whole but creates intense rivalries between the classes. Students also don’t get as involved during the week like those as WHS.

For juniors and seniors at Londonderry High School the term spirit week is changed to spirit weeks. “The seniors have a spirit week during their last week of classes in the spring and then the week after that the juniors have a spirit week as rising seniors,” says Caroline Russell (‘18).

The main spirit week for all students to participate in at LHS occurs in late September, the week before Londonderry’s big rivalry weekend against Pinkerton otherwise known as “Mack Plaque.” “[Spirit week] pumps us up before our rivalry weekend,” states Russell. The day that gets the entire student body excited is the pep rally on Friday which wraps up Londonderry’s spirit week. Russell says, “we sit by grade and the band is on the floor playing pep tunes.” Russell continues,”the sports teams come up and do a skit that they put together.” Because there is always something being said or done during the pep rally Russell says that the students don’t get too out of hand because they are listening and paying attention to whatever is happening at the moment.

LHS has not had any incidents in the past like ORHS and WHS. The goal of pumping the students up for their rivalry weekend and unifying the school goes smoothly.

ORHS is working hard to try and create an environment, similar to LHS, where the school can feel unified. One aspect that Wilson, Szymanski and Hanley-Miller all note is the bonding in each individual class. “During the year you might not necessarily come together as a class as much as you do during spirit week,” states Szymanski.

During the year you might not necessarily come together as a class as much as you do during spirit week.

With ORHS’ efforts to create a safe environment for all students during spirit week the only thing that will determine the results is the actions of the students. Each year seems to be getting progressively better. Wilson states, “when we were freshmen it was terrifying, didn’t want to walk through senior core terrifying, but now the freshmen aren’t scared of us.” The goal of unity seems to be slowly nearing success.

Writer: Libby Nichols

Photo Credit: Matt Long, WHS