Finding Pep During a Global Pandemic

By Emily Barnabas and Catherine Blumhagen

Homecoming will occur… with the following modifications.”

The 2021 back-to-school season will be one that 21st century students will remember forever; coming to brick and mortar school buildings after approximately twenty months, re-associating with classmates and teachers, and returning back to school-wide events leaves students with more on their plate than ever before. Along with the anticipation and ever-changing emotion that is associated with the return to a traditional high school atmosphere, comes the extreme challenge placed on school administrators and student leaders in the present day: re-creating a traditional high school experience amidst an occurring global pandemic. 

Blake High School itself has encountered this exact obstacle. With a relatively early Homecoming week, lasting from September 27 to October 2, the Blake Student Government Association (SGA), along with Blake’s Senior Class, plunged into planning a Homecoming that would accommodate over 1,700 students. Responsibilities were split between the SGA, responsible for Pep Rally and Spirit Week planning, and the Senior Class, who were responsible for Homecoming Dance preparations. The central intention for including the Senior Class in dance planning was to generate funding for the Class of 2022 due to the lack of fundraising opportunity and in lieu of Prom 2021 funds. 

While Homecoming events throughout the week were generally successful, confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the Pep Rally grew heavily apparent to SGA officers after the event. In an effort to move forward with school-wide events this year and be inclusive of all Blake student voices and opinions, the SGA is taking the initiative by responding to Pep Rally generalizations and shared experiences in relation to the article Where Was the “Pep” at Friday’s Pep Rally?: My First Pep Rally Experience, previously published in The Blake Beat. 

One of the main attributes of the Pep Rally that wasn’t ideal for both students, teachers and Pep Rally participants alike was the splitting of the classes; specifically, having the Juniors and Seniors on one set of the bleachers, while the Freshmen and Sophomores sat almost a whole field away. Although this experience for the underclassman was expressed as unenjoyable, it was never the intention of the SGA or their sponsors for these students to feel unacknowledged or unimportant. In accordance with MCPS policy, schools are required to continue to social distance during community events, even if they are outside. Reflectively, the SGA takes accountability for this specific inconvenience and in the future, will advocate firmly for the right arrangements which will accommodate all students (and maybe host a speaker fundraiser for the stadium). 

Regarding the skepticism revolving around the nomination and crowning process of Homecoming Court members, Blake administration will vouch that the SGA had no access to change student’s votes. Additionally, all students were eligible to participate in Homecoming Court due to self-nominations. Sponsors were given the Google Form responses which were filtered through Mr. Sinclair’s system to exclude invalid votes. In addition, the SGA officers were not aware of the winners of the Homecoming Court winners until receiving the final script- made available that Friday afternoon. 

Lastly and definitely not least: Powderpuff. In effort to stay in regulation with school district policy, Powderpuff was moved to occur during the last 15 minutes of the Pep Rally to ensure contact tracing could be completed if necessary. While this limited the time dedicated to the football game as well as performances by the boy cheerleaders and POMS, Blake students were still able to take part and experience this high school pastime. While Powederpuff festivities looked a little different than previous years, participation from the boys cheerleading team and girls football teams was greatly appreciated because it reinforced the central theme of Powderpuff; a humorous and fun sporting event, not a professional competition. 

It’s clear that addressing the flaws of the Homecoming Pep Rally could go on and on but the real question arises: What will these deprecating discussions change? Probably not much. 

While the strain of Covid-19 regulations seem to impede the experience of high school traditions, it’s crucial that students take a moment to reflect on the progress that we’ve made from October 2020, a point in time where any type of Homecoming festivity would not be possible at all. To best accomplish a fun and spirited remainder of the school year, compromise is key. The SGA isn’t trying to do it all alone though; so far, Blake’s SGA has held two General Assembly meetings, which are open for students to come and voice their ideas, thoughts and concerns. The next General Assembly meeting will be held on November 3, 2021 in the Amphitheater at lunch. In addition, SGA officers have become more approachable than ever due to a revitalized Instagram presence and new addition of a virtual student center: Bengal Central

Even though Homecoming 2021 is a thing of the past, Blake students have so many events to look forward to. So far, the SGA has ideas and primary planning for end of the marking period spirit days, NEC-SGA Penny Wars (a competition between Springbrook and Paint Branch to raise money for an undecided, non-profit organization), a club fair, winter spirit week, voter registration drive, Spring Pep Rally and so much more. If you don’t see an event that you’d like to see at Blake, the SGA encourages all students to provide their input and suggestions at monthly General Assembly meetings (as referenced prior). With more of the school year left to go than so far completed, the opportunities for Blake students to grow in their school community are profuse. Hence, it’s time to take ownership of your high school journey by working with school organizations to create a diverse experience at Blake. 

Therefore, the SGA and other Blake student leaders have grown increasingly open to student voices and opinions by showing their creative and adapted views of student engagement and involvement. That being said, will you help bring the pep back?