Photos courtesy of Ryan Buck
As one walks the halls during Homecoming week, students and staff members can be seen wearing different daily themed clothing items from pajamas for Pajama Day to cowboy hats for Western Day — just to name a few.
For many athletic games, there are similar themes used to create a sense of unity in the student section in order to create an atmosphere filled with energy and enthusiasm.
But once these events are over, that spirit can dissipate. How can the school community maintain this school spirit in the building outside of Homecoming Spirit Week and athletic events?
In November, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Red Rage set out to offer an answer to that question by announcing the start of Theme Thursdays, which means the goal is to have a different theme every Thursday to which students and staff members are encouraged to dress accordingly.
Ryan Buck, SADD adviser, was the one who brought this idea to MHS after hearing about the tradition of Theme Thursdays at Dundee-Crown High School, which is in Carpentersville, Ill.
“My wife is a math teacher at Prairie Ridge High School and mentioned it to me because she heard what they did at DCHS. She thought SADD might implement it here at MHS,” Buck said.
Special Education Teacher Payton Berg, who previously taught at DCHS before coming to MHS, explained how the theme for every week is picked there.
“[Student council] would come up with the themes for probably around [the next] two months, and they would send it out to all the school and staff,” Berg said.
At MHS, choosing the themes will be a joint effort between SADD and Red Rage.
“I have a list of unique and interesting theme ideas that I’ve plucked from various websites, but we want it to be student-driven,” Buck said. “The voice of students will come initially from Red Rage and follow ups with surveys is a good idea just to check how it’s going and how it can be made even better.”
To ensure that the theme is communicated to the whole school, SADD and Red Rage will promote it through social media, specifically the Instagram accounts of Red Rage and the school. The theme will also be on the weekly student-produced newsletter “What’s Happening Mustangs.”
To encourage participation, a name of one student and one staff member will be randomly drawn every Thursday. If the person picked is wearing the theme, that person will receive a prize, such as a gift card or shirt. If the person is not dressed up or does not claim the prize, the prize will carry over to the next week.
The first Theme Thursday was on Thursday, Nov. 11, which happened to be Veterans Day. Correspondingly, the theme was American Military Day, where students and staff could wear camouflage; red, white and blue; or anything related to the U.S. or military. The following week, the theme was to wear crazy socks.
Senior Adri Nuzzo, a member of SADD, expressed her support for this new tradition after observing the amount of school spirit present during Homecoming week, where there is a different theme for every day of the week.
“I think it’s important because during Homecoming week when everyone dresses up, everyone loves that, and it’s a lot of fun,” Nuzzo said. “I think if we have it once a week, a lot of people will be involved with the school more than usual.”
Berg explained how the tradition at DCHS has positively affected the relationship between the students and staff there.
“The staff and the students would all kind of go crazy with whatever the theme was,” Berg said. “It definitely brought students and staff a little bit closer just because they saw that everybody cared about the environment the school was in and how students and staff could work together to make some things fun.”
Although the level of student participation at MHS has yet to meet the level at DCHS, Berg encouraged students to partake in this new tradition to help unify the community.
“It’s new, so it’s going to take a little bit for everybody to feel comfortable with doing it because some of the things are a little out there, but it’s fun to do and to see all the kids do it,” Berg said. “It’s just a fun way to get to know different staff members and get involved in building a school community where it’s very cohesive.”
While school is a place for learning, Buck expressed the importance of letting loose and having fun, especially after being remote for so long.
“Why do we have to be so serious all the time? One of the reasons being back to school is preferable to remote learning is the social component– the excitement of seeing your friends and seeing your teachers, and learning, yes, but also enjoying one another,” Buck said. “It’s a great excuse to potentially just be silly for a day a week.”
Buck, who was named ‘Most School Spirit’ in high school, explained how school spirit is not just as simple as wearing the school colors or school spiritwear.
“School spirit just looks like excitement while here at the school. It looks like showing up – to school, to activities, to events, to games – and supporting one another,” Buck said. “It looks like high fives between staff and students. It looks like staff and students representing a common cause.”
Senior Grace Stanley, leader of Red Rage, explained why these Theme Thursdays help accomplish the goal of cultivating school spirit and creating a positive environment.
“Red Rage is all about bringing the student body together and showing off as much school spirit as possible,” Stanley said. “With Theme Thursdays, I believe it can encourage more school spirit by coordinating themes that can go along with the week’s sporting events and also by creating themes that help lighten the week’s mood.”
Buck emphasized that staff care about the students, so dressing up and coming together as one will help show that.
“This will be staff and student-focused. We’re all in this together,” he said. “Staff cares about the kids, and if it takes dressing up for a purpose to show that, I think most educators will say they’d love to try. I hope, also, this provides one more day to find the fun in going to school. We hope it brings students and staff even closer, students and students even closer, and staff and staff even closer.”
Stanley agreed that this unification would help form stronger connections within the community.
“Theme Thursdays are a great way to bring the student body together with something exciting. It creates a sense of spirit that wasn’t originally there between all the students and staff members of the high school,” Stanley said. “I feel like it has great potential in the future to make MHS feel more and more like a family.”