We Are Guilderland: GHS celebrates school spirit week

LEONARD BOPP

As a newly-appointed assistant principal, Ms. McManus was tasked with leading Guilderland High School’s “community enhancement” programs. “I was totally excited about it,” says McManus, who cherishes the opportunity to work with the many students and clubs of GHS. McManus began by bringing together a committee of staff members to brainstorm ideas for the community enhancement effort; it was at the committee’s first meeting that the idea of a spirit rally was born.

After that initial meeting, the concept of the spirit rally went through a long period of growth and evolution before it was announced to the student body. McManus spoke to students to see if they were interested. Teachers on the community enhancement team surveyed their classrooms to see what their students thought. The leaders of student government thought of ways to get as many students as possible involved in the event. McManus says that throughout the planning process, Guilderland students were always generous and enthusiastic in contributing to this idea.

On Wednesday, February 25, the Guilderland High School community saw the ultimate product of the long evolution of this idea: an hour-long spirit rally, showcasing the diverse talents of the Guilderland student body. From musicians to cheerleaders, poets to dancers, actors to dodgeballers, the event highlighted the many contributions of students to our school community; perhaps most notably the support for each other from many Guilderland students, demonstrated by the loud cheers after each performance. The event was part of a week-long celebration of school spirit that culminated in the annual dodgeball tournament.

Until a number of years ago, Guilderland held annual “pep rallies.” That the new incarnation of this event was called a “spirit rally” rather than a “pep rally” is an important distinction. As McManus points out, the pep rallies used to focus primarily around an athletic team, whereas the spirit rally highlights all the diverse aspects of GHS – athletics and otherwise. McManus says she hopes that this will allow the students to recognize the contributions of everyone to the community. Right now, she says, “I see students that are connected to each other,” but McManus hopes that, through this event, students were able to see that everyone in the building contributes to the community.

Ultimately, McManus says, she hopes that the event allows everyone to feel included in the Guilderland community. After all, she points out, students are here for almost eight hours a day, 180 days a year – “you should want to come here,” she says. “You should feel welcome here, connected here, you should take pride in being a student at Guilderland. I want, at the end of their four years here, for students to be able to say the Guilderland was a home to them. And for those students that don’t feel connected to the school, I hope that the spirit rally helps them feel that they are a part of the Guilderland community.”

The long-term effects of this spirit rally, of course, are yet to be seen. McManus says that the goal of the community enhancement team is to generally increase morale and spirit among everyone in the building. McManus hopes that this event will continue to evolve and grow over time; she sees this not as the solitary example of Dutchmen pride, but as the starting point for the continued efforts of the community enhancement program.

But although this one event many not, on its own, heighten the morale of the school community, it did, at the very least, bring the school together for an energetic, celebratory hour. Sitting in the bleachers, I suddenly realized that this was truly the first time in my four years at Guilderland that the entire student body – every class, every club, every team – was together in a room with the common purpose of celebrating everything that is good in our school. Now, reflecting on the event, I am reminded of the African philosophy of Ubuntu – which tells us that that our humanity is bound to the humanity of others, that I am because we all are. At some level, we are all influenced by our experiences in Guilderland High School, and every member of our school community has, in even some small way, influenced the people we have all become. If the existence of our individuality is tied to those around us, then the spirit rally, in bringing the entire Guilderland community together if only for an hour, showed us all that we belong here, that we all contribute to the greater whole of everyone around us – if We Are Guilderland, then I Am Guilderland too.

In conjunction with this celebration of who we are, The Journal has collected personal showcasing the diverse stories and perspectives of Guilderland students. It is by no means all-inclusive, but we hope that, in exploring the work and perspectives of other students, your own pride in our community may only grow. We feature here some wonderful work by Guilderland students, from personal essays to memoirs to, as always, creative work, photography, and poetry. We have even republished pieces that we felt were particularly relevant to the theme – such as Kyle Levy’s piece about his experiences in the Red Sea and our Humans of Guilderland High School series. I have learned through this project that everything we do represents our story, our individuality, our perspective on life – and in this way, all of us add to the whole of our community. This is a celebration of who we are as a school, a celebration of the wonderful truth: we are all Guilderland.

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I Am Guilderland: Kyle Levy

KYLE LEVY

There is absolutely nothing like seeing hundreds of kids packed into one small section of bleachers cheering until they simply cannot get a single word out of their mouths. There must be a reason tons of students show up every Friday night, right?

As everyone in our school knows, and pretty much everyone in the Capital District knows, Guilderland is one of the schools that really focuses on school spirit. Our student section, the Red Sea, is known for being one of the best around. School spirit is what gets me through the week and truly gets me excited for the next week of school. I love walking in and seeing everyone in their red shirts, I love the pure passion that some students and players have, and I definitely love the trash talk on Twitter.

There is something about school spirit that makes is different from everything else. Everyone is welcome and nobody cares who you are, where you come from, or what grade you’re in. If you are loud and simply want to support our school’s teams, the Red Sea is the right place for you. Sure, some people may not enjoy going to games and watching them, and that’s okay. The one thing that does anger me is when people get upset because the “Red Sea didn’t go to their game.” Needless to say, there are some members of the Red Sea that “lead,” but that doesn’t mean that if they’re not at a game other people can’t be. The Red Sea can be five kids or it can be 500, it doesn’t matter. The Red Sea is the whole Guilderland High School student body and everyone can represent that.

School spirit obviously isn’t only about sports. It’s much more than people coming together once a week and cheering on a sports team. School spirit is wearing Guilderland apparel just because. School spirit is attending or participating in fundraisers for your class. School spirit is joining clubs and getting involved. It’s all about the little things, you see – the little things that people do in this school are truly what make it a wonderful and exciting place.

Humans of GHS: Lexie Hawley

“I’m stressed out about paying for college. I’m worried about having loans and not being happy at the college I choose and having to transfer. I’m the first kid in my family to go to college so it’s scary.”

Lexie Hawley, Senior.

Lexie’s picture was first posted on the Journal’s Instagram account in the fall as the first installment of our Humans of Guilderland High School series. At the time, Lexie was applying for colleges. Since then, she decided to attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst next year! Look for a full list of the colleges this year’s senior class will attend in the Journal’s annual senior issue, distributed at graduation.

The last time: a reflection

EDDY YU

Facing elimination, four girls, water dripping from their bodies, clutched each other in agony as they waited for their swim relay score to go up. Although it was only a couple seconds, it seemed to be forever. Suddenly the scores were up. 1:41:33, enough to qualify for states. Captain and senior Kelly Gao was one of the four swimmers along with Steph Erickson, Olivia Bigge, and Belen Marriaga“ It didn’t even register at first, but then Steph gasped and whipped around and Olivia screamed so loudly I could have sworn glass shattered haha. To say happiness knocked me over like a tsunami would have been an understatement.” Kelly Gao has been swimming for ten years and was just looking to have one last great swim representing Guilderville (Guilderland and Voorheesville combine for swimming). “After screaming our heads off and hugging each other and celebrating like maniacs on the pool deck, it hit me that I was actually going to return to states this year, and this time with 3 incredible teammates whom I’ve seen struggle in practice and work their hardest every afternoon. I was beyond ecstatic, so thankful to them and so relieved that this was not my last race after all.”

Every athlete wants to do well. Faced with elimination, they desire more than anything to keep going and play one more time. For some, then comes sooner than others. When you love the game so much, no matter what sport it is, the end always comes with sentimental feelings. Especially if you’re a senior and have played the game so long. Remember how way back in 7th grade, you were scared and trying out for the first time for the sport. Remembering the wins and the losses. Remembering the great times you’ve had, and the not so great times. It all comes rushing back once your last game for Guilderland High School ends. The countless hours of practice, the endless preparation, the numerous injuries and hiccups along the way. All this emotion. For some it becomes overwhelming. Dreams of a sectional championship ended. Dreams of going all the way dashed. Not having the chance to do it again. There’s nothing weak about an athlete crying at the end. When something becomes so important to you, when it becomes a major part of your life, when it becomes the thing that you can’t imagine living without, it’s hard to admit that it’s over.

If you know it’s your last match, game, or race, you have time to mentally prepare for it. You go through that last time, trying to savor everything that is happening. When it’s over, you may laugh or you may cry but whether you realize it or not, for the past few weeks you have been preparing yourself for this moment. Preparing to ease the flood of emotions that comes with reaching the end of the road you may have started six years ago, but it’s always worse when the end comes unexpectedly.

Getting a chance to play for a sectionals championship is always fun and exciting, but only one team comes out on top. For the rest, heartbreak. At the start of that fatal game, you’re pumped. You believe that you can win. Of course, the prospect of losing has brushed your mind but only briefly, and you know there’s always that chance, no matter how good the other team is, that you’ll walk away with the victory. As time winds down and the score isn’t in your favor, you began to slightly panic on the inside. You play harder. You run like you’ve never run before. You try to do whatever it takes to live to play another day, but sometimes, it just isn’t enough. For some, when the final whistle blows and it’s all over, they feel like they’ve been punched in the gut. The breath is just knocked out of them. They can’t breathe. Some take it better than others. They walk it off, they may look like they’re alright on the outside, but there’s a pit in their stomach. It’s tough when doing something you love so much ends. Tough when you realize that playing for the school that shaped you and molded you is over. “Was the worst feeling in the world, the only thing that was going through my mind was, this is my last time on a high school soccer field,” said Parker Carmichael, senior goalkeeper of the varsity soccer team.

Eventually, however, you move on. Whether it’s preparing to play for college or just keeping up with school work, the pain slowly fades, and it’s replaced with memories. Memories that will stay with you forever. Memories of doing what you love with your teammates. Teammates that have become like family to you.

For the underclassman, for the season to end isn’t fun, but you’re already thinking about next year–sad that it’s over but excited that you’ll get a chance to play again. Here’s Parker’s words of wisdom for GHS athletes. “Play every game like its your last because it goes by quick.” Kelly Gao’s advice goes beyond the individual.“Train for your teammates, for that fabulous feeling when your team meets its goal. Work hard for others, and they will work hard for you. Together, and only together, can everyone achieve far beyond what one person, no matter how ambitious, can achieve alone.”

I Am Guilderland: Why am I here and not somewhere else?

ALICIA CHEN

I am here at home, in Guilderland, New York. I am here because my father is good at physics, and he got a job here. My father is good at physics because his brain neurons are connected in a certain way, and his environment gave him access to China’s top schools. My father’s physics skills are in large part because of his DNA and the DNA of the people who established accessible education in China. Formed by natural selection, these precise orderings of As, Cs, Ts, and Gs trace a straight path to the beginnings of life in a primordial soup.

Perhaps Guilderland is my home because of this deterministic world. My carbon atoms glided along the tracks of physical law, their paths decided by switches at each crossroad. If everything is predetermined, my presence is simply a summation of all the pasts. Each present moment, each infinitesimally small slice of time, is nothing on its own because for the present to exist, it must be integrated with what came before. If the laws of nature are the cogs of a perpetual world machine, I imagine my life to be a point on the singular thread of science that leads backwards into the beginning of time. If I live the deterministic life, I am clinging to this string and its rational logic. Trapped by the laws that connect me to the past, I am never deviating, never looking up.

Everything is knowable in the deterministic world, and such complete knowledge presses in on the mind, keeping it from growing and searching. If I want to make discoveries and to chart the unknown, I must believe that there are gaps in the string that led me here. There must be tangled knots and frayed ends. I do not want the moments of my life to be made up of prerequisites and reasons. My present condition must be independent and dynamic, even volatile. I choose to sink the roots of my hereness not into cold reason, but into shrouded mystery.

I do not need to argue with fate, but I must believe that fate is unsolvable and unknowable. Believing in the unknown– believing in wild guesses and discontinuous moments– may be a little foolish, but it is also quite profound. I am not scared of consequences I can not see, and this gives me boldness. My ignorance makes me blind enough to attempt the impossible, but when I succeed, I am in a place that transcends the fear of logical limitations. This daring, this faith that rests on hope, creates wrinkles in time and twirling loops in the thread of science. My presence is not based on the physical calculations of the world, but a deep understanding that presence finds meaning within itself.

I may be in Guilderland because my father is a physicist, but I am not truly here until I see this place as a creature with its own secret possibilities. Guilderland is a connection between somewheres, but my home is a place that stands right here. I am squeezing the vitality out of this moment, using it to play my guitar, to think on my words, and to love my family. When I do these things which fill my life, I do not attempt to solve all the reasons and backstories; I do not cogitate on the DNA sequences that code the motions of my fingers. I simply enjoy the moment and I know with my heart that being here is something unexplainable, something irrevocable. I am forging my own presence. It starts here.