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.