USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘school spirit’
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Walter Payton High School

Context:

My informant is a 19 year old student from the University of Southern California.This conversation took place at a cafe one evening. The informant and I were in an open space, where our mutual friends sat and the table and listened to this conversation happen, as well. In this account, she explains a tradition from her high school. This is a transcription of our conversation, where she is identified as L and I am identified as K.

 

Text:

L: Ok, so, in my high school, umm, it was named “Walter Payton” after a Chicago Bears football player who was very philanthropic and like dedicated to empowering the community. Um, his number was 34, so on March 4th (which is like, 3/4 ) we had a day called “Sweetness Day” where every advisory would go out and do a service project in the community and Walter Payton died as he was finishing building our school, um, cause he wanted it to be accessible to all the youth of Chicago. And so his brother comes in his honor, er, his son I mean, would come and hype us up and get ready for the day of service and stuff, so like we stayed with the same service group and it was just so cool to like check back in with them and like a lot of advisory ended up volunteering for them externally too. It was so cute, it was such a fun day and the whole school just loves “Sweetness Day.”

K: How did you learn this tradition?

L: Um, I learned it pretty much like as… cause in Chicago you have to apply to high schools, you don’t…

K: Wait what.

L: Yeah, public high schools. You have to apply to public high schools, which is insane. So basically like you have to go to open houses and like info sessions with the high schools because, um, there’s 10 selective enrollment ones that are just basically magnets. You take an entrance exam to get in and whatever, but like at the open houses and stuff, everyone couldn’t stop talking like how much “Sweetness Day” meant to them and how it’s such a big part of like our school. Being as unspirited as we are, like no one came to sports games, but like everyone got hyped for the “Sweetness Day” pep rally, so it was really cool.

K: Why do you love “Sweetness Day”?

L: I love it because it’s how I got close to a lot of people I probably wouldn’t have gotten close to, so since it’s with your advisory, like I had… like what our school prides itself in being incredibly diverse, so I had a lot of students in my advisory who had like very different backgrounds than me or like very different day-to-day lives. Like some of them took the redline for an hour and a half to school everyday, whereas I walked like for 20 minutes a day. So like, I loved that I was able to do something really empowering and cool while also like doing it with a network of like really driven people, too.

 

Thoughts:

I thought that this tradition was very endearing, and also epitomized one of the main purposes of folklore, which is to strengthen the culture of a group. Though this type of folklore, where a school gathers and dedicates a day to do philanthropy as a community, is very special to Walter Payton High School, I also know that it is a common folklore among many schools across the nation (each one with their own oikotype). Personally, my school also engaged in a day dedicated to volunteering, but we called it “Lodge Day.” This is because our school mascot was the beaver (and so we called ourselves “Bryant Beavers”), and for this one day a year we would come together as a “lodge” and volunteer to improve our schools. This meant doing activities such as reorganizing the library, planting new plants in the garden, scraping gum off of the sidewalks, spreading and evening bark chips and the playground, and so on and so forth. Overall, this is a common type of folklore that each school can adjust to fit their own school culture, as folklore should.

Game
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Blue Key Heads

Informant: “Blue key heads are this tradition where we’re like spirit leaders and, um, we… It’s, there’s ten, five boys, five girls, um, it’s picked through an incredibly nepotistic process that is basically half popularity contest, um, it– that’s just how it is and so, um, all five boys and five girls wore skirts, uh, blue skirts that are passed down every year so that’s a big tradition, is, like, who you get your skirt from and who you pass your skirt to is like a big deal, um, and so the blue key heads are at every varsity game in the fall, um, and a lot of varsity games in the spring and we, like, cheer except for basketball we, we cheer, but we—the step team is what mostly did that so, yeah. And so we, like, show up and we cheer and it’s not like cheerleading it’s mostly like running around and painting your face, um, and it’s really cool and we lead a pep rally which is fun, uh, and the, uh, what was I gonna say? There’s, uh, the way the blue key heads are chosen is this, like, big school thing, tradition where you have to audition in front of the entire sc— like in front of school during, like, either lunch or during dinner. So you have to round up all your friends and you have to do, like, a public audition which is, like, you have to do push-ups—oh also everytime the football team scores we have to do push-ups for the number of points we have. So if we get into, like, 50 points we have to do, like, 50 push ups and it’s awful, um, I couldn’t do it. And so, um, so have to do push-ups, you have to, like, throw gummy sharks into a cup. You have to serenade—you always have to serenade someone. You always have to do a bunch of cheers. You have to name all previous 10 blue key heads. You have to name 10 shades of blue. Um, they’ll ask you, like, random questions to see how long you could, like, go without breaking. One of them, the best one that I had was mak- you literally sit there and you just say make me laugh and somebody has to try and make you laugh and its wonderful because there are just certain people who can’t, won’t break. And, um, so that was really good. And so it’s this, like, terrible process and then there’s always, like, a big secret, the, only the blue key heads– the new– only the new blue key heads know how they got, how they find out. Like, it’s a big secret how they find out that they’re blue key heads. So, like, my year we were told that there was a second secret audition and so we came and they actually put us through an audition and then told us, ‘Just kidding you’re the blue key heads.’ Um…”

Lavelle: “They do it differently every year?”

Informant: “Yeah, they do it differently, well because, like, it kind of gets, it’s, like, you know, just to make sure that it doesn’t get out, um, but it’s usually pretty secret in terms of, like, people just suddenly find out and suddenly, like “Oh, they announced it apparently.” And, like, and no one can figure out how they told the people, um, so that’s pretty cool.”

My informant is a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover with the class of 2011. She was one of the blue key heads during her senior year at Andover. This is an important memory for my informant as she greatly enjoyed her high school experience and looks back on her years at Andover fondly.

The idea of appointed spirit leaders is not unique to Andover and many high school students enjoy experiences similar to those of my informant.

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