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.
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.
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.