The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Save Our Spirit

The school community and students from other independent schools discuss the effect of varying levels of school spirit on student bodies
Illustration by Ashley Ham

It is Community Time on a Friday afternoon, and the entire Upper School student body floods through the entrance of Taper Gymnasium. While students would typically use this period to do homework, get food from the cafeteria or spend time with their friends on the Quad, this Friday afternoon was filled with anticipation for Fanatic Fest ahead of Homecoming the following day. Although the mandatory Fanatic Fest was anticipated, students and fanatics alike left Taper with disappointment in the supposed pinnacle of the school’s spirit. Eric Vartany ’24 said many of his peers felt that attending Fanatic Fest was an obligation rather than an exciting event.

“To be honest, my friends and I weren’t looking forward to Fanatic Fest,” Vartany said. “It felt like it was forced upon the student body, and in the gym, you could sense that people were eager to leave. Part of what disappointed me was the lack of excitement from the student body. If everyone around me was really excited, it would be a lot easier to [be] excited during the Fanatic Fest. ”

To plan the Fanatic Fest, the four Prefects on the Fanatics Committee collaborated with the maintenance staff, the drumline team, the Spirit Squad and the Head Fanatics. Sophomore Prefect Fanatics Committee member Robby Louie ’26 said planning Fanatic Fest was lengthy.

“It was a long process,” Louie said. “We had a summer intensive, which is [when] Prefect Council meets over the summer. [We] started meeting with the administration, and that’s when we first got our committees. We also talked with [Performing Arts Department Head Aaron] Martin every week. Then, the week of Fanatic Fest, we had some dress rehearsals.”

Vartany said he enjoyed previous year’s Fanatic Fests, which were more similar to a performing arts play because it showed Prefect Council taking a risk.

“It [was] a big risk to do a theater-based Fanatic fest, but it shows effort, initiative and drive,” Vartany said. “We’re a community that’s ready to take risks, and that’s what brings Harvard-Westlake together.”

Fanatic Fest recently departed from their usual theatrical performance. Despite the lack of spirit in the newly-formatted Fanatic Fest, Head Fanatic and Football Safety Boaz Maydew ’24 said he is optimistic that future Fanatic Fests will be more spirited, especially with the move to more traditional pep rallies.

“This year we [moved] to a story with comedy [and] commentating,” Maydew said. “This year was the trial run of our first real pep rally, so I think everybody in the gym was confused. Our chants weren’t the best. They were last minute, but as years go on, the future Fanatics will learn to perfect our pep rallies, and school spirit will only get better.”

Of 205 students surveyed, 63.9% said we lack school spirit compared to other schools in the area, according to a Chronicle poll. One of the Fanatics Committee’s goals for the second quarter is to increase student spirit and participation in spirit activities, according to an email sent to Upper School students by Prefect Council. While the lack in school spirit can be attributed to the school’s intense academic environment, Louie said he believes if more people start to exhibit school spirit, then others in the community will be more comfortable in participating.

“It’s like a domino effect,” Louie said. “It’s part of Harvard-Westlake’s culture to not engage in [spirit activities]. If we, as a school community, can be more [spirited], there are ways to still have extracurriculars and still engage in school spirit. If some people start doing it, more people will do it. It’s not going to [happen] all at the same time, but it’s something that we can work [toward].”

Polytechnic School is located in Pasadena and universally recognized as an academically demanding school, according to Niche. Polytechnic student and Junior Katie Sam said the competitive academic environment at Polytechnic distracts many students from participating in spirit events.

“[Polytechnic] is a very academically rigorous school,” Sam said. “The stress of academics isn’t on the administration, but it’s on the students that go here. The students want to do well and go to good colleges, and that’s really important to understand because it does contribute to the lack of school spirit. We have an [Associated Student Body], and their job is to bring spirit to the school. We are [organizing] more [sports] rivalries throughout the year and more fun things to get people de-stressed from the academic rigor at [Polytechnic], which has been really important and also fun to participate in.”

Maydew said fans at the games play a vital role to the players.

“Spectators don’t really realize how important they are to the athletes on the field,” Maydew said. “That’s why, all season, you’d see me out on the Quad telling people to come to our games and trying to get people invested in our team just as much as [the players]. We’re a part of the school, and we love when we see all of our friends out there.”

Compared to the school’s student body’s general apathy for athletic games, at Crespi Carmelite High School, student attendance and energy are higher, according to Crespi starting Quarterback Masyn Harvey. Despite ending the football season with a record of 2-8, Harvey said student spirit is always present which encourages his performance in games.

“There was a lot of school spirit at the games,” Harvey said. “It was always packed. When we did themes, people [dressed accordingly]. It was great to have all of the fans there supporting the team. I love playing home games strictly for the fans.”

Even if not that many students are at the football games, the school’s Spirit Squad is at every home and away game to get the fans excited. Cheerleader Mel Ho ’25 said it is often difficult to get everyone excited if there is low attendance or a lack of energy from the crowd.

“Sometimes, it feels like we’re not doing our jobs [well] enough, but we have to realize that at the end of the day, we need to smile and be cheerful no matter what,” Ho said. “No matter how the crowd reacts, we still need to keep our jobs up, so [the crowd’s energy] shouldn’t affect us. If the crowd doesn’t feel spirited, then we’ve been doing the most that we can do. We always try to be cheery and smiley, so if the crowd isn’t spirited, that’s on them, and that’s the job of the Head Fanatics.”

While school spirit is often associated with athletic games, it can also be based on student participation in other school activities. Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said aside from sports, other non-athletic events cultivate a sense of school spirit.

“I understand that people usually think of school spirit in terms of just athletics, but I wish more people went to the play and to the musical,” Slattery said. “A lot of people are trying to do things to create [a sense of] community around that. The theater department has started having shows on Thursday afternoons so that more kids could go. It’s not like we have bad school spirit, but it hits and misses.”

Avery Kim ’25 said it is ultimately on the student body to cultivate a culture of school spirit.

“The most important thing to emphasize is that school spirit can’t be artificially induced,” Kim said. “There are measures you could take, [but] in the end, it’s up to the students if they want to [be spirited] or not. [School spirit] is just something that either is there or not.”

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Alex Dinh, Assistant Features Editor
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