Bulldog Pride: A History of School Spirit
May 24, 2023
Imagine it is a warm August day, you and all of your friends are crammed into the bleachers covered in red and white from head to toe for the Welcome Back Rally. You are seniors and it is your turn to do the Bulldog Grunt. The cheerleaders are in front of your grade in formation and then it starts. The cheerleaders chant, “Bulldogs in the front let me hear you grunt!” Your classmates surrounding you erupt with a grunt of excitement. As the cheer goes on, you are positive that the seniors have been the loudest and will win once again. That is what rallies should feel and look like but as of recent years this has not been the case. Instead of the entire grade cheering and coming together to work towards a common goal, people are still divided. People are still choosing to opt out of school spirit, not aware of the greater effects of this.
A crucial part of a school’s identity comes from its spirit, its pride that the students and those in the community have for it. A school with spirit can change the community around it. It can become a community that is able to come together to support its youth. A school with spirit creates a welcoming environment where students feel comfortable participating in activities. It encourages students to be curious and explore new parts of their identity. It also makes students more excited about school knowing that others feel prideful to attend their school.
When a school lacks spirit, students who do have spirit are independent from those who lack. More often than not those students are a part of the Associated Student Body class. Which is a class that runs school events, class officials, and student government. They plan events like rallies, dances, and fundraisers. Another aspect of being in ASB is to spread school spirit. In fact at San Rafael High School it is part of your grade in ASB to show school spirit, this includes dressing up for spirit days and showing up to fundraising or planned events.
I myself am a member of the ASB class at San Rafael. I am the chair of the Athletics Committee and Athletics Commissioner. My job is to spread school spirit through athletics. During the Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons my committee is responsible for driving up attendance to these games and making sure the sports that might not get as much attention are getting the recognition they deserve.
There are many intricate details that come together to make the ASB class work smoothly. A member of the ASB class who works very hard to make the class efficient is ASB President Talia Harter, a current Senior. Talia has been a member of the ASB class for four years, so she really understands what makes students interested in spirit. Harter explains, “I am always looking for ways to make sure more students can feel comfortable and want to engage in our spirit days.”
Specific spirit day themes for each day have a factor on the likelihood of someone dressing up. In general when people were asked what percent of students participate in spirit days, I got a very wide range of responses, from 5% to 70%. A common theme is that the easier and more accessible the themes are the more people are going to participate in them. Iza Grijalva, a current senior and member of the ASB class, says, “I have noticed most people dress up for pajama day.” This is because everyone has pajamas. This is not a theme that you have to go out and buy something for. Harter explains, “Most people participate when they don’t have to change their appearance.” This is why Anything But A Backpack Day gets a lot of student participation. Halloween is also a popular spirit day because students can dress to different levels depending on their comfort level.
Spirit days remind mainly the same. Ms. Rodriguez says, “The most popular days were cowboy day, pajama day, and toga day.” Aidan VonDoepp, a 2020 graduate, explains “My favorite was Red and White day and Toga day.” Toga day is a senior only spirit day. As freshmen you dress up as babies and see the seniors in their togas, imagining the day you get to wear one. Jackson Murphy, a 2017 graduate, explains, “Spirit days were received pretty well and had decent participation.”
A massive part of school spirit are Rallies. There are usually three rallies a year, the Welcome Back Rally, Bell Game Rally, and End of the Year Rally. They are led by the Rally leaders, who come up with games and activities for the grade levels to compete against each other. This is where you can really see what a school spirit is like. Are people engaging in the games happening? Are people dressed in Red and White? Are people looking forward to these rallies or would they rather be in school? Rallies have always been a fun part of going to San Rafael. Aubin Giampaoli, a graduating member of San Rafael’s class of 1999, says, “Rallies were huge.” Jeffrey Taylor, a 1978 graduate, says he loved “going to San Rafael High School.” He enjoyed participating in rallies and spirit days. Mr. Taylor was Student Body President, Director of Publicity, and Freshman class President of the ASB class during his time at San Rafael. Ms. Giampaoli was also in ASB and helped make posters and organize school events.
Another aspect of school spirit is showing up to support your school, often this is shown through extracurricular activities. Even if you aren’t participating in these activities, are you showing up to support those engaging? For example attending sporting events or club hosted activities at lunch. Sports are a big part of what makes San Rafael, San Rafael. We are the only school that can play games under the lights on the field. Football and Basketball games traditionally get the highest number of fans coming out to watch. However most people attend games that their friends are participating in. VonDoepp explained he would attend games “depending on who is playing.” Popular games often include rival games. No matter the sport the attendance will always be higher if we are playing Terra Linda.
School spirit doesn’t just have to be sports or extracurriculars. It is the idea of being able to come together with a group of people you might not have many similarities with. Mrs. Giampaoli says that her favorite part about San Rafael was that, “You might not be friends with someone but you were always friendly with them.” That was the culture of San Rafael that has not been the same since Covid. School spirit does not have to be too serious, for example there is a tradition that the senior class paints their graduation year on the hill above the baseball field. Which this year’s current seniors have yet to do.
Not all past students were interested in school spirit, Mary Sanders, a 1971 graduate, had a different perspective. She explains, “We weren’t really focused on spirit.” Instead most students were participating in drugs or the hippie movement. She describes how lenient the school was with rules. She brought up that school was very easy to pass and how she did not have to try very hard. She says, “I thought people in spirit were stuck up. They thought they were better than us.” Also happening during this time was the Jesus Revolution, a movement that spread during the 60’s and 70’s in California, where many hippies were coming to evangelical Christianity. Sanders explains how this was very big at San Rafael during the time and how that could be why spirit wasn’t as big.
Another part of the not so serious school spirit is class pranks.
Alison Oblites, a 1988 graduate explained that for her senior prank some students wired the SRHS radio station to the announcement system so that when it was turned on in the morning by staff the radio station streamed into all the classrooms.
Ms. Giampaoli explained her senior prank was not done grade-wide but was just a couple of boys. They took a car from the shop class and put it into the pool, it ended up destroying the pool and causing the school a lot of money. However when no one fessed up to doing it the principal decided to suspend all off campus privileges. She explains that by that Friday all the students decided that during lunch they would storm the lunch duties and just walk off campus. The principal then announced that if you weren’t in your seats at the beginning of the next period you would be suspended and that the teachers were going to lock their doors. The bell rang for the period to start and then all of a sudden the fire alarm rang, everyone had to evacuate to the field so anyone who was late was safe. Both of these pranks happened before Covid.
Last year was the first full year of school after Covid, because of this the seniors weren’t as creative with their prank. Brithany Giron, a 2022 graduate, explained, “Senior prank didn’t really work because they tried to take up all the parking spots but they ended up locking the back.” It is not for fact that this prank was not as successful because of Covid. It might just be that the seniors were too busy to plan a complicated prank. It is up to the current seniors to see if San Rafael’s complicated pranks return.
In addition to that, many of the pranks done back then would not be allowed now. Ms. Rodriguez explains, “The pranks done back then would get current students expelled.” Ms. Giampaoli describes how as a freshman seniors would draw their graduation year on freshemens forehead in sharpie and make them wear diapers, during rallies. She explains, “Anything went as long as it was harmless and not malicious.” However over the years rules have gotten much stricter regarding hazing incoming students.
School spirit varies greatly by grade level and it usually coincides with seniority. Jaedon Higgins-Jones, a current freshman, says that “seniors have the most spirit.” This thought is not uncommon; sophomores Natalie Wetmore, Adelaide Gaw, and Sierra Balch all came to the same conclusion that it is seniors who have the most spirit. Juniors are believed to have the second most, then sophomores, ending with freshmen. This is most physically seen during the school rallies. In each rally the grade levels have to compete in the “Bulldog Grunt” the class that does this the loudest win, this is decided by the current principal Joe Dominguez. Every rally that has happened this year the Seniors have extensively won.
Many believe that the greatest cause for this divide in school spirit among each grade level is due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Students believe that the current Seniors have the most spirit because they are the only class that had one year of high school before the shutdown. They were able to see what it looked like for an entire school to have spirit.
Ms. Ayoob the current teacher of ASB, explains during this time everyone was dressing up for spirit days and engaging in spirit days. She compares Piper Pomeroy, a current Senior who was Rally Leader and Chair of the Events and Rallies Committee, to Gianna Chachio, a past alumni. Part of Piper’s role early in the year was to do the morning announcements, Gianna Chachio also did the announcements. Ms. Ayoob explains that Gianna use to do the bulletin the same way, drawing out the “Goooddd Mooorrrninnnggg Bulldogs!” Ms. Ayoob says, “You can’t help but just smile.” This isn’t to blame the underclassmen.
Ms. Oseguera is a 2006 San Rafael Graduate and current San Rafael teacher of two years. She previously taught at Davidson Middle School. She believes that Covid has played some part in the lack of school spirit at San Rafael. However she also believes that a reason that spirit lacks from San Rafael is that some of the student body population parents did not go to high school in America. Ms. Osegura explains that “within Latinx culture because many parents didn’t attend American schools, they don’t know what American rallies or spirit is.” She says that when she was in High School her parents were more focused on her grades rather than having fun at school. Ms. Rodriguez, is San Rafael’s Office Coordinator, and a 1993 graduate, she believes that school spirit has decreased. She explains, “Student body demographics are different. There weren’t as many newcomers who are unfamiliar with spirit or spirit days.”
Ms. Oseguera was a member of her ASB class in high school and was the board representative. She explains that when she was in the class the demographic was very white. She says, “I was one of two Latinx students in my class.” As a member of the current ASB class I can confirm that the demographic is still currently predominately white, however with more than two latinx students. It is a goal of the ASB class to make the class more diverse, to welcome different perspectives and opinions. Ms. Oseguera explains that she doesn’t “think many Latinx students have an idea of what ASB is and are hesitant to try it out.” This is not something that has gone unnoticed by students at San Rafael. During the Back-To-School Rally at the beginning of this year, many students noticed that the students selected to play in the games were white. They felt that the ASB class had done a poor job of representing the demographics at San Rafael.
Ms. Ayoob also does not solely believe that Covid is the reason for this divide amongst grade level spirits. She also believes that this is because of the way students engage with each other. She explains that, “Social media has made us all hyper aware of each other.” This causes students to be less likely to put themselves out there.
Gaw explains, “Seniors have more spirit because they aren’t embarrassed.” This is a common theme with underclassmen. Jones agrees and says, “Seniors have the most because they are the oldest and have been at school for the longest.” Wetmore says, “They simply don’t care.” Seniors have the freedom of not having to worry about what the older kids think of them. While the underclassmen have the upperclassmen looming over them making sure their spirit is just how they want it.
A school with spirit is a school with pride. Students at the school should feel proud that they attend San Rafael. Students should be comfortable to dress up for spirit without fear of being judged or mocked. Spirit brings people together and it makes them feel like they aren’t all alone. San Rafael should strive to be a more spirited school for the betterment of everyone in the community.