Lack of senior tradition perpetuates disconnected student body

Meera Srinivasan

A full stadium at the Friday night football game, an entire school distracted by the senior prank and the senior class itself, seizing their last year. However, these classic senior year experiences, as imparted by teen classics like “High School Musical,” are close to nonexistent at Redwood. Romanticization of senior year is pervasive, and for good reason: that is how such a momentous year should be, full of preemptive nostalgia and a spike in school spirit.  But if this is the essential high school experience, why does it now appear to be characterized only by stress, college applications and more stress? At Redwood, senior traditions don’t even come close to living up to media-perpetuated standards. Homecoming week is a half-baked attempt to show spirit and football games are barely attended.

Perhaps the absence of high school spirit and senior tradition can be attributed to Redwood’s population of nearly 2,000 students. Redwood in particular encompasses so many different communities that it’s hard to develop a sense of culture within the school; many students don’t even know some of their classmates in their own grade. With Redwood’s exponentially growing student body, there is an evident disconnect among students.

As a student who recently moved from the East Coast, I was surprised when I found out that Redwood didn’t incorporate senior traditions into the first week of school. Students seemed to dread the beginning of the new year as teachers piled on the work. Few staff members acknowledged the excitement of seniors’ last year, instead focusing on the college-centric workload ahead. At 7:30 a.m., the parking lot was dismal, with the exception of one car sporting painted slogans on the back window. Senior year at Redwood didn’t feel like the senior year that I had come to know in films growing up, or even like the traditions I observed at my old school.

On the East Coast, every senior car in the parking lot is covered in car paint and decorations announcing their impending graduation and desire to making the most of their final year. The entirety of the senior grade gathers in the parking lot the night before school begins to chalk up individual parking spaces; it’s a time to rejoice among peers and celebrate seniority. Razor scooters decorated in school colors zip through the halls on the first day of school as seniors ride to class and teachers express excitement in seeing their students enjoying school.

These traditions do not just serve a superficial purpose: they promote a culture of unity and positivity within and among the student body. For underclassmen, watching seniors enjoy their last year is a reminder of what they will soon enjoy in a few years. School becomes a place that students actually want to be in.

While Redwood does make an effort to uphold school spirit, like with the homecoming rally, attendance often dwindles among upperclassmen who opt to drive off campus and skip the event entirely. Because the majority of these traditions are monitored and organized by administration, students cannot feel as connected to them as if they were their own plans. Administration’s restrictions on senior pranks and parking make school spirit feel like a contrived way for the PTA to feel better about themselves rather than an event actually encouraged by students.

Redwood students, especially seniors, have the opportunity to transform the school culture by institutionalizing authentic school spirit, which could potentially be accomplished with a method of gradewide, online communication. Many schools in the East Coast use Facebook as a grade-wide platform to share ideas for traditions and spirit. By taking advantage of resources online, the senior class can become more of a community eager to make the best out of their last year.

Without senior traditions and a strong sense of school spirit, Redwood loses the vitality that most high schools across America thrive upon. The senior year shouldn’t be a forgotten coming-of-age moment in every teenager’s life, it should be celebrated and cherished as the last year of childhood.

Although emulation of classic teen movies like “High School Musical” is limited—impromptu lunchtime sing-alongs are unlikely to happen—the senior class can live up to its essence, with unity and an appreciation for the unique experience that is senior year.