Defining Difference: Spirit -- a specific characteristic for high school experience

Defining Difference: Spirit — a specific characteristic for high school experience

“Spirit is representing your school and finding ways to be excited about being a student,” herd coordinator Lindsay Franco.

Paint-covered faces scream cheers and chants and cheers under Friday night football lights as their state record-winning team hits the turf. Sitting by their herd, students scream “Viva” chants at the end of all-school Mass. In vibrant shirts, herds go against each other each Thursday in competition for the Ursuline Cup.

From athletic events to the widespread culture, the student body and staff have described the school as the most active and involved student in the metro area. 

“One thing I feel Miege has always had is really good school spirit,” head football coach Jon Holmes said. “You look around the gym on a random game night, and there’s going to be people that have been coming to games here for 25-plus years. I think the energy that the crowd gives to the players on the field or court, they can feed off of that.”

According to Dean of Students Alex Keith, a major goal for adults in the building is to foster a community that supports one another, which is the true promoter of spirit.

“There’s a couple of things that our students do just intuitively,” Keith said. “One of the things that makes us great is that there’s not a ‘too cool for that’ attitude, and that has existed long before I came to Miege.”

For the majority of high schools in America, athletic events and games are the largest contributor to rallying up school spirit among students. For the girls last home basketball game, many seniors organized a dress theme and helped about 200-300 students, alumni and family attend the game.

“Small things make people want to rally around you and engage in school spirit, if you really show that you care,” senior Tylicki herd executive Peter Dessert said.

Senior David Garcia speaks on his faith journey during local high schools’ convention “United in Him,” organized through Campus Minister Bill Creach.

Along with school sports, faith has played a large role in the spirit of the school since the beginning. Catholic or not, faith can be translated into stuffed animals, can and book drives, service hours, non-profit connections and service days organized by faith families within the herd system.

“Faith is a part of it, but I think school spirit permeates everything that we do,” campus minister Bill Creach said. “I think it’s alive in the halls as well, it carries over to all that we do. Whether it’s a Don Bosco Adopt-A-Family, the stuffed animal and book drive, dressing up in a Halloween outfit for canned goods, going to Mass in the gym for an all-school liturgy, I think we just represent well with school spirit.”

“School spirit permeates everything that we do.”

— campus minister, Bill Creach

Cheer and dance coaches Taryn Frank, Alexia Reyes, Brevin Armstrong and Emily Feurbron help their squads bring the energy all season long from Friday night lights to winter basketball games. According to Holmes, Frank organizes the cheerleaders in a way that allows the student body to be on the same page, promoting a rowdy game.

The school staff has also expressed that different from other schools, the student body involves school spirit in the day to day of the school. Holmes expressed that he saw a jump in energy when the herd system came into play.

Athletic Director Joe Schramp expressed that the system brings fraternity into the school community, creating tight school dynamics.

“Students demonstrate the spirit not only through the competitions on Thursdays, but it carries over to whatever athletic or school event might be happening,” Schramp said.

The herd system consists of eight groups or houses, each herd being named after Miege alumni or saints such as past campus minister Mary Perinni or Sister Martina Rockers. Each Thursday, herds compete against each other in various games and competitions to win the Ursuline Cup, named after the order of sisters that taught in the school for decades. 

Graphic design by Mary Aguilera.

Two days of the year are designated as Herd Days where the day is fully dedicated to large competitions both indoor and outdoors, determining the cup winner who will receive ice cream and the Ursuline Cup on their herd shirts.

“We end the day in the gym, just as we start the school year in August with a herd assembly,” herd coordinator Jessica Switzer said. “The day is for celebrating Miege, ending with some light hearted competition and building that spirit to celebrate what we’ve accomplished in the year.”

In celebration of the year ending, current juniors are elected as herd executives for the upcoming year, and they spend Ursuline Cup day leading their herd and exploring what true spirit and energy means. 

“Ursuline Cup day is a period of change, the new execs come in, Ursuline Cup day is kind of a shift in dynamics, a passing of the torch moment,” Dessert said.

Having Herd Spirit-Student body and staff exemplify school energy and spirit through herd system
By Bria Sutherlin
Design by Bella Dessert
Design by Bella Dessert

Various colors fill the gym as students sit with each of their herds, jumping as their team scores the basket for the knockout competition.

For the past eight years students have been separated into one of the eight herds, similar to houses, to connect with one another from freshmen through seniors. Throughout the year, the herds compete each Thursday to win the Ursuline Cup in April.

“I think things like herd competitions are basically set there not only to compete against one another, but to practice how we can be excited for one another,” Dean of Students Alex Keith said. “It gives us another avenue to make connections and bonds with people and school spirit is just the outward side of that.”

Each herd has a senior executive and five senior captains, along with representatives from each grade, to create the Herd Council. Senior Lillian Switzer, executive of the Bohaty herd, expressed that every part of the council has a big responsibility, such as creating different competitions and pep rallies.

“Executives are seen as the voice of the pep rallies,” Switzer said. “The herd captains also lead their faith families to encourage Stag spirit throughout the school. We have all helped in the development of fundraisers and videos.”

According to senior Peter Dessert, Tylicki herd executive, being an exec is more than just organizing the activities, but it is also just as important to show enthusiasm and set a great example of spirit.

“Even with the small things, you're setting the bar,” Dessert said. “As a herd executive, you have to have school spirit, since the underclassmen bounce back what you set.”

From kickball to knockout and handball, student interaction reaches a peak in the gym and stadium each week. Students and teachers have agreed that participating in the competitions has grown connections with one another throughout the last eight years. 

“I think school spirit is so involved now in the day to day of the school,“ head football coach Jon Holmes said. “The herd captains take great pride in teaching the freshmen the cheers, making sure it is at football games, basketball games, soccer games, volleyball games–that way the students know the cheers.”

Aside from competitions throughout the year, herds work with faith families, which are smaller groups within the herd that meet in a teacher’s room in the school day. They participate in community bonding ten minutes a day during the school week and are involved in days of service together each year.

“The herd system helps us enhance and deepen all the things we had going for us already,” Creach said, “It's just another way to celebrate, another way to connect faith, community and service in everything we do.”

Supportive environments such as large games and competitions, but it is evident in the simple day-to-day interactions between students. 

“You can tell when a school is friends with one another and when they’re cheering for one another and supporting one another — that’s when you see school spirit come out,” Keith said.

According to Schramp, this same spirit is seen actively during Homecoming week which includes the annual fall bonfire followed by a Pack-The-House soccer game that night. That Friday, the Homecoming football game follows a student-led herd tailgate where each herd sets up and decorates a tent with games, food and festivities. 

Holmes expressed that these school nights are when spirit is highest, especially in the fall. Football kicks off the season with the metro’s most vibrant sport football, which holds the all time state record for state titles. 

“From a football standpoint, that first home game is always a huge one where you look up in the student section and it’s full from the front of the back,” Holmes said. “The freshmen are getting welcome in with their M on the field at halftime. To me that’s always when it’s high. It’s fresh, summer’s over and now school’s back so it seems like everybody’s all jumped in.”

Holding 138 state championship titles, the raw spirit in the student athletes can be attributed to the environment generations of coaching staff has created.

“I think spirit ties into the culture that has been created here,” Holmes said. “You look at long standing coaches like Coach Zych, Coach English, Coach Pike and Coach Joe Huppe, we’re really lucky to have those great programs.”

Said to be the face of school spirit, Dessert created a bond between school departments that has changed the face of school spirit. 

Student divides between departments like sports versus theater are extremely common. Through his juniors and senior year, students have expressed that Dessert formed a bond between school activities, further connecting the student body. 

“I think that an increase in support for theater has bridged that gap and formed a lot of friendships,” Dessert said. “People have come to appreciate things that they didn’t completely understand before. It helps the kids in theater understand that they should support the sports teams as well.”

In this support, engagement in the student body has spiked in the last few years as senior classes represent their herds and show the true character of the school.

“The whole power of a student section and spirit in general is showing that we support each other and that we actually want to participate in Miege activities,” Dessert said.

“The whole power of a student section and spirit in general is showing that we support each other and that we actually want to participate in Miege activities.”

— senior Tylicki herd executive, Peter Dessert

From August to May, each time of the year follows a different form of school spirit that corresponds with the seasons, sports and events. 

“Our back to school and herd welcome days are just over the top,” Keith said. “There’s so much energy, everybody is excited to see one another again. At the end of school, when we do Ursuline Cup finals or Mary Perrini service day, there’s a new buzz just because it’s the end of the school year.”

During this end of the year commotion, students participate in Mary Perrini service day, an annual school tradition. 

“At the end of the day you go out in the community and you’re serving throughout the community, the spirit is definitely alive there as well,” Schramp said. From service days to art events to athletic games, school spirit represents a top value for the student body and staff from generations ago to this day.

Junior Alexandra Andrade serves the Roeland Park community on Mary Perrini service day with her Lucas faith family.

“The buy-in and energy at Miege is just completely superior to a lot of places,” Switzer said. “We have a lot of students that are their authentic selves, which gives them the confidence to participate, be good leaders and put themselves out there for their community. Generations of generations of solid community still show today.”

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