By Al Lim, Yale-NUS College ’19 – See bio
“To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”
When asked about Fort Mill High School (FMHS), one would usually hear statements like “we are a big family” or “we have a tremendous school spirit.” Through my years in FMHS, my experiences have constantly bolstered these statements. As a result, I have developed a case of “Yellow Jacket (our mascot) pride.” It gets quite serious.
One of my most cherished memories of high school would be “Spirit Week.” It’s quite self-explanatory.We designate one week out of every year to show our school spirit. The week would include themed days, games at lunch, hall decorations (Christmas lights, banners, streamers, paint and lots more), the “Powder Puff” Game (inter-class American football game by girls) and culminates in a pep rally in anticipation of Friday night’s Homecoming game. Since my experience is limited to one school, I cannot give a cross-examination across America, but rather a personal anecdote to such a fundamental aspect of my high school life.
Monday is traditionally Pajama Day. As an underclassman, it was quite intimidating to wear PJ’s to school. If I was the only one who turned up in my Japanese-cartoon-PJ’s, my social reputation would have sunk to the depths of netherworld. However, when I got to school, there were a plethora of Snuggies, soft animals and the most unique individual had a mattress strapped to his back for the day. My sophomore year definitely stands out because we had to evacuate the school as a result of a bomb threat. To exacerbate matters, it was raining. With that, we trekked through mud and grime to safety. I walked in my spa slippers, holding my Pooh Bear, and ended up sitting in a bus playing chess for hours. Paradoxically, PJ day is a great start to Spirit Week!
Tuesday would be a themed day that the Student Council selects every year. One of them was “Under the Sea” day. This aquatic theme saw a yellow submarine constructed out of cardboard in honor of The Beatles. We had America Day this past year. Other than the classic redneck pleasantry, we had a group of Miss America girls and another group representing state stereotypes.
Wednesday is “Class Day.” The freshmen usually get stuck with a mediocre if not amusing theme. For years the Student Council has been trying to get “Antarctica Day” allotted to freshmen for obvious reasons. The sophomores and juniors oscillate between common themes like movies or TV shows. The most standout for me to date was probably an Avatar—a tall, blue, tail-swishing Avatar. However, the rite of passage for every Fort Mill High School student is “Jazzercise Day.” This would explain the cover picture. We come in dressed as tacky as possible, taking common household items to another level. Some other schools have “toga day” for seniors which might get problematic. Just think about classical sculpture. Anyhow, the seniors would run around the Commons (or canteen) area with boomboxes, whistles, dumbbells and an occasional Vuvuzela, “jazzercising” like no tomorrow.
Thursday is always Group Day. The seniors love the “Senior Citizen” theme and would come in on crutches, decked out with glasses, grey hair and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) stickers. It was even funnier when one of my classmates tried to explain the pun with “senior” and “senior citizen” to my English teacher. Notable successes for other groups would include cereal boxes, a group of dictators accompanied by an entourage of secret service (Mao, Gaddafi, Clinton and the lot), Mario Kart with actual “karts,” Spartans out of 300, wrestlers from Nacho Libre, and even Puritans out of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible complete with an English teacher.
Friday’s pep rally would leave your ears ringing for days. It starts off with performances by the band, dancers and cheerleaders. After which, the classes compete among themselves to scream the loudest. Conch shells and Vuvuzelas cannot compare to the collective “barbaric yawp” of each grade, anxious to win. Subsequently, the class winners of the entire Spirit Week would storm the basketball court from the bleachers and celebrate together.
That same night would be our homecoming game where the senior girls that football players sponsored get paraded around the field before the homecoming queen and runner-up get announced. The UDP (Under Dog Pound) which is a male cheerleading squad would try to get the student section of the bleachers as fired up as possible with the cheerleaders down below doing their routine. Spirit fingers, cheers and lasting memories were made that night.
In showing the true colors of the community, I have gathered together a few quotations from some of my fellow schoolmates on their favorite memories:
“As for Spirit Week, I would have to say that everyone dressing as “Senior Citizens” was the highlight. Jazzercise day was wicked awesome, especially during lunch when we did “The Yes Dance.” Seniors whooped the Juniors in Powder Puff, which was rad!” -Riley Hoverman (Clemson ‘16)
“Winning homecoming hahaha and group day.” -Ashlee Chumney (University of Alabama ’16)
“Decorating the hallways, the pep rallies, and blue and gold day.” -Julia VanBuskirk (Clemson ’16)
“PEP RALLY all da waaay!” -Erin Hamner (University of South Carolina ‘16)
“I would definitely have to say the moment they announced we won (pep rally) was my favorite. But I’ve always liked pajama day.” -Jenn Sine (University of Kentucky ’16)
“Winning the pep rally or being old people for group day!” -Mady Katz (University of Georgia ’16)
“Group day with all the world leaders and the football game at the end. “ -Darien Bucher (College of Charleston ’16)
“I would say jazzercise and the pep rally!” -Meredith Kilburn (Wake Forest ’16)
“My favorite day from Spirit Week was group day. I felt like that day everyone pulled out all the stops to have the most over the top costume and props–I know my friends and I would plan and build everything for Group Day the weekend before. It was fun not only to showcase your outfits, but to see what other clever ideas students had! We used to joke around saying that if every student were to put in as much effort into Group Day as school work, everyone would be making A’s.” -Farrah Bui (Princeton ’14)
Ultimately, this is not intended as a nostalgic reflection or celebration of my high school, but rather an optimistic projection. A whole new culture at Yale-NUS with such a promising cohort is sure to reap some irreplaceable memories. They might not include girls playing American football, mattresses strapped to backs or large, green-eyed Avatars. However, with each student equipped with an arsenal of experience, we aim to build a cooperative community to foster a multi-faceted spirit of collaboration.
 Snuggies (proprietary eponym) are blankets with sleeves commonly used as sleepwear