In the coming months, the Class of 2019 will engage in several bonding activities, including graduation festivities, a grade-wide game of elimination and a series of traditional senior pranks, all of which will foster a tight-knit community.
However, such a community does little to enhance students’ high school experiences when it is developed just before graduation. Leaving Paly with a united high school class is still beneficial to students, as it strengthens their networks and makes it more likely they will maintain their friendships through their post-graduation endeavors. However, if the same community could be formed early in students’ high school experiences, it could serve them throughout their four years at Paly as well.
The Campanile urges the Associated Student Body (ASB) and Paly administrators to increase their focus on underclassmen community building through more grade-wide bonding events and better utilization of Link Crew as a resource to welcome students into the Paly community.
ASB School Climate Commissioner senior Noor Navaid said that, while there is a sense of camaraderie within grade levels, this community is developed through classes, sports and other extracurriculars. Navaid said she believes there aren’t many opportunities provided by school specifically for grade-integrated socialization.
Prompted by questions from The Campanile, ASB held a discussion and collectively responded with information about the current situation. ASB said they agree there should be more grade-wide bonding events in lower grade levels, and are open to suggestions about what sorts of activities students would find interesting — however, they specifically vetoed running elimination in lower grade levels for logistical reasons.
While openness is the first step to implementing change, The Campanile urges ASB to take initiative in the organization of grade-wide bonding events. According to ASB Board Correspondent senior Caroline Furrier, who has been an ASB member for four years, the dedication to grade-wide bonding varies year to year based on the ambition of the class presidents.
The Campanile thinks the most effective approach to lower grade level bonding is to have several annual, class-wide events that the ASB President can work with class presidents to carry out. Once a tradition is established, there will be less dependency on individual class presidents to organize new events each year, which would then guarantee community building regardless of class leadership.
According to Furrier, another obstacle standing in the way of class-wide events is funding. Because ASB funds can only be used for activities that involve 51 percent or more of the student body, classes have to run their own fundraisers for class-exclusive activities. Creating annual class-wide events that each class has an opportunity to take part in — for example, a series of class picnics or friendly competitions within classes — would enable ASB to fund such activities.
Another aspect of underclassmen community building that could be improved is the way incoming freshmen are welcomed into Paly. Currently, Link Crew — a group of around 110 upperclassmen volunteers — runs freshman orientation and give incoming freshmen upperclassmen as guides whom they can connect with throughout high school. However, a lack of Link Crew bonding events results in weak connections between Link Crew upperclassmen and underclassmen.
ASB Treasurer senior Riya Kumar piloted Paly Pals this year, an organization that aims to build off of Link Crew by giving interested freshmen an opportunity to be paired with an upperclassman buddy. The upperclassmen buddies serve as a go-to person for freshman to eat lunch with, seek advice from and attend school performances and sporting events with. According to ASB, Paly Pals has potential for growth, though this year its participation was low.
The Campanile encourages upperclassmen to sign up for both Paly Pals and Link Crew in order to actively get involved with the shift toward a tight-knit community — currently, only about 10 to 20 percent of upperclassmen volunteer for Link Crew each year, according to ASB.
A warm school community is vital to creating a healthy environment for students’ well being and academic pursuits, both of which should be the school’s top priorities. In order to welcome all students, ASB and administrators must take community building more seriously, both in grade-wide events and cross-grade bonding.