Behind the Scenes of Homecoming

Maria Areyan Hernandez, Regina Allen and Bridgette Adu-Wadier

Homecoming, spirit week, football game parades; these are symbolic activities in the typical American high school experience, but have you ever considered how it all comes to be?

The T.C. Williams Leadership Team is responsible for all special events throughout the school year. They start planning before the beginning of each new school year.  

Leadership students spend part of their summer break brainstorming ideas for homecoming themes and deciding which committee, such as Spirit Week Committee and Public Relations Committee, they will be on for the next school months. Junior Aissatou Ndao, a Leadership member, joined leadership this year and decided to be in the Spirit Week Committee because she “always enjoyed promoting school spirit and participating in the [special] days.”

This year, their focus was on inclusion, making T.C. more of a community and making decisions to benefit the entire student body. Therefore, they created a series of Google forms to send to the student body, such as a poll for the top three themes for the homecoming dance and what kind of songs they would like the DJ to play.

This year’s top three options, which were narrowed down by leadership team in the previous summer were Disco, Paris and Around The World. Disco won with 50% of votes, making it this year’s homecoming theme.

“The students want to do the best they can for the campus. They have put out many different forms where we have [gotten] feedback and metrics — what people like the best for spirit week [and] the songs that went to the DJ. While we want as much as possible [to please everyone], we know we cannot make everyone happy, but we try,” Alicia Cordero said.

Cordero and Matthew Henry are both English teachers that also supervise the leadership team. Cordero have been an advisor for the past four years, but the program was started by Leadership founder Mary Ellen McCormick nine years ago.  

Cordero said, “Leadership students are responsible for planning, executing, and organizing [homecoming]. Myself and Mr. Henry are the adults, so we are managing emails from the DJ…confirming [with the] adults… that students have contacted that [the students] are legitimate and they are not doing this [just] for fun.”

Funds raised for homecoming festivities are not provided by TC, but solely from the leftover budget from the previous year’s homecoming and this year’s ticket sales. Which means they usually have about $10,000 to spend on everything, not including the DJ. This includes lighting, backdrops, photobooths, and giveaways. “Our [homecoming] dances are known to be one of the better dances. We do a pretty good job decorating and [we try] to get a DJ that most people would like,” said Cordero.

Almost every detail about TC homecoming dances are chosen by the Leadership team, except for one crucial part: the date. Contrary to popular belief, the date of the dance is chosen by the TC football team and the TC Athletic Department, not the Leadership team.

The TC football team looks at their home game schedule and considers different factors to decide a date. Some of these factors include the quality or the win-loss record of the opponent. This year, homecoming was chosen to be at the end of the first quarter. The Leadership team and the Athletic Director James Parker came to the conclusion that it will never happen again.

The placement of the dance made everything very stressful for students to plan for spirit week and at the same time focus on their classwork. Around the end of the quarter, students and teachers are rushing to get grades in for report cards that would come out the following week. Cordero said, “The students were very stressed because they had to stay after school for rehearsal of the pep rally, but it was also their last chance to retake a math test.”

Ndao said, “I… had to make sure to not procrastinate and stay on top of my work. Of course, just because I am in leadership, it doesn’t mean that I just perfectly balance the two. We are always informed in advance of what events we have coming up, so if I have to do classwork in advance, I [will] have the chance to [do it].”

Senior Caroline Sloan, a member of the Leadership Team and part of the Public Relations Committee, said, “Balancing school and leadership can be a challenge because leadership requires lots of out of school activities. However, since I also do sports after school I have learned how to manage my time and get everything done.”

This is only the beginning of all the events Leadership have ahead of them this school year. Although they don’t plan other dances, like Winter Formal and Senior Prom, they plan a wide variety of activities throughout the year. “I am… in charge of planning prom! I am super excited to make this prom a combination of what every senior wants and make sure that it’s a fun night,” said Sloan.

Right now, they are working on having themed days before Winter Break, and after break they want to have events that will relax students before midterm testing.

They are also working on including the students from the International Academy (IA) and the students at Minnie Howard. The main barrier for IA students is that many of them are not confident in speaking English.

“Many of these students go into a class like [Leadership] and think ‘Alright, I’m going into this class with a bunch of native speaker kids… How am I gonna make sure that my voice is being put out there?’” said Cordero.

Gabriel Elias is an IA teacher that in charge of the IA social media and his goal is to introduce IA students to these school activities, like Spirit Week, Pep Rallies and Homecoming, and to increase participation in them, especially because these are events that did not take place in where they come from.

Leadership students are always working hard and trying to improve their work every year. “If I could improve something in leadership [I would try to get] the whole school… more involved into spirit week and the dances because when more people get involved everything is more fun,” said Sloan.

Ndao said, “I would like to possibly install competitions among the classes in TC Williams. We have the poor old spirit stick that many people aren’t aware of, and I just think restarting the tradition of competing for the Spirit Stick among each class will continue to strengthen TC.”

A message that the Leadership team would like everyone at TC to know is that, “…if there’s something that you are disappointed or so upset about, the better thing to do… it’s just… maybe come to us and talk about it.”