“Spirit Week” Returns to Dunellen Leading Up to Thanksgiving Game By Angelo Facciponti-Mennella

With the participation of students and staff, Dunellen High School held its 2016-2017 school year ‘Spirit Week’ from Thursday, November 17, to Wednesday, November 23, leading up to the Thanksgiving day football game. A series of events and activities take place in these five days to boost excitement and motivation within students and athletes, all culminating at Wednesday’s pep rally.

DHS has kept this tradition for decades, existing for as long as the Thanksgiving game has been around. Many current teachers as DHS were once students here as well, including Mr. DeNapoli, member of the coaching committee of Dunellen’s football team, and former member of the Dunellen Destroyers. “We used to march from Columbia Park back to the school. The band, the team, the cheerleader would march after victories. That stopped several years ago when they started doing night games,” DeNapoli commented. Thanksgiving week grew exponentially in the school since DeNapoli’s time, as he was not around for spirit days or a pep rally. According to him and former student, Mr. Hummel, now physical education teacher at DHS, the week had a full focus on sports. DeNapoli said, “I remember having events. We had a basketball game against faculty...there was a softball game in the spring against the faculty...but no spirit week like they do now.” According to Hummel, events of that time were “less of a social event”.

The annual ‘spirit week’ consists of five ‘spirit days’ where students dress in a particular fashion as a demonstration of school spirit. The style changed daily to fit a new theme. For many students, it was an enjoyable break from the tedium of school days.

During “Throwback Thursday, students wore the fashions from designated time periods: Seniors as the 1990’s, Juniors as the 80’s, Sophomores 70’s, and Freshmen 60’s. Many hippies and leather coats could be seen up and down the hallways as students enthusiastically represented their decade.

Friday was “hat day”. Participants brought out their best creativity in hat form. Usually against school policy, DHS granted students this day to expressively break conduct. Pupils could grab their favorite baseball cap, but some decided to took it a step further with top hats, cowboy hats, and holiday hats playing Christmas music.

Monday was “Pajama Pants Day”. As the name implies, students were permitted to arrive at school in their bed apparel, to a reasonable extent. Full body “onesies” were a popular choice, many featuring animals and animated characters. Students enjoyed the opportunity to wear an effortless and cozy outfit for a day.

On Tuesday, peers paired up for “Twin Day”, otherwise known as “Dynamic Duo Day”. Two (or more) students dressed identically, or dressed to fit a theme of their choosing. The girls participating in the powder puff game later that day donned matching shirts to support their classes, recognizable among the masses through the day. Other pairs found matching shoes, hats, and costumes to mirror their counterparts.

Wednesday topped off the week of school spirit appropriately with a “School Spirit Day”. Each class was given a unique color to unanimously wear: Seniors wore black, Juniors wore red, Sophomores white, and Freshmen bore white clothing, all of which representing Dunellen and its Destroyers emblem. The contending colors all converged at the pep rally before being released for Thanksgiving break.

“Some kids are not into it, maybe not into the pep rally, maybe they’re into something else. I guess they’re trying to add things that everybody will enjoy.” stated Mr. DeNapoli on why the kids are motivated to participate in Spirit Week. There is a wide variety in events to persuade students to participate in any way, big or small. DeNapoli values students as the pushing force in Spirit Week. They will take part as long as it is “in their hearts.”

Along with the daily spirit days, the school held after school events and games for students to further engage themselves and express their school spirit.

Any student could bid for a senior Monday night at Rent-a-Senior. Volunteers from the Senior class raised money for their graduation by auctioning themselves off to be ‘rented’. Bids started at three dollars and climbed as high as fifty-five. Rented Seniors must wear and do anything the bidders demand. Consistent with years prior, there were numerous senior boys with makeup and dresses parading around school. According to the seniors, this was a successful fundraiser, but more participants would have been desirable.

Girls of the Junior and Senior classes competed in the annual Powder Puff game on Tuesday the 22nd. After four 10-minute quarters, a final score of 8-6 spelled out victory for the Senior girls. Both teams were formed and coached by other student athletes. According to participants, it was a fun way, more relaxed way to celebrate football and the subsequent Thanksgiving game, as well as involve a wider range of students.

The pinnacle of the week, and the backbone of this tradition, was the Thanksgiving day football game. The Destroyers rounded off the season with a bout against the Middlesex Blue Jays on Thursday morning. The bleachers at Columbia Park were stacked with onlookers, including many former students and athletes returning to their home town. Dunellen lost with an ending score of 29-14.

While the Thanksgiving game was the finale of the week, the pep rally was the highlight of the week within the school week. Students of all grade levels locked horns in various competitions. Participants in each spirit day of every grade were tallied up and ranked. Sophomores snatched the win in the banner contest, in which all classes made posters supporting the Thanksgiving game. The coin war, formerly known as penny war, had students scrounging up loose change to raise the most amount of cash within the week. This years’ victor, the Senior class, was awarded with the stockpile from all four grades. Other events included cheerleader routines and the all-popular Tug-of-War tournament. “To lead up to (Thursday’s game), I think it peaks during the rally” claims DeNapoli.

Dunellen pours much attention into its well-known team and uses this time of the year to build up hype and publicity inside and outside of the town. “Spirit Week” is also a memorable and lively time of students’ experiences in DHS; a much-needed hiatus from the normal routine of school.

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