Tag Archives: back-to-school

Homecoming

September 16, 2018 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and contributed

The origins of the first homecoming celebration are unclear. Baylor University, Southwestern University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Missouri have all made claims, dating back to around 1910, that they originated the concept. 

Regardless of when and where it started at the college level, within a few decades high schools across the country were hosting fall celebrations tied to a football game and dance that welcomed graduates back to visit their alma maters.

Although certain traditional elements like the election of royalty and a pre-game pep rally can be found at nearly all homecomings, among local schools, there’s no one right way to celebrate this event. 

“We do quite a few different things; we’ve made homecoming more into a weeklong celebration rather than a Friday night celebration at a football game,” says Ralston High School Spirit Squads Sponsor Jordan Engel. 

Volleyball and softball games are incorporated, a “Mr. RHS” pageant for male students is a popular tradition, “spirit week” activities, and a pep rally are part of the fun, Engel explains. The middle school hosts its own spirit week concurrently, and in past years the school has organized activities for the residents of Ralston from a recreational fun run to a bonfire with s’mores. “We try to change it up each year for families of the students and the community,” she says. 

Jeremy Maskel, Ralston School District’s director of external relations and engagement, says the community involvement is especially important for the small, close-knit city. 

“I’m not native to the area but when I joined the district it really struck me—the amount of alumni who continue to live in district and send their own children to Ralston [High School],” he says. “That intergenerational pride is something I haven’t seen in any other school community I’ve been connected to. Last year we did our first alumni and family tailgate before the homecoming [football] game and we’re looking for ways we can continue to bring alumni in the community back to really celebrate the district and the high school during that week.”

Westside High School has made its homecoming week a districtwide event, says Meagan Van Gelder, a member of the board of education and immediate past-president of Westside Alumni Association. She was also the 1987 Westside homecoming queen.

“Part of our goal is to keep the connection alive for our graduations, so we have tried to create a pathway for alumni to return home, and one way we do that is [with] a homecoming tailgate the Friday before the football game. In the past we had it in the circular area of the parking lot. Recently we have moved it to the grassy area on the alumni house with a nice buffet dinner. There is a parade in the neighborhood around the high school. There is a pep rally that follows the parade, and [that] is when they announce the homecoming court. There are fireworks after the game.”

Millard School District has three high schools, and each organizes its own homecoming activities. Millard West Principal Greg Tiemann says, “We’ve kept the week relatively the same since the building opened in 1995.” In conjunction with the designated football game, the Millard West Student Council coordinates themed dress-up days, a pep rally, and the elections for junior and senior homecoming royalty. The activities are mainly for the students.

Millard North’s student council also coordinates a homecoming week featuring themed attire days, a dance the week of the football game, and other schoolwide events. This high school, however, has abandoned the practice of electing a homecoming court. 

“As a ‘No Place for Hate’ school, and out of concern for protecting students from being bullied or excluded, Millard North has not recognized royalty since 2010,” says principal Brian Begley. “Instead, they make a concerted effort to engage and involve all students in homecoming activities, including those with special needs.”

Bellevue Public Schools’ two high schools coordinate some activities but most of the festivities are school-specific. Amanda Oliver, the district’s director of communications, says parent and student groups are involved in planning.

“Bellevue East has brought back an old tradition, a homecoming parade, the last two years,” she says. “We’ve seen a lot of alumni and former staff, long-time community members.”

Bellevue West now hosts a Unity Rally at the beginning of the school year. Although not technically a homecoming event, “It allows us to feature and highlight all our schools and all our kids, and we’ve seen the community piece behind that,” Oliver says.

Elkhorn also has two high schools that plan homecoming activities independently.

 “We have spirit days, a trivia competition about the school, a powder puff game and pep rally that introduces the homecoming court, the cheerleaders and dance team do a special dance and cheer at halftime together, Pinnacle Bank has a pep rally with hotdogs before the game, and the dance is Saturday night,” says Brooke Blythe, Elkhorn South’s cheer coordinator. She adds. “The middle schoolers always have their own section in the stands at the football game.”

According to Omaha Public Schools Marketing Director Monique Farmer, students at each of the district’s seven high schools organize their own homecoming events—and alumni are invited to them at many schools—and create unique traditions. Benson holds a classroom door decorating contest, Bryan has a pep rally at the stadium, Burke concentrates on targeted inclusion for special education students, and North and Northwest host parades. Last year, J.P. Lord School, an all-ages school for students with a variety of complex needs, hosted what Farmer believes to be its first homecoming dance. Parents were welcome and the evening’s culmination was the coronation of a king and queen. 

“That was pretty neat to see,” Farmer says.

Westside alumni association Immediate Past-president & 1987 Westside homecoming queen


 

Written By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Photos contributed by Glenwood Opinion-Tribune

Homecoming is a huge celebration for this town of 5,300, which more than doubles in size for one fall weekend each year.

“I’ve been in other school districts, and it’s frequently a presentation of the king and queen at the football game and a dance afterwards. This town, this week, is amazing,” says Glenwood Schools Superintendent Devin Embray.

Beyond the coronation of a king and queen, Glenwood recognizes its 25-year reunion class as the “honor class.” Most of the class members return for this weekend in which they are honored at the pep rally and circle the town square twice during the parade. They are also a part of the Saturday-night coronation ceremony, as the past student body president gives a speech to the senior class that is similar to a graduation speech.

While many homecoming parades feature the high school classes, clubs, and athletics along with a few politicians, Glenwood’s parade includes at least 180 entries, with class floats from kindergarten through seniors; class reunion floats from five-year through 50-year and higher, entries from homeschoolers and special interest groups such as tractor clubs, and more. 

Coronation is open to the public and includes the presentation of pages, scribes, and gift bearers along with the king and queen. The prior year’s king and queen come back and sit in their thrones before turning them over to the newly-crowned monarchs.

“I can’t even explain the coronation—you have to see it to believe it,” says high school principal Richard Hutchinson.

Glenwood’s homecoming also includes the Outcasts, which was started by a group of non-native residents who felt like outsiders. This group now crowns their own king and queen each year, has a float and royalty car in the parade, and holds a separate dinner and dance.

“There’s so many people within the town that play a big part in this,” says Hutchinson. “The band parents have been the ones that oversee the king and queen nominations. There are parents in charge of the coronation. We have [community members] that oversee the parade…It is a community event.”


This article was printed in the Fall 2018 edition of Family Guide.

From the Editor

July 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fall, for me, is full of guilty pleasures. Back-to-school time means purchasing new pencils, pens, and notebooks. Cooler weather means cooking homemade soup and gingerbread. Halloween means gothic novels to read, gothic-inspired movies to watch, and candy to eat.

Fall also means high school football, and homecoming celebrations, for many people in the Midwest. Anthony Flott reports on several schools that have switched from traditional football helmets to Ridell Speedflex helmets, which include tracking capabilities so that coaches and trainers can detect concussions faster.

Kara Schweiss reports on homecoming celebrations around the metro, from schools where the event is mostly for the kids, to those where the event includes activities for alumni and community members. As a student at a high school in southeastern Iowa, I never thought about the term “homecoming” until my freshman year of college. My school just crowned a queen at the game and hosted a dance.

I now understand the meaning of the term “homecoming,” because I live in Glenwood, Iowa, which boasts one of the largest homecoming celebrations in America. 

A sidebar on this is included in Kara’s article, but from my standpoint, homecoming is a sight to behold.

Parade entries assemble outside my house. Parking comes at a premium—the three available spots in my driveway are reserved by Wednesday of homecoming week, and filled by 11 a.m. Friday in anticipation of the 1 p.m. parade. Dining out is a moot point, even ordering a pizza to carry out takes two hours.

Still, homecoming provides memories for many, myself included. I hope this fall edition of Family Guide conjures good memories for you.


This letter was printed in the Fall 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Daisy Hutzell-Rodman is the managing editor of Family Guide, a publication of Omaha Magazine LTD. She can be reached at daisy@omahamagazine.com.

Please Open the School Doors

August 16, 2013 by

I enjoy my kids a lot. But by the end of summer, I’m exhausted, and the kids are bored. We’re all ready for school to start. I’m the wacky woman with nose pressed to the window of the school (like the crazy lady from the Target Black Friday ads)—ready for school to open.

I’m not beneath suggesting my kids are smarter than me. It’s not a stretch. I’m okay with that. My kids need/demand a few things: attention, intellectual stimulation, and activity. In short, I cannot keep up with them during the summer.

They are smarter, faster, and stronger. I can’t find enough to keep them engaged and entertained. And what’s with their physical recovery time? They could run a marathon, then announce, “Mom, I’m hungry.” Or “Mom I’m bored now.” Or “Mom, now what can we do?” Funny. Cleaning their rooms, mowing the lawn, or doing their laundry never seems to cure their boredom.

Could someone please open the doors for school? Please?

This summer we went on several road trips. We went camping. We let the kids stay up and then sleep in. We took full advantage of their spare time and had them help in the yard and do their own laundry. We had lazy days and even got caught in the rain a few times.

And so, soon after dropping my kids off for school, I want them back. I’ve just had so much fun with them this summer. I want them to hug me and tell me all about their day. Because, in the summer, I know about their days—I’m with them. Now I don’t know what’s going on all day. I try to get them to let me go to school with them, but I guess there are rules against that.

Summer is all about cool, new experiences and adventures. Back-to-school is all about seeing old friends and making new friends. And turning those brilliant minds back into high gear. Projects, essays, concerts, and games await us.

I must admit, I’m dreading the ridiculous morning routine for school. Can’t we start school a little later? Like, say, maybe noonish?

Why on earth (of all schools) would my district have the middle schools starting the earliest? Doesn’t the school board know we’re dealing with amateur teens here? Chemicals are literally brewing in their brains. They can’t function, and you’re going to hit them with a leaving time of 7:20 a.m.?

Let the “KIDS, GET UP, TIME TO GO LEARN!” fights begin.

And so school begins and summer comes to an abrupt end, as does the conflicted, intense, emotional battle of wanting to schlep our kids off to school while fighting the urge to never let them go.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Starting a New School

Starting a new school can be both exciting and scary. From kindergarten to high school, we all want to feel accepted and fit in with our peers. Boys Town Pediatrics offers parents advice on how to help relieve some of their child’s anxieties and prepare him/her for a successful school year.

Talk with Your Child

When you are ready to tell your child about starting a new school, keep it positive. Do your homework and find out what sporting activities, clubs, or field trips are available at the new school. If your child seems nervous, talk it through. Once you know what worries your child, such as a bus ride, transitioning to classrooms, or trying out for a new team, you can offer helpful ideas and suggestions.

Time the Move

Whether you are moving to a new state or starting a new school down the street, timing can have a big impact on your child’s emotions and social behavior. Try to start the new school in fall with the new school year. Chances are your child may not be the only new student. Plus, your child will get to know the school’s routine from day one with the rest of his or her classmates, making the transition a little easier.

If you are moving to a new community, try to plan your move as early as possible, before school starts. This way, your child can adjust to the new surroundings and make a few neighborhood friends before the first day of school.

Take a Tour

Call ahead and schedule a tour of the new school. Some schools will offer an open house. This will give your child a chance to meet the teacher(s) and explore the cafeteria, gymnasium, music room, computer lab, and other areas of interest. For older children, ask to see an example of a daily class schedule and a list of extracurricular activities offered by the school.

Allow Time to Adjust

Some children can jump right into a new schedule and start making new friends right away. For others, the change is more difficult. If you feel your child is not adjusting well to the new school, you may consider talking to the school counselor. Find activities at school and outside of school that your child likes. Arrange play dates with school, church, and other friends. And most importantly, keep your communication open and allow your child to talk about his or her feelings.

Making Friends

Your child may worry about fitting in and making new friends at his new school. You can help ease the worries by:

  • Making your child realize his/her own strengths
  • Keeping a sense of humor about yourself and your shortcomings
  • Listening without criticism
  • Being kind, giving compliments, waving to a friend, and opening the door for someone
  • Showing understanding and empathy to others

During this transition period, continue to encourage your child and offer support. Over time, your child will begin to adjust to his/her surroundings and gain positive memories and new friends.

Fashion: Field Trip

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Gigi and Sofia Shoemaker, Linnea and Dylan Vaughn, Ty Sitzmann, and Mia Spinello of Omaha model their favorite back-to-school fashions as they explore the Desert Dome on an outing to Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Special thanks to Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.