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Pittsburg High students seek to rekindle school spirit, event participation

Pittsburg High’s Mental Health Awareness Spirit Week flyer, which was held in May on campus. Some students say events are announced at the last minute, which contributes to low student participation. Photo credit: Associated Student Body Board on Instagram.

On one recent day, some of my classmates at Pittsburg High School and I were discussing the high cost of attending school football games.

I shared that I felt the tickets were overpriced and that along with other events weren’t worth the expense. This comment upset one of my classmates who is involved in the school’s leadership team. She passionately explained that the team works hard to make events affordable and fun, but not everyone participates. 

As our discussion continued, I began to understand her perspective and realized that I was one of those students who rarely participated in school events and activities. This encounter made me curious about the underlying reasons for low student participation.

Initially, I thought many students avoided participating because they found some events strange or unappealing. For instance, one of the spirit week themes in May was for seniors to dress like elderly people, juniors like adults, sophomores like teenagers and freshmen like kids. Not many students participated, and in my case, I simply forgot about it. This made me wonder if others also missed out due to forgetfulness or lack of interest. 

I suspected that the pandemic might have played a role in students’ reluctance to socialize, as we had spent a significant amount of time indoors. However, with things improving in 2024, I felt it was important to explore whether these factors still influenced student engagement.

Despite these other possible reasons, I still believed many students found the prices too high. And the widespread use of cellphones seemed to detract from the collective school experience, as students often preferred to engage with their tech devices rather than participate in school activities. 

With so many possible answers, I headed out and asked a diverse mix of students at Pittsburg High: Do you feel school spirit is declining and if so, what do you think is the reasons why? (Some students only provided first names in responses.)

Student voices

Atziri Lozano, 17, 11th grade: “I sometimes attend events, but I often don’t participate because I never know what’s going on. It feels like events are announced at the last minute.”

Nathalye Aguayo, 17, 11th grade: “I’ve only participated in three events during my time here and they were OK. As for spirit week, I stopped participating because it felt awkward when not many students were participating.”

Marisa Verduzco, 17, 11th grade: “The music at events can be a problem. It should include popular songs and cater to different tastes, including Spanish and Indian music. Also, we need more events for underclassmen.”

Evelyn Magdaleno, 16, 10th grade: “I love the events, but sometimes they are expensive and not very exciting. It also depends on who you go with.”

Leopoldo Hernandez, 15, 9th grade: “I’ve only attended one event. I didn’t like it because the music wasn’t to my taste; so my friends and I spent the time on our phones.”

Diego, 16, 10th grade: “I go to all the events, but don’t participate in spirit week because I never know when it’s happening.”

Lupe, 15, 9th grade “I don’t participate in spirit week because it doesn’t interest me, and I don’t have a ride to events that is why I didn’t attend any this year.”

Student leadership assessments

Jenesis de Jesus,17, 12th grade, Associated Student Body Board (ASB) president 2024-25

De Jesus admits she has seen a decline in school spirit, especially in recent years. 

“Before the pandemic, there was a stronger sense of community,” she said. “Now, many students are more interested in their phones than in school activities.” 

Courtnei Calhoun,17, 12th grade, former ASB member

“School spirit at Pittsburg High School is not what it used to be,” she said. “I’ve been here for three years and as I prepare to become a senior, I’ve noticed fewer students participating in events compared to the past, as seen in videos from previous years.”

Along with de Jesus and Calhoun, I spoke more in depth with Pittsburg High’s ASB Treasurer Andrew Phillips. The 17-year-old 12th grader, who plans major events like homecoming and dances, said he does believe school spirit has suffered since COVID-19.

“While there is some spirit for football and other sports, fewer students are interested in lunchtime activities and other events,” Phillips said. He went on to break down some of the areas he sees are impacting the decline.

Engagement – “The biggest challenge is making events interesting enough for students to attend. Large events draw crowds, but smaller ones don’t.”

Feedback – “Students feel some events are poorly planned or advertised. For instance, homecoming and the annual Pitchella (DJ’d dance) were criticized for being too expensive and not meeting expectations.”

Communication – “Announcements are crucial, but if teachers don’t play them, students miss out. We also make posters, but they don’t catch students’ attention. We have an Instagram account, but sometimes we forget to post about events. Next year, we’re going to try new methods.”

Finding solutions 

Proposed by Phillips and de Jesus. Together they offered:

Leadership participation: Encourage more leadership students to attend and promote events. Their involvement can motivate other students to join in.

Inclusive planning: Design events that include a variety of activities to appeal to different interests. This ensures that no student feels left out.

Better communication: We need more ways to get announcements out. We’ve tried talking to teachers about showing the daily announcements so students know what’s coming up for spirit week and lunchtime or after-school events. We’d like to utilize campus “promo” screens and other methods to ensure everyone knows about upcoming events. This can help increase overall participation.  

Affordable events: Keep event prices low to make it easier for all students to attend. This can help ensure that cost is not a barrier to participation.

*Additional resources:

Education Week

The Shaker Bison school newspaper

Wendy Hernandez will be a 12th grader at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg.


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