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Westfield High School

       Do you have something you’re proud to be part of? A group? A team? A club? A school? To find out if people are proud to be part of Westfield, we interviewed students and staff about school pride and how it can be improved. 

       Through discussion with students, we learned there are three different groups at Westfield: Those who foster immense school pride, those who are indifferent, and then those who dislike the school. 

       Syna Lodaya, 11, described a feeling of general school pride when she stated, “With spirit days and International Night I can really feel the Westfield pride.” 

       Sirad Abdi, 11, mentioned a feeling of pride in certain groups connected with Weststild, remarking, “I’m part of MSU and ASU and they really give a sense of community.”

       Abdi is not the only student who feels pride in the smaller communities of Westfield she’s a part of. 

       Estelle Ober, 11, expressed, “I feel pride in being part of individual groups but as an entire school there’s not a sense of pride or lack of pride, it’s just indifference.”

       Many others have a similar dispassion when it comes to Westfield as whole, too.

       “I’m pretty neutral about this school. I don’t think other students have much school pride because it’s hard to identify with places,” says Drake Vanya, 12.

       Matteo Ugolini, 11, agreed, admitting, “I don’t have any feelings towards or against Westfield, I’m in the middle.”

       Aaron Sulkin, English teacher, wasn’t surprised by the indifference of opinion about Westfield, stating, “I think school pride is a byproduct of community and I feel like phone culture has disrupted community culture and it makes us bad at showing up in real life for people, which is what school pride requires.”

      Nikki Warren, English teacher, agreed that there’s sometimes a lack of connection among students when she said, “I think that some students feel connected to the school, but there is a large subset of the school population that just doesn’t feel a connection to their classmates and teachers.”

       Staff acknowledging the lack of school pride and connection amongst students exhibits that it’s real and prominent enough to be noticed. 

       While a large majority of the student body reported feelings of indifference regarding Westfield, Justin Short, 11, explained why some people dislike our school: “A lot of issues in society are not being taken into account in Fairfax Country or the Westfield school system.”

       Naysa Piper-Fisher, 11, also commented “There are some teachers who break you down day by day, and there are some students who do that too. There’s no real punishment for it so it just continues and I don’t like that kind of environment.”

       Failure to address problems that arise inside the classroom can frustrate both students and teachers, and inaction to issues outside of school that affect what happens inside schools certainly doesn’t elicit school pride. 

       The idea that the Westfield community, as Piper-Fisher mentioned, and not just a flawed school system is one of the reasons there’s a lack of school pride is an interesting one. We asked students if they feel the student body itself is part of the problem and got varied responses, most agreeing that students definitely have something to do with it.

       Short expressed, “A lot of the issues that are in schools are facilitated by students; the teachers and faculty can be part of it but in the end it is a place with a thousand students versus a few hundred teachers.” 

       With this idea in mind, we conducted interviews and found that the student body is largely responsible for three main points that affect school pride: Participation, respect, and reputation.

       In regards to participation, Sarah Van Buren, 11, pointed out that, “For no reason people don’t want to be part of the school spirit. If we had more people that participated it would be better, but they don’t, so we aren’t making any progress.”

       Abdi echoed Van Buren’s statement when she remarked, “We have so many spirit weeks but nobody dresses up. That makes it so that more people don’t participate because they want to fit in. If there’s more participation other people will be willing to engage.”

       More often than not, it’s easy to pick out the students who take part in spirit weeks because there are so few people who participate, making those who do stand out substantially. However, for events like International Night when a large number of students dress up, everyone stands out, fostering a community of individuals and igniting a greater sense of pride. 

       Participation is something that happens out in the open in front of everyone, but the interactions that occur between individuals is just as important to promoting school pride. It’s difficult for people to be proud of a community where there isn’t mutual respect amongst the group.

       Sarah Murphy, History teacher, mentioned that participation can even be impacted by the respect people feel there given, stating, “I do think that a student will not participate if they don’t feel safe or respected.”

       So are there issues with respect in Westfield? Many students think so.

       Vanya remarked, “I think respect for staff and teachers is owed and a lot of students don’t always give that respect.”

       Piper-Fiser added onto this idea, mentioning that students also need to respect each other when she noted, “There’s a lot of talking behind people’s backs and snarky remarks and I think that has the biggest influence not making this school feel comfortable for me.” 

       Recognizing that the Westfield community as a whole needs to respect each other is vital. Not just students towards teachers and vice versa, but also students towards each other. 

       The ideas of participation and respect are also part of what builds Westfield’s reputation. If there is little participation and respect within a school, it’s not going to have a great reputation, which can lead to people not being proud to go there. According to students, it’s also the day to day occurrences that influence Wetfield’s reputation. 

       Aliyah Khaliqi, 11, disclosed that, “People vape in the bathrooms and there are a lot of fights, so people don’t always have a high opinion of the school.”

       These aren’t uncommon developments at Westfield, often happening on a daily basis and contributing to a sense of notoriety at the school.

       Harini Ramanathan, 11, summed up what many people believe when she said,  “I think Westfield as a whole can improve on our portrayal and how we represent our school.” 

       Generally speaking, it’s the students who build a school’s reputation and it’s their responsibility to make it a good one.

       Although it’s clear there’s a lack of school pride, Westfield pride is still present. There are lots of things both students and teachers do now to show they’re proud to be part of this school, but many more that can be done to foster an even better sense of community and open the gates to make proud bulldogs. 

       Ober mentioned one thing we can do to bring Westfield together: “The school needs to have more opportunities for full school involvement; they’ll do the pep rallies but seeing them it’s very select, certain, people that you already know are going to be in pep rally.”

       Ober also remarked, “We need more activities where everyone can get involved in something and the promotion of all sorts of different activities, not just football.”

       Warren agreed with this, stating, “I think if we make more of an effort as a school, both students and staff, to encourage and support all groups, grades, interests, sports, arts, and we get them in the spotlight, I think that will encourage students to be more involved.”

       Full school involvement brings students and staff together and promotes pride in all aspects of Westfield. It also allows students to get to know people that they wouldn’t otherwise have met, something that is vital to fostering unity since Westfield is a fairly large school. 

       Creativity is another aspect that brings about school pride.

       Murphy mentioned, “What we need is to have more innovative ideas like International Night and BSU spirit days because they’re different and they work.”  

       Spirit days that promote individuality stimulate much more participation than ones that don’t. Allowing students to be themselves and just get creative is what can really make people proud to be part of Westfield because they can be their true selves.

       Of course, for more innovative and creative ideas there must be more student participation as well, both in the planning and execution processes of activities. 

       Eliana Sherenco, 11, remarked, “People think that they’re too cool to participate, but it’s actually just really fun.”

       As students begin to recognize the excitement school spirit elicits, it will be easier to gather and incorporate new ideas and will contribute to a prouder Westfield. 

       To generate excitement, Van Buren hopes for better promotion of spirit days and activities, stating, “It’s like a ripple effect, the more students that do it the more students will begin to participate.”

       Spirit days aren’t the only way to engage at Westfield according to Abdi, who states that extracurriculars are a great way of participating and reminding us that, “Building a community and meeting people that are like minded helps everyone have fun.”

       There are so many roles people can play at Westfield, there’s something for everyone. All it takes is choosing to actively engage instead of passively watching what others do. Participation is an important aspect the Westfield community can work on to develop school pride. 

       In regards to respect and building a strong reputation, there are a few things that can be done.

       Vanya mentions looking through multiple perspectives, stating, “I think both students and teachers need to be more sympathetic of what the other side is going through and realize we’re all people and trying to get by.”

       Working together is key to making Westfield a better school. It’s not students versus teachers, it’s students and teachers versus the problems we want to solve.

       Ammeerah Byfeild, 10, dove deeper into how we can work together, mentioning, “Students can listen and teachers can enforce the rules.”

       Lightfoot also specified, stating, “Teachers should check in more with students.”

       Khaliqi reminded students of some fairly simple things they can do as well, remarking, “Students should definitely chill with the fighting and vaping.”

       Kimorha Hardy, 12, added simply, “Watch what you say.”

       These small ways of showing respect are what can elicit immense Westfield pride, both in teachers and students. Practicing them will foster a greater sense of belonging to all, paving the way for students to be proud of the community they are a part of. 

       Many people also agree that school pride has to do with attitude and focus. 

       Lightfoot highlighted that we should be focused on “trying to make the school better rather than thinking about why it’s not good.”

       Warren agreed, asserting, “Ultimately I think it has to do with attitude.”

       “Putting policies in place to address actual issues instead of grubhub.” Is what Short believes Westfield should be focused on.

       These ideas accentuate what can be done to improve school pride while Westfield is working to better itself. Keeping a good attitude while making necessary changes and focusing on what matters most to the bulldog community is a big part of what will make Westfield proud in the long run. 

       Developing a distinguished sense of pride throughout Westfield will take work, but it’s one hundred percent achievable.   

       Christy Jenkins, Math teacher, declared what will produce the most school pride: “If you’re going to be a student, be a good student. If you’re going to be a teacher, be a good teacher. Be the best you can be everyday.”

       As each individual does their best to be their best, Westfield as a whole will develop into the finest school it can be, engendering an elite form of school pride that will flourish.