Green Wave of spirit to wash over stadium

Summerville High School sophomore Mirendra Scott, along with other students on the Principal Leadership Council, work on posters Thursday in preparation for today’s pep rally. Summerville plays Goose Creek in football tonight.

More than 2,800 students at Summerville High School will board buses today and ride across town to Memorial Stadium for a one-of-a-kind celebration set to last the entire school day.

The event is as much about raising excitement for the football season's first home game tonight, against the area's top-ranked Goose Creek High School, as it is about trying to recapture feelings of days gone by.

Although many teachers and students have been in on the planning for the event, they point to the school's new leadership as the inspiration behind it.

Principal Buddy Chapel, who moved to Summerville from Allentown, Pa., said he quickly realized he was taking the helm of "a large school with a small-town atmosphere."

In May, when he met with student leaders to hear their concerns, "the kids talked to me about wanting to increase school spirit," he said.

School officials said that spirit has been waning for years.

Home of the Wave

Once upon a time, if you lived in Summerville, you were a Green Wave.

On Fridays in the fall, you proudly wore your green and gold, bought a spirit ribbon from a cheerleader and headed to the stadium to cheer on the team.

But over time, Summerville grew, and by the 1980s, folks started talking about the need for a second high school in lower Dorchester County to ease the crowding at one of the state's largest high schools.

In 1992, Fort Dorchester High School opened its doors, and 16 years later, a third high school, Ashley Ridge, was added.

As one might expect, things began to change at Summerville High.

"Back in the day, people who went to Summerville High School were here their whole life," said junior Darius Baker. "That's not the case anymore."

School allegiance started to wane.

"A lot of our kids have parents who went here," said teacher Sarah Hudson. "And when they talk about it, they are sort of nostalgic. ... It was the only high school in town. Everybody was a Greenwave."

Changing priorities

Teachers Donna Hogg and Jennifer Plane, who have both taught there for 11 years, said they also noticed a decline in school spirit over the years. A 1986 graduate, Plane remembers how things used to be.

"Kids' priorities have changed so much," she said. "There is so much more to do now."

As a middle-schooler, senior Hanna Zimmerman looked forward to high school because she thought there was a lot of school spirit, but "in my ninth-grade year, when it was spirit week, everybody was like, 'This is stupid,' " she said.

Because the school does not have a venue big enough to hold everyone, participation in pep rallies declined.

"We've never had the whole student body in the gym," said Plane, who is in charge of pep rallies as the student council adviser. To keep the crowd manageable, students paid $1 or $2 to attend, which was later donated to a charitable organization.

Students were always full of excuses about why they didn't want to go, Hogg said.

"They said it was too loud or they couldn't hear," she said. "Some wanted to avoid the crowd."

A new beginning

Today's pep rally caps a spirit week that included wearing red on Tuesday in support of a schoolwide blood drive and themed outfits the rest of the week.

It will start with a special program on the schools' Wave TV show, followed by the distribution of spirit items.

At the stadium, cheerleaders and the band will stir up excitement as athletes of all fall sports -- tennis, cross country, football, swimming and volleyball -- are introduced.

"This is the first time we've ever tried to do something like this," Hudson said. "It will be a traditional pep rally in a stadium setting."

Back at the school afterward, the balance of the day will be filled with a Club Carnival, a Read-a-thon, dodgeball tournament, ROTC exhibitions, an academic fair, the opportunity to learn about winter and spring sports, games, music and more.

"The whole day will focus on school spirit and what we have to offer," Hudson said.

Sophomore Stephanie Long has already seen a difference.

"You see more school spirit around," she said.

To bolster attendance at football games, school officials have planned themes for the games and have created a new touchdown dance. They also resurrected the "oak tree" student seating area.

"The oak tree was the student section forever and when I was in ninth grade, they moved the band under the tree," Zimmerman said. "That was when people stopped going to games. When we met with Mr. Chapel, we told him we wanted the oak tree back."

In fact, Plane said, there is a movement to paint an oak tree on a wall in the gym to denote the student area for basketball games and to make a mobile oak tree to take to away games and other sporting events.

Although today's event is the only pep rally this fall, organizers plan "pep lunches."

"It all starts with this pep rally," Plane said.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or on Facebook.