Monday was the first day of school, but the last day that Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. high school and middle school students had a free pass to run off any remaining summertime energies with cheers, chants and competition.
It got loud in the gymnasium of the high school as each class showed up wearing their designated colored t-shirts to enjoy a day filled with inter-class games and a pep rally between introductory lecture and lunch periods.
The Student Government Association (SGA) members dressed in costumes, and colored their hair. Members spent last week decorating the halls, and ramping up the, “Super Mario World” Nintendo video “Game On” theme, with colorful posters, lots of balloons, and super glittery signs, to designate each class’s sections in the bleachers.
SGA sponsor this year, Lindsey Summerland, said, “It’s about getting spirit up for our school.”
Summerland came to Port St. Joe from LaGrange, GA and said she’d never been a part of any school that did a first day celebration.
“It’s all about letting them be loud with their grade level and bonding through their colors. It’s a great way to get started,” she said. “It also helps the new kids get used to what is expected.”
President of the SGA, senior, Hannah Fulk said, “It’s about beautifying the school and getting new and old students totally feeling excited. Dread is a part of every first day, so the point is to spread the excitement so someone who dreads school doesn’t.”
Bryson Lee, a member of SGA, said that school spirit means, “Everyone is going out of their way to come together,” he said, referring to the executive board’s cooperation during its workweek and the high school’s approximately 80 students per grade-level.
The program began with a welcome speech, from Fulk, in which, she said, “All of you students have taught me. It’s our job to inspire those after us one party chant at a time.”
The Pledge of Allegiance was led by NJROTC and a rules video, created by SGA covered not being tardy, phone use, the school’s zero-tolerance drug policy, plus public displays of affection, fighting, and dress code.
Then the senior high games, junior games and finally, school-wide games began.
Spectators thought students would never tire of tug-of-war, but other activities included a relay race in which kids ran to a chair to pop balloons and another that students slid friends along the floor in sleeping bags. Hungry Yoshi, based on the board game, Hungry Hippos, was also a hit, and involved students, being pushed on roller carts and collecting plastic balls.
“It’s an easy first day,” said one middle school teacher standing by, “and the best way to get rid of nerves.”
Eighth graders Rainey Smith, and Cameron Lindey agreed, “It’s funny to watch.”
Those in the incoming freshman class had mixed feelings about having this much fun on a school day.
“It’s awesome!” said Sammia Brown.
“It’s something!” said Michah Enfinger. “We’ve already gotten loud and loud and crazy is our specialty!”
Midway through the afternoon, Summerland said, “This really encourages taking risks. To not worry about high school pressures, enjoy the friendships, and make memories.”
Senior, Hannah Anderson remembers her first year and said, “By playing games, we get to chill out, and that helps.”
Principal John Dailey echoed, “It’s a day they get to relax, with their peers, plus it gets the seventh- and eighth-graders involved with the older kids in a no-pressure environment.”
The day ended with a pep rally led by cheerleaders during which shark flags flew, football team was introduced and band played.
Port St. Joe Elementary also had a busy first day with assemblies to get the jitters out for grades one through six. Each class read a pledge that principal, Joni Mock explained.
“Our motto is: work hard, be kind, and soar. It was an awesome day and went smoothly,” she said.
Fulk’s final message was not to rush through the school experience.
“Now, is our time to be closer, than we’ve ever been,” she said.
Overall, while there were a few hiccups in just readying schools and teachers for Monday, Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton said the first day went off without a hitch across the district’s four public schools.
“Everything went pretty smooth,” Norton said. “Let’s say this; once the first bell rang we were off.”