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We've got spirit

New group promotes positive leadership

There were no zombies at last Thursday's girls basketball game in New Richmond. That's quite an accomplishment, according to some high school students, and the watershed event didn't come without some real effort.

A newly formed "Spirit Team" has been promoting positive vibes at New Richmond High School for a little over a month.

The group meets regularly to talk about ways to pump up school spirit at sporting events, at community gatherings and in the high school halls.

The group's goals also include boosting attendance at events and home games and organizing special events like dances, lunch-time promotions and fun contests.

"It's not a replacement for cheerleading or other student groups with similar goals," the group's first newsletter reports. "It is meant to be a program to work collaboratively with other groups. We do not want to step on any toes."

The effort was borne out of a recent meeting with community members. The gathering focussed on a report showing that New Richmond young people don't feel their opinions are valued.

When the students were given encouragement by community leaders, several young leaders decided to take action to change things for good.

"That motivated me to start stuff in the school," said senior Bekah Sievert. "We wanted to work on things like school spirit and enthusiasm."

A handful of students talked with advisor Amanda Erickson about an idea for a spirit team. She was supportive of the plan.

"I have a large amount of school spirit myself," she said. "We talked about how neat it would be to be spirit producers in the school."

At the Spirit Team's first meeting, 60 students attended. A number of those students are presently active in the movement, many serving on various sub-committee's of the team.

Sub-committees include promotions, music and sound, fan club and fund raising. One committee was assigned the task of encouraging cheerleaders and getting the crowd participating in cheers.

"If you can make a cheerleader's job easier, you're doing your job," Erickson said.

The first major task on the team's agenda was spirit at home sporting events.

A former high school cheerleader, Erickson attended several Tiger games to show students "how to show spirit."

"I don't know that the kids knew how to show school spirit," she commented. "It only took two or three games for them to catch on."

According to junior Mike Stoddard, school spirit had dramatically deteriorated in New Richmond over the years.

"At games, people would just sit there like zombies," he said.

"Not any more," Sievert chimed in, giving her Spirit Team mate a high five. "It's really worked."

The Spirit Team works together with the cheerleaders to get fans involved.

"We're doing more fun activities at the games," she added. "We just want more people involved in school spirit all around."

Indeed, you'd hardly guess that the school was recently lacking in the enthusiasm department.

The Spirit Team unveiled a new sound system last week, vowing to provide more up-beat music and fun-filled timeout breaks to get the crowd into the cheering spirit.

The group also began a new crowd promotion for New Richmond home games. Raffle tickets for the "Best Seat In The House" promotion will be sold for the first half of games.

At halftime, a winner will be selected. The winner and a companion will take their honored seat in a comfortable love seat courtside. They will be served pizza and other refreshments for the final half.

But school spirit is not just limited to athletes and their competition. The team is working to promote spirit for all school activities, from forensics to music to the arts.

"We want to make sure everyone gets the support they need and to love what they do," Sievert said. "And we want them all to be proud of their school."

The team members agree that they hope their work is short-lived. The goal is to no longer need an organized Spirit Team in New Richmond.

"We want school spirit to become routine," Sievert said. "We want to always be thinking ahead at what more we can do."

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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