Student Body Divided and Confused over Homecoming

A Friends Select Homecoming is in the works, and the school is abuzz with rumors and questions about the motivations behind it, the logistical details, and whether or not it’s even happening.

The effort to establish Homecoming is being led primarily by sophomores—specifically, Sophie Saint-Cyr ‘22 and Laine May ‘22. According to Laine, the dance will take place on January 25th (the Saturday between Social Justice Week and the start of the second semester), and a set of Homecoming sports events—a girls basketball game, a boys basketball game, and a swim meet—will happen at school the day before.

So why is there such a strong push from some students to start a Homecoming tradition? Sophie says that “it’s a lot about having something that brings the entire upper school together.” Chris Crisden ‘22, another member of the Homecoming committee, agrees, saying that “it’s a chance for community building and bonding,” and has the potential to foster friendships between students of different ages who wouldn’t otherwise spend time together. 

Some critics of the Homecoming effort believe that the true motivation behind the idea is less about community-building and more about trying to live up to an image of the typical high school experience that is, in the words of C.C. Servon ‘21, “romanticized.” 

However, not all students want this sort of experience, including Peter Ryan ‘21, who says that “one of the great things about Friends Select is that it’s not trying to be a normal school and it’s not trying to be something that it isn’t.” Annalise Di Cicco ‘23 agrees, saying that Friends Select shouldn’t try to be more similar to normal schools because “we’re not a normal school.”

On the other hand, Elena Milliken ‘22, who has been involved in the Homecoming planning process as a class officer, says that this has been important to her class for a long time, and that even in fifth grade, students were pushing to have “more, bigger dances.” Margot Schneider ‘22 attributes this to the fact that her class has “a lot of people who have friends that go to big schools with tons of people and events and dances, and people really crave that aspect of typical high school that we just don’t have because we are a really small school.”

For the most part, the ninth graders seem to feel similarly to the tenth graders. AJ Caldwell ‘23 says that “the students work hard here, so they should be able to enjoy at least some fun things” like Homecoming. According to Annalise, “two thirds [of the class] kind of want it, and the other third just kind of think that it’s stupid and doesn’t really have an opinion about it.” Sami Giganti ‘23 thinks that it’s “about half and half.”

The majority of juniors and seniors fall somewhere between hostility and apathy. One anonymous member of the class of ‘21 thinks that Homecoming is “a waste of time.” Others, like Sara Kelley ‘20, aren’t “against it” but aren’t “for it” either. Nearly every junior or senior who was interviewed for this article said some variation of “I don’t care,” or “Homecoming isn’t important to me.” One anonymous student in the class of ‘21 said that if “nobody brought it up,” they “would have completely forgotten Homecoming was a thing. It’s just not really a big deal.” 

One anonymous member of the class of ‘21 argues that it doesn’t make sense to have Homecoming because we don’t have a football team. Other students believe that it doesn’t make sense to have the games and the dance separated by an entire day, which might cause fewer people to attend, and, as one student in the class of ‘21 put it, “people won’t have the same energy” as they would at a normal Homecoming, where the game and the dance are on the same day.

Many students aren’t opposed to the idea of having a Homecoming in theory, but are concerned about the way it’s being planned. Rachel Luce ‘21 points out that last year’s Soph Hop dance had low turnout, and fears the same will be true for Homecoming. Sara argues that “it’s hard to get people to go to Prom, so I don’t know how we’d get people to go to Homecoming.” However, some, like Sophie, are confident that, as the dance approaches, more students will decide to attend. She predicts a turnout of around 150 students, or 75% of the upper school.

One anonymous student from the class of ‘21 believes that, among upperclassmen, there is a lack of respect for the idea of Homecoming because it’s sophomores who are presenting it, but “it’s less that it’s them and more that it’s only them: it’s about their lack of communication. It seems like, while it is a full-school thing, they’re making it their thing.” 

Peter Ryan ‘21 says that “any committee or club at the school that has an event in mind is supposed to be about the will and the wishes of the community, and not about the individuals on the committee, and I feel like the Homecoming committee is a massive violation of this idea. I feel like the Homecoming committee is basically just doing what the Homecoming committee wants to see in the school, rather than responding to what the people want.” 

Whether or not Friends Select students actually want to have Homecoming remains unclear. The original survey that was sent out by the Homecoming committee got 114 responses—that’s about 55% of the upper school. Of those students that responded, about 50% said that they would attend Homecoming. This means that only about 28% of the student body actually told the committee that they would go to Homecoming if the school were to host one. 

One student from the Homecoming committee noted that there is a power imbalance even within the committee where only a few members’ ideas are actually being considered—this student, like many others, asked to remain anonymous out of worry about how other students might react to unfavorable opinions about the way Homecoming has been planned. 

Some students have provided suggestions for ways to improve the plan for Homecoming. Ideas include planning a dance for next year instead of this year like a Winter Ball or a Winter Formal (Madison Scheuer ‘21), having Homecoming next year for a field hockey game, or basing Homecoming around a Philly sports game. Students who have attended other schools’ Homecoming events say that school spirit is a very important factor in whether a Homecoming goes well, and they think that ours would perhaps yield better results than many students are expecting if the school were to drum up more spirit between now and the event.

On top of all of this debate, students have expressed confusion about the details of the dance, what its purpose is, why it’s so close to Soph Hop, how formal it will be, and whether tickets will cost money. To clear up at least some confusion, here is all of the information that has been decided about Homecoming, according to organizers Sophie, Laine, and Chris:

Date: January 24th for the sports events (girls basketball game, boys basketball game, and swim meet) and January 25th for the dance

Cost: $20

Attire: Semi-formal

Music: A DJ will be hired from outside of school. This person has not yet been confirmed, but Chris says that they “have a couple of DJs in mind that are on hold,” including one Friends Select alum.

Will students be allowed to bring friends from outside of school? Yes, as long as the student “fills out a short form like the one required for all other dances,” Laine says.

Will alumni be invited? Not to the dance, but Sophie says that the committee is “trying to get alumni invited to the game.”

Where is the money for the dance coming from? The committee is planning on hosting bake sales to fundraise for the event.

Why is Homecoming being planned despite the fact that we already have Soph Hop? Committee leaders want to have a dance that includes all grades. (Soph Hop is only for ninth and tenth graders and Prom is only for juniors and seniors.) 

Is Soph Hop still happening? For now, yes. Laine says that they are “trying to move the date back so the dances are not so close together.”

Dean of Students Norman Bayard promises to share more information with the entire student body once more decisions have been made. As of now, students are divided, and only time will tell whether Homecoming will flop or become a treasured Friends Select tradition.