“We can still be together”

Upper school spirit club creates opportunity out of challenge, connecting the community online

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Varsha Rammohan

Samvita Gautham 10), a member of the community events branch in HSLT, speaks with fellow member Alysa Suleiman (11) on some holiday baked goods she made over winter break in her new series Harker Good News (HGN).

Shots of farm goats and pigs accompanied with pop-up banners of fun facts fill the main page of the Harker Spirit Club YouTube channel. This new and recurring series, “Kerry’s Farm Time,” is produced by Harker Spirit Leadership Team and features upper school Director of Community Service Kerry Enzensperger. 

“I love animals, and I love sharing my animals with people,” Enzensperger said. “When you get involved in spirit, you lose yourself. You are in the moment: you really enjoy yourself, and you’re happy.”

Recently, Harker Spirit Leadership Team (HSLT) created the Harker Spirit Club YouTube channel, producing videos ranging from podcasts to games. Although live Zoom spirit events will still happen, the channel will also host asynchronous spirit events. 

“It’s really exciting that we’re transitioning,” Director of Student Organizations and Assistant Upper School Activities Coordinator Eric Kallbrier said. “We’re moving a lot of our opportunities during remote mode to our YouTube channel where people can engage in our activities in a more relaxed environment.”

As a result of the pandemic, Kallbrier has created the Activities Guide, a daily email for students and faculty that details information such as club meetings, birthdays and activities. 

“When we were learning off campus for the first time, it was hard for people to know all of the different activities that were going on around campus that they could get involved with,” Kallbrier said. “What [the Activities Guide] does is [showcase] any content that comes from student organizations or individuals that the community can benefit from.”

HSLT hopes to connect the community through these various initiatives. 

“We’re not all together physically, but we can still be together through Zoom and through these fun spirit activities,” HSLT member Kris Estrada (10) said. “We try to improve the campus environment and the sense of community.” 

Currently, HSLT is working on a “Harker Good News” series inspired by John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” channel, along with cooking and jazzercise videos. The team is also releasing a light-hearted interview and variety show featuring upper school chemistry teacher Andrew Irvine as his alter-ego, “Captain Spirit.”

“[These videos are] just a way for people to share the positive things in their lives with each other,” Kallbrier said.

I feel like at Harker a lot of people sometimes get too caught up in academics, so what we do through spirit is [try] to make people remember that there’s perspective and there’s balance that we need. It’s been really rewarding for me just to be able to emphasize that.”

— Lisa Barooah (12), HSLT president

Alysa Suleiman (11), an HSLT member who heads the project on cooking videos, started bringing recipes to the Harker community through her holiday cooking playlist which was released after Christmas. In the future, she plans to reach out to Adam Albers, Harker’s pastry chef, and produce a video with his insights into baking. 

“I’ve always really liked baking myself, and I think food is definitely something that people can laugh and share and have a really good time together with,” Alysa said. “It’s something that really translates well over the screen because everyone else who watches the video can see how this is a creation that’s special to the person who is making it.”

Although it can be difficult and time-consuming to arrange and produce these videos as well as to brainstorm and create live events through spirit, Kallbrier believes the importance of school spirit and community-building outlasts any difficulties. 

“When we feel connected to the people around us, it’s a major part of developing our sense of self, Kallbrier said. “I find it to be really important for us to look for ways to reach outside of our immediate friend group [because] you really want to create opportunities for building positive relationships.”

HSLT’s work to maintain its YouTube channel and live events has paid off, helping increase student participation in community activities this year. 

“Our theme was making this pandemic into opportunities [for Spirit]. Our Monday activity period has given us the potential to really reach out to the new students,” Kris said. “I’ve seen that, through this pandemic, we’ve been able to garner more people into spirit, so I’m proud of that.”

For example, one holiday activity that spirit produced in December, the gingerbread house-making competition, involved a student representative from each grade putting together a gingerbread house in a breakout room with their classmates. This event allowed students to continue their tradition of making class gingerbread houses and connect with each other. 

“It was really fun hearing that a lot of people had their cameras on: they were participating, and they were unmuted. They were making a ton of creative suggestions,” Kris said. “I think that’s what we really need, especially now, and I think it was amazing that we were able to get that done.” 

Lisa Barooah (12), the president of HSLT, feels a similar pride in creating a fun and lighthearted community space through spirit. 

I feel like at Harker a lot of people sometimes get too caught up in academics, so what we do through spirit is [try] to make people remember that there’s perspective and there’s balance that we need,” Lisa said. “It’s been really rewarding for me just to be able to emphasize that.”