Editorial: Value of School Assemblies Defended

Seniors+show+spirit+at+pep+assembly.+

Seniors show spirit at pep assembly.

Kara Cowell, Editorial Editor

The high school assembly: movies make them seem like wild parties, books sometimes paint them as boring disciplinary lectures, and real-life reveals that they can land anywhere on this spectrum. 

NHS has held its fair share of school assemblies in its long history, and almost anyone will agree that no two have been the same. Traditionally, at least in my last four years of experience at NHS, there have been three big assemblies per year; Homecoming, Winterfest and Diversity Fair.  All three of these assemblies showcase a special time of year, week and event, which takes place within the high school, as well as provides additional games and activities relating to these events. The energy and unique environment cultivated by assemblies unifies students and offers an experience for high schoolers, which deserves to be defended. 

Recently, though, the NHS administration urged the clubs and groups behind the planning of these assemblies to take a step back and reconsider the value of what their messages portray. This reconsideration is strictly because of issues of school security and engagement, which administration feels need to be addressed.  Principal Wunderlich mentioned that “putting all 2,000 of our students in one spot at a scheduled time makes [him] a little bit more nervous because of the variety of incidents.” Further, Wunderlich commented that “I do believe that some of our kids hate being packed into that gym or don’t feel connected to the event. In the classroom setting our teachers are pretty masterful at trying to engage everyone.” 

While it may be nearly impossible to interest every student in activities in such a large setting, the mere environment of the assemblies is something that does impact everyone. While many high school students may be too stubborn or “cool” to say that they felt touched, there are few opportunities for students to realize just how big our school population really is. With this, student’s eyes are opened to new things and new ideas through merely attending an assembly. 

Students have also expressed their opinions on assemblies. Senior Austin Price commented that he thinks “We don’t appreciate assemblies enough. They mean so much more than what most students see and it’s a shame. “ Similarly, senior Jenna Ebel shared that “School assemblies mean unity; I would be sad if we didn’t have them.” The general consensus between many students is that assemblies are a milestone and one of the only ways that a school of over 2,000 students can all come together as one.

These positive outlooks were not the only response though. Similarly to the concerns of Wunderlich that assemblies are not the best way to engage the entire student body, junior Isabel Yoblonski first commented that “school assemblies are a good way to bring everyone together” similar to many others. Yoblonski also recognized the challenges though, saying “I think that Neenah’s assemblies just lack fun and it’s always kind of repetitive and boring.” It is this unfortunate lack of engagement or social hype that causes many students to doubt assemblies — and administration has obviously heard both the positive and the negative sides. 

As an active member of the student body myself, I have seen the importance of school assemblies first hand. Especially in such a large school, it is nearly impossible to know everyone and see the sheer size of Neenah High’s student body. Seeing everyone together can be incredibly inspiring. To me, it is not only an issue of student engagement but also student pride when students can no longer understand what it means to be unified. Considering that some of NHS’s students will never attend a sports game or musical performance at all during their high school careers is incredibly saddening. Students need to be empowered to believe in the strength of the whole school if assemblies are going to continue being a part of student culture or we may end up losing a powerful showcase of events for good.

This showcasing of school camaraderie and diversity is represented by nothing better than the annual April Diversity Fair. This event never fails to powerfully showcase a variety of student talent and passion. Unfortunately though, with a growing concern about assemblies and school safety — this event too will likely change Since it is still a few months away — much is still unknown about how exactly it will run — but one thing is for sure — Diversity Day was a one year showcase. Despite its immense success, the new schedule and rules set in place simply make this impossible while maintaining fairness for teachers. According to Principal Wunderlich, “the actual assembly though, as of right now, is not planned to be an assembly, but different activities in the classrooms.” 

With the elimination of the Winterfest assembly and that missed opportunity to bring everyone together, all eyes will definitely fall onto what Diversity fair has in store this year. 

For those who treasure the assembly experience more than anything . . . hope still prevails. Principal Wunderlich said: “I think we’ll always have a homecoming assembly.  I do know there is value in bringing everyone together.” So there is at least one thing that is likely to stand up to the challenge of modernization a while longer. 

Assemblies have been a part of high school culture for a long time. While students and staff alike understand their underlying value, the risks they can be in the modern-day school environment will likely cause changes to happen right before our eyes. This school year, like those which preceded it, made the reality of the school safety issue ever more tense. The adaptation of Winterfest assembly activities and their effectiveness will be an interesting clue as to how things will continue to change in the future. Students and staff alike need to be motivated to find new ways to believe in the strength unity if assemblies want to continue to be a part of student culture. I hope that the elimination of the Winterfest assembly and an incoming modification to diversity fair will spark students to realize changes taking place within their school, and to brainstorm what they can do to make their changing school culture still represent unity as a whole. 

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