For some students, Homecoming means dress-up days and tug-of-war. For others, it’s all about football. But the week in October is a chance for all students to celebrate their school, whatever that means to them.
The Hermiston High School leadership class starts planning the event in summer, with several brainstorming sessions and meetings to decide themes and activities.
“It takes a lot of voting, time and opinions from a lot of people,” said Kaylee Young, a Hermiston High School leadership student.
On Tuesday, students came to school decked out for the dress-up day, “Kickin’ it With Your Crew” — where students were encouraged to dress up as a group. The halls were filled with TV, movie and cartoon characters, and some got even more creative — a group students of dressed up as hot sauce packets, ranging from Mild to Hot.
HHS Leadership adviser Dave Rohrman said the students mix in some new events each year with Homecoming traditions. This year, the students held a new event, a carnival game night, on Monday. The pancake feed and the noise parade are back this year, along with traditions like the dance and homecoming assembly.
Though the event is planned by a small group of kids, the leadership students try to make sure they receive input from the rest of the student body, promoting events and advertising on social media.
“My favorite way to promote the events is face-to-face,” said leadership student Isel Tejeda Urenda. “Asking students, ‘do you have your outfit, do you need costume ideas?’ Building connections that way.”
Students had another common cause to unite them for Homecoming this year. One of their classmates, junior Jasmine Ellwood, has been battling Ewing Sarcoma, a type of cancer. Ellwood was recently elected to the Homecoming court.
Ellwood’s sister, Alysha, is a student in Hermiston’s leadership class.
“I was thinking about everything she’s been through, and how her life has changed,” she said. “I went on Twitter, and started posting about electing her. And it really took off.”
Alysha said her sister didn’t find out until she had been nominated.
She said the school had rallied behind her sister.
“She’s really happy about it,” Alysha said. “She’s going to be at the assembly, the football game and the dance.”
Though there are some new events every year, the event is also about tradition. Each year on the football field, current athletes are joined at the beginning of the game by several honorary captains. Because this year’s seniors are the Class of 2019, the athletics staff chooses representatives from former classes ending in “9”. This year there are honorary captains from four past classes — Luis Ortiz for the class of 2009, Micah Mercer for the class of 1999, Scott Ramsay for the class of 1979, and Charlie Grabeel for the class of 1969.
In a new twist this year, the department also selected two honorary captains from the class of 2029 — Alex Gonzalez and Grason Edwards, who are second graders at Highland Hills this year.
“Everything we do here is about getting people excited about athletics,” said Athletic Director Larry Usher.
The honorary captains are introduced before the game, along with a short biography. They also participate in the coin toss, and are invited to sit in reserved seats, and participate in the team dinner.
“It’s also a way for our current football players to see those who paved the way for them,” Usher said.