A Look into the History of Spirit Week at Cherry Hill East

A Look into the History of Spirit Week at Cherry Hill East

Former Directors of Activities give perspectives on changes to Spirit Week

Cherry Hill High School East has seen countless changes over the years. Whether it be the infrastructure of the building or the success of the sports teams, East is eternally evolving. One
tradition that has transformed over the years is the school’s annual Spirit Week.

Every year during the week preceding Thanksgiving, the four grades participate in several activities to earn points in hopes of winning the competition. Additionally, the Student Government Association selects an overarching theme for the week, which is divided into four categories, one for each grade.

While this basic concept has remained the same for over 40 years, the architects behind Spirit Week, the Directors of Activities, have added their special twists to ensure that the activities are in touch with the interests of the students.

Under the leadership of Mr. Charles Davis, the current Director of Activities since 2006, there has been a large emphasis on activities like the Spirit Week Dance and booth decorating which are popular among the student body today.

Davis expressed how upon coming into the role, he was set on implementing two major elements to the week. He has “tried to add a service component to it, and [he’s] tried to bring some different elements to it and change some things up that have maybe gotten stale,” he said.

In regards to the service ele- ment, there is the annual can
donation that is tied to the deco- rating of the booths.

“We’ve been doing that for at least ten to twelve years now,” Davis said, adding that they “used to do a Spirit Week fund- raiser T-shirt, but [they] stopped doing that because it just kind of
got stale.”

The Spirit Week Dance as students know it today has also seen change under Davis’s leadership. It used to be an actual dance held in the East and then DiBart Gym, similar to how students now attend the Homecoming Dance. During the night, a period of time was set aside for grades to perform a small student-choreographed dance which was then judged for points.

“In 2009, we broke it into the Homecoming Dance and the Spirit Week Dance Competition,” said Davis.

Homecoming was still a part of Spirit Week, but the events were held on separate nights.

Today, however, the Homecoming Dance is held in mid-October, and Davis explained how he “thinks that has been a good change.”

Now, the Spirit Week Dance Competition captures the essence of the week. The community comes together to watch students perform themed dances that they have practiced for weeks leading up to the competition, and the energy is always palpable throughout the school as the dance approaches.

Davis has also kept the tradition of “dress-up days” alive. Each day of spirit week is assigned a specific dress-up theme that is typically related to the grade-level themes of the week. This has always been seen as a way for all students to engage in the fun of the week and a way to earn points for their respective grades.

Before Davis and the reign of the Spirit Week Dance, Mr. Thomas DeLuca was the Director of Activities from 1999 to 2006.

During DeLuca’s time at East, the dance competition and booth decorating were only small parts of the various planned activities. The main highlight was the creation of floats for the East versus West Thanksgiving football game.

“Every class would have their own float. About a week and a half before Thanksgiving, Springdale Farms would deliver flatbeds at one of the students’ homes from each class,” DeLuca said. “On Thanksgiving Day, we had a parade where each class had their float, and every year was a different theme.”

The building and display of the floats were tied into the excitement of the playoff game between East and West.

DeLuca also described how the week before Thanksgiving, there were activities held at night after school. Such activities consisted of tug-of-war, a dance competition, tricycle racing through obstacle courses and more.

“Every night was a different activity, and there were maybe three or four nights. At the same time while this was all going on, people were at homes working on the floats,” said DeLuca, who added how for a few years, students participated in booth decorating, similar to what occurs today.

Preceding DeLuca as Director of Activities was Mr. Fred Belchikoff. Under Belchikoff’s leadership, the creation of the floats by students was the highlight of the week. The other major part of the week during his time was the decoration of the hallways.

“Each class was given a hallway,” said Belchikoff. “The class’s job was to decorate it, and you wouldn’t believe what classes came up with. It was unbelievable, and the kids loved it.”

The decoration of the hallways set off the festivities for the week, and activities took place each day to engage the student body.

Belchikoff helped grow Spirit Week at East by expanding the roster of events each year.

“We just kept throwing in different activities. We put in tug-of-war, dance contests, jump rope contests and built up the floats,” Belchikoff said.

Belchikoff also shared how many of the activities were put in place due to proposals from the students themselves.

Although current East students may not get to experience an East versus West Thanksgiving Day football game or create extravagant floats for their grade-level theme, they get to take part in the annual dance, lunch-break competitions and booth decorating, and can even give back to the community through the canned food drive.

Davis has worked particularly hard to find ways to engage students in school spirit following COVID-19. He expressed how “coming out of the pandemic, there was a lack of socialization. More and more, people connect with each other online, but they’re not connecting with each other in person.”

Therefore, he has created many activities that are accessible to all students regarding their time and interests. Whether one participates through dressing or participating in the dance competition, there are many ways students can get involved in Spirit Week today.

Spirit Week has seen many major transformations over the years under the leadership of Belchikoff, DeLuca and Davis as the Directors of Activities. Although activities have come and gone throughout, the spirit of the student body remains alive.

East teachers share memories of their Spirit Weeks as students at East

When a Cherry Hill East student hears “Spirit Week,” what comes to their mind?

Perhaps they think of the annual dance competition among the four classes. Maybe they picture the elaborate booths decorated by each class in the cafeterias. Ask any East teacher who was a student here and they’ll most likely reminisce about the Homecoming floats, volleyball tournament and tug-of-war.

Spirit Week has been a longstanding tradition for East students. The overall concept of Spirit Week has remained the same: all four grades compete against each other and earn points from various activities.

Mr. Charles Davis, current Director of Activities and East graduate of 1995, remembers his Spirit Weeks as a student being slightly different from those today.

“Spirit Week was tied into the Homecoming football game, which was always during Thanksgiving,” Davis said.

As the Homecoming football game now takes place in October, Spirit Week no longer revolves around that event. Despite this, Spirit Week still takes place around Thanksgiving time.

“As now there’s no more Homecoming game [around Thanksgiving], it’s kind of like, well, does Spirit Week have to stay in November? Can it be at a different time of the year?” Davis said.

Culinary Arts teacher and East graduate of 1998 Mrs. Diane Fehder, known as Chef Di by her students, also recalls Spirit Week revolving around Homecoming and Thanksgiving. In honor
of Homecoming and Spirit Week, students used to decorate parade floats to display at the Homecoming football game.

Fehder notes that the float decorating was not as inclusive as it could have been and wishes more people could have been involved.

“I remember I felt like we made [the floats] at someone’s house, so I don’t think that that was the best way because it made it more exclusive… If you weren’t in that specific crowd of SGA people, you didn’t feel comfortable going,” Fehder said. “We rode [the floats] on the football field and I felt like it could have included a lot more people.”

Presently, Fehder likes the cupcake decorating competition but again notes that it’s an activity completed at home, which makes it less cohesive.

As a student, Fehder took part in the Spirit Week dances and pep rallies. Davis notes that the Spirit Week Dance Competition was not what it is today.

“The Spirit Week Dance was called the Spirit Week Dance — it was a dance, but everybody kind of just sat around…All of a sudden, everybody kind of just parted the middle of the floor and you performed your dance which, again, was nothing like you see today,” Davis said.

Davis mentions that the dance evolved into more of a performance that students and parents came to watch. In 2009, Davis split the Spirit Week Dance into the Spirit Week Dance Competition and Homecoming Dance, which is what East has today.

As for other activities, Davis said, “I remember lunch- room games. I remember one of my friends drinking milk out of a baby bottle — silly things like that. I remember tug-of-war, crab soccer, all of those things.”

Neither Davis nor Chef Di could remember all of the Spirit Week themes they experienced as students, but they did remember the structure of the themes being similar to what East currently has. They remember having an overall theme from which each grade then chose a sub-theme, although prior to their time at East, each grade could pick any theme; they were not connected to a category.

“I remember my senior year it was ‘country.’ I don’t know if we were like different [music] genres…but we danced to ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ and we wore cowboy hats and bandanas and cowboy boots and it was really fun,” Fehder said.

Davis recalled that one of his themes as a student was decades. He remembers a float decorated for the 1920s. Since he took on the role of Director of Activities in 2006, Davis has had his fair share of Spirit Weeks.

“I enjoyed when we did Nickelodeon shows. There was a unique one we did: government agencies, so that was cool. Somebody was the CIA or FBI, somebody was the Department of the Treasury,” Davis noted as some of his favorite themes as Director of Activities.

Davis and Fehder both agree that the prevalence of technology in current high schoolers’ lives contributes to a less-involved student body when it comes to activities like Spirit Week. This decline in school spirit has been seen across the entire country, not just at East.

“It’s easy to check out mentally while you’re even in the building. I wish students would realize that this is such a fleeting time in their lives and appreciate it in the present. It’s really hard right now to be in the present,” Fehder said.

Davis similarly notes that, after the COVID-19 pan- demic, more students prefer connecting with each other online rather than in person.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of students who enjoy getting involved in Spirit Week. So many of the activities are steeped in tradition and go back to when current teachers stood in students’ places.

Fehder’s advice to students is to make the most of their time in high school and get involved in memorable activities like Spirit Week.

“I would say that because it’s such a time capsule in your individual life, to make the best of it and to seek out opportunities and experience things because it really helps you learn who you are as a person,” Fehder said.

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