story by: Jamie Cummings and Madi Beddingfield
At the end of last school year, the athletic department literally rolled out the updated block letter “R” logo on the new turf in Guy L. Ensley stadium. This logo has been around Roberson, but the turf finalized a shift away from the side profile of the ram, to a classic “R” and the reveal of the front-facing ram from the 1980s.
“The whole point of a logo is to be instantly recognizable. Coming back to something that everybody uses on t-shirts, in the middle of the gym floor and in the middle of the football field, what you’re really doing is you’re coming back to a specific logo. So, when people see an ‘R,’ they’ll think Roberson,” Principal Bonnie Johnston said.
With the change in logos, some alumni, faculty, and members of the student body started to reflect on current and past traditions at Roberson. Student Body Vice President Ge’Kovie Jackson shared that student council has plans in the making for a year full of tradition.
“It starts with one person, and it grows; it will just rub off on everyone–coming together and wanting to have fun,” Jackson said.
History teacher Brian Feid was Student Body President in 1990 at Roberson. Over his time here as a student and now a teacher, he has witnessed changes in tradition due to a growing focus on physical time in the classroom.
“There’s a great deal more protection over instructional time. Back in the 80s, it seemed like we had a lot more freedom to do some things that would be positive for the school atmosphere– but those were also things that took student out of the classroom,” Feid said. “If you do several of [those activities], then you’ve lost quite a bit of class time. In a world of high-stakes testing, it’s hard to overcome.”
When Feid was a member of Student Council, they met daily as student government was a required class for all of those elected. Feid feels as though he gained life skills from his time there, too.
“Being in the position I was in– I was in charge, so I got a lot of skills and practice managing a room. I got used to being in front of people and speaking in front of large groups,” Feid said. “Those are skills that have most certainly benefited me in my teaching career.”
According to Feid, with more time available to organize, Student Council promoted many activities from decorating hallways for chosen themes to even giving every student in the school an ornament with their name on it.
“We had a lot of time to do a lot of work. You name it, we worked on it,” Feid said. One more recently revitalized school function that saw high participation number was the Homecoming Dance held on Oct. 21. Student Government sold over 500 tickets this fall for the event. This was the second consecutive Homecoming Dance in recent years.
According to Patane, 10 years ago, many more dances were held after football games, but parents and teachers complained that students’ dancing was inappropriate.
“It was like a true-life Dirty Dancing saga, So the kids said, ‘if we can’t dance like we want, then we are not going to come,’” Patane said.
And they didn’t.
At one dance held in the PEP gym in 2007, the school only sold 13 tickets and only eight students actually attended. Due to the cost of security and a DJ, the school lost money on the dance which consequently made other groups less willing to take the financial risk to hold another dance.
However, recently, dances have been making a comeback. In 2014, the school sponsored a winter dance called the Snowball. Following that, a homecoming dance took place last year and again this year. With the success of ticket sales and positive response from students, Patane hopes the dances will continue for years to come.
At Roberson, the seniors typically have certain traditions specific to them. These traditions include senior crowns on spirit week, painting parking spots, and the senior walk.
A new senior tradition that Patane started this August was the opportunity for the graduating class to paint designated parking spots with a design or image for the year. The $15 fee to paint was a fundraiser for senior day and graduation.
“That’s a new tradition that I am trying to start here. It was pretty successful for the first year- it’s a little piece of ownership [for seniors],” Patane said.
Last year, the senior walk experienced some remodeling following the lead of other schools in the Buncombe County districts. The established procedure for more than 25 years was to have students wear the shirt of the college, university, military branch, or after high school plans and walk around the gym. The seniors then were dismissed first and each grade took their turn moving from their section in the gym to the area of the next grade, hence “moving-up.”
For the first time in decades, the 2017 seniors did not walk around the gym. Instead, they dressed in cap and gown and walked through the halls of Estes Elementary, where many of the seniors had attended school. Counselor Melanie Parham explained that the goal of this change was connecting with different grade levels.
“A lot of the high schools in our area were already going over and visiting younger students (in cap and gown). We are really working with our younger kids to get them excited about high school and the transition, so it just seems to flow to have our students go and be mentors and role models to the younger ones,” Parham said.
According to Parham, the plan this year is to continue this new tradition and even expand into more area schools; however, they have also had the discussion of reincorporating the “moving up” event as well.
“Beforehand, I think [students] were thrown off a little bit by having something different. But after the fact, I heard a lot of nice comments from the seniors. Most of them felt rewarded once they saw the kids and how excited they were. They really liked [the event],” Parham said.
A Gift That Keeps Giving
Another tradition that is similar among schools around the country is the giving of a senior gift. Johnston believes the Roberson does a good job of maintaining this idea of granting a gift to the whole for the general betterment of the community.
“I think that the classes continue to be very thoughtful about what they want to give to the school and what kind of legacy they want to leave behind. I think that’s a wonderful tradition,” Johnston said.
The graduates of 2017 gifted Roberson with a new sign on the Overlook Road entrance, which holds a special place in Johnston’s heart.
“That sign was the original one from when I was in student council. I painted that sign every year, which is crazy to think about. So, they have something to be proud of, because any time they drive by they see ‘Class of 2017’ on it,” Johnston said.
Traditions Close to Home
Roberson is not the only school in the Asheville City or surrounding counties with traditions. Student Body President of Asheville High School Bella Valdiviezo shared that her favorite spirited tradition at AHS is the pep rallies where grades compete against each other and teachers or teams perform dances.
Another great memory and tradition Valdiviezo has participated in since her freshman year is making banners for their football team to run through at the pep rallies and the Homecoming game.
“I think that the other schools definitely have some competition when it comes to [Asheville’s] school spirit. The most important thing for other schools to know about Asheville is that we really make sure the whole school is a part of it– it’s really united,” Valdiviezo said.
Teacher and Student Council sponsor at Hendersonville High School Chele Bradley says she’s really proud of all the traditions the Bearcats maintain.
One of her favorites, referred to as a “Blast,” involves teachers handing out seasonal food to all the students at the end of a random school day.
“We let school out about five minutes early and serve everybody watermelon in the early summer. So, this fall we will do an ‘Apple Cider Blast’ and in the winter a ‘Hot Chocolate Blast’ and around May, a ‘Popsicle Blast.’ It’s just another way to get the student body together and having fun,” Bradley said.
Hendersonville also has longstanding traditions specific to their senior class. Each year, the school hosts a senior play where everything from selling tickets, to set design, to acting is put on by the seniors. According to Bradley, they typically see about 70 percent participation level from the seniors. Singing the Hendersonville Alma Mater is another unique tradition that HHS has maintained.
“We sing it as the seniors walk into any formally opened assembly, so about once a month. It’s just really powerful to hear everybody singing together,” Bradley said.
Traditions are something that brings students past, present and future together as one. Through football games, singing the alma mater or even just a little school spirit, connections can be built.
“It’s important to have tradition because when you have someone like me who graduated a long time ago, and still absolutely love[s] Roberson, you can hook alumni with people who are currently here with kids that are 5 years old and can’t wait to go here,” Johnston said. “That’s how you build a community.”
Although Patane is “retiring” from her position as student government sponsor after this school year, she believes there is a need for the continuation of Roberson traditions, old and new.
“It’s really fun; I’m just tired. I hope whoever is the new adviser next year will bring a lot of energy,” Patane said.