Passing the torch


The beautiful American Dream: get a degree, hold a steady job, maybe have a few kids, retire, and hopefully die in your sleep. Allen holds two stages of American life: the beginning of education and suburban life. With thousands of people in one building, it can be hard to stick out, to be a cog that drives the machine. As students move on from four years of high school to yet another four-year education, some seniors begin to question if they’re only a simple part in the system. Or maybe, just maybe, in the process of passing the torch to the next senior class, they somehow managed to make a mark in the place where their ‘American Dream’ began.

As seniors move on to their next stage of life, Allen focuses on the new, incoming senior class, the cycle beginning again. This can hold true through general education, organizations and clubs. Alli Wong, senior student body secretary, explains that student council’s next secretary is already prepared for the job. 

“The incoming junior who’s coming to take my place is basically already prepared and knows what to do because of the way our organization works,” Wong said. “She’s already a secretary in her own grade, she’s just becoming student body [secretary] next year.”

In a school with thousands of students, finding a way to go beyond the average can be a bit intimidating, but according to Wong, even with the masses of people, feels like she’s making an impact because of her involvement in the school. 

“I think I am a part of the system,” Wong said. “I feel like the things I do don’t stick out because there are so many of us in this school, but me taking part in student council does make me stand out, makes me a little more out there.”

Having an impact on the students of Allen seems nearly impossible, but this doesn’t stop Wong and her peers from trying to make an impact. From student council to PALS to band to football to theatre, there are students everywhere trying to make Allen a better environment for students and faculty. 

“Last year, it really wasn’t organized and was somewhat of a mess,” Wong said. “Step by step, we learned to combat our conflicts, [and] we’ve set up new rules and positions that have never existed before we created them. We basically reconstructed a new student council.”

Yet even within the smaller groups at Allen, some may still find it hard to find a steady platform. According to senior PAL 2 Catherine Norton, her time in PALS showed her that only a certain few have the opportunity to exceed the rest.

“I am one of 1,623 students in my class, there is no way I stood out to anyone besides maybe a few,” Norton said. “There was no opportunity for me to do anything great because the school, mainly the PALS program, picks only a few students and lets them shine and succeed, the rest of us left in the dark to be mediocre at best.”

Although each program has the ability to change and progress through the years, as seen in Wong’s experience with student council, Norton said change comes with the risk of it all going astray. 

“The PALS program has declined while I have been in it. Being a PAL 1 was fairly good, but being a PAL 2 was pretty bad. With the WINGS program being introduced, the PALS were pushed to the side and given the short end of the stick,” Norton said. “Senior year, as a PAL 2, I learned to persevere and fake it ‘til I make it. This year seemed to have been me just sticking it out and not enjoying it.”

Leaders in the band say their program has done a complete turn around from the increasing failure they were facing last year, unlike student council’s gradual progression witnessed by Wong or PALS’ decline experienced by Norton.  President Daniel Atkins believes the new student leadership team and directors have revived the program and pushed the band in a successful direction. 

“I think we definitely exceeded [the previous class’ standard],” Atkins said. “It was a huge step up this year and I was really proud of the direction that we took it in. It’s a really high bar now and I’m really hoping that the incoming student leadership team can meet that bar again.” 

As the senior leaders move onto new things, Atkins and vice president Felippo D’Amico hope that the incoming seniors keep the torch they’ve lit this year burning by further strengthening student leadership in the band.

“Being a part of band has taught me that no matter what, things are going to be difficult, and because things are difficult, you’ll persevere and you’ll come out on top,” D’Amico said. “[Incoming student leaders] also have to think of band as not just the friends that they’ve made, but their family.”

Both Atkins and D’Amico have been advising and mentoring the incoming juniors and seniors, who plan to take positions as drill instructors, section leaders, or members of the band council. They explained how they have ingrained in these new student leaders what really matters when you become a leader communication and understanding rather than power and a title. 

“Some people go for president or vice president to use it as a title for a college resume, but I think of it more as bonding with the students and being able to communicate with them on a personal level and really understand where they’re coming from,” D’Amico said.

Although some people at the high school feel like just another body in the hallways, Atkins and D’Amico say that no matter who you are or what position you hold in the band, you are unique and important to what the band does as a whole. 

 “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do,” Atkins said. “It doesn’t matter what race, ethnicity, or religion you are. We’re all performing for one goal. I feel like there is a sense of groupthink, but there’s also a lot of individualism that’s really important to keep the band going.”

Yet even though each organization strives for a specific goal, according to senior football player Gabe Adams it takes several different parts to achieve success.

“I think that every person on the team was their own unique piece,” Adams said. “Everyone stood out in their own way, regardless of their athletic ability.”

According to senior football player Nick Trice it’s okay to be apart of the system because it helps with the stride towards the larger goal.

“Generally you are a part of the system, but it’s really how you portray yourself and how you make it,” Trice said. “If you are somebody that stands out, then be somebody that stands out, but you have to make sure that you’re staying on top of your stuff and not doing something stupid just to stand out.”

Throughout Trice’s years in high school and on the football team, it’s been a time for learning and gaining new experiences and wisdom about life. 

“My freshman year I was the class clown so I got in trouble a little, and I learned I had to be responsible from doing this and that you really got to take this seriously. My sophomore year I faced a lot of adversity, and I learned to be patient and that my time is going to come,” Trice said. “Junior year I learned patience will benefit you in the long run, and a lot of the hard work paid off. Senior year was my best year, because I used everything I learned from the first three years and applied it in my last year.”

According to Trice, a person’s experience in high school is defined by what a person chooses to gain from it. Trice believes that him and his teammates have left a high standard for next year’s class, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to try harder and do something different. 

“I definitely felt like the last class left a nice bar for me to reach, but you should always try and do better than the previous class did,” Trice said. “I think I left a nice standard for kids to reach, but I do want them to succeed and do better.”

Earlier this year, the theatre program put on the musical “The Little Mermaid” to much success in regards to ticket sales and garnering attention for the program.

“I think it has had the highest attending audience that Allen has ever seen,” senior Thomas Schnaible said. “As far as seniors, I think all of us feel really proud of ourselves for bringing in that audience, even if we didn’t play a huge role in it.”

The theatre program has undergone many changes over the past few years, like the multiple technical directors that have cycled through. However, according to senior Jessi Delfino, it is the senior class that gives the theatre program direction.

“The seniors lead by example,” Delfino said. “It’s a different program every year because of that. Us, as seniors, we have done our best to set a good example for how to be and everything, but it’s ultimately up to how they want to do it next year, the kinds of people they want to be for the program.”

As such, through Delfino’s high school theatre career, the program has effectively changed hands four times, resulting in different leadership and different group dynamics.

“When I was a freshman, it was kind of like the era was ending,” Delfino said. “Their grade was a lot more die-hard theatre. All of them were graduating and going into theatre for their actual careers. [Now,] it’s changed because it’s less about ‘I need this to be successful in my future’ and more about ‘this is what I enjoy doing, [and] these are the people I love being around.’”

According to Schnaible, it is the performers who possess a certain kind of energy and have an enjoyment and passion for performing who are remembered by their directors and their peers.

“There’s this excitement about doing theatre and just having fun that you don’t always find in people,” Schnaible said. “Not everyone has that, but there are a few people that walk into the program. they’re the ones that leave a mark, they’re the ones that leave the directors with the stories, that leave that legacy behind because they came in, and they wanted to make every show the best [it] could be.” 

However, according to Delfino, at the larger scale of the entire 6,000-student high school, leaving a legacy as the torch moves from class to class can prove difficult. The reason, she says, is because they, like an actor or actress, put on a different persona and pretend to be someone they are not.

“I think that what’s difficult in a high school this size is that everyone is trying to be someone else,” Delfino said. “There are so many people, and it’s so easy to feel like you are drowning in the crowds of people that are walking down the main hallway every day. Not everyone knows what their special thing is, and it is hard to find, especially at this high school because there are so many groups of people telling you what to be or showing you what you want to be.”

As someone who never got to be a lead, Delfino finds that the person who can stand out in an ensemble is really special. However, she admits that groups of students in programs, like the theatre program, can make standing out difficult.

“I think this is true in every program, but there is always ‘that’ group,” Delfino said. “It’s not necessary a hierarchy, but there are always the people you look to most. Those hierarchies just govern the program and suck away all the special qualities of every person because they are trying to be one person or a group of people.”

Despite the differing opinions of students from program to program about feeling like a unique individual and the ability or inability to leave a mark, it is fact that Allen has many different clubs and organizations, some courtesy of seniors. Schnaible recognizes their desire to create a lasting legacy, a torch that can be passed from class to class to keep alight.

“I know one kid, who started the World Wildlife Club here, and my friend is the president of her business club, so there’s all these things I know my friends are doing, and they are trying to push really hard to leave an impact, leave something behind,” Schnaible said. “As far as making our class memorable, I think we have done a good job. We are the class of 2019. They’ll remember us.”