Olentangy from the eyes of a Pioneer
Hoping to uncover what distinguishes rivals OHS and OOHS, I spent the day with a writer from the Olentangy school magazine (“The Beacon”), senior, Emily Bjorkman.
I expected to return from my visit to Olentangy being able to note nothing different but appearances. This was not the case; although I did notice that they had larger lockers, and com er desk chairs. I was surprised by the atmosphere I discovered, and how Olentangy could be so different, yet similar to my own school. It was the subtleties between the schools that established their own unique environments.
As I walked the halls of Olentangy High School, it was as if the building was exploding with its history. The 25 year old Olentangy building carries on decades of traditions, dating back even before the building was open to when Olentangy High School was in what is now Shanahan Middle.
An outstanding tradition I discovered, via senior Gwendolyn Kunz, during my time at Olentangy was the OHS senior girls’ beaded “Indian skirt,” which are worn to football games. “We make our own, or we get them from other people who used to have them,” Kunz said.
Senior student section leader Roberto Carselle described possibly Olentangy’s most infamous tradition, where they replace the last word of the national anthem with a salute to their school. “It’s always just been so cool having the whole student section sing the whole national anthem and then to just end it with Braves,” he said.
Made obvious by all the traditions surrounding it, football, and in general sports, is a large part of Olentangy culture. Senior Shannon Cooney said, “We all tailgate and then we line up at the gate. They let the student section leaders go first, and then they open up the gate and we all start running like we are being chased by zombies. Everyone runs really fast because it’s all about getting in the front of the student section. It’s scary but also really exciting.”
With so many traditions in place it can be hard for students to make their mark. Carselle said, “It’s harder to [put my own touch on the student section] because you don’t want to mess with stuff that’s already been established.”
Even with all the past influence on his role as student section leader Carselle and his fellow section leaders have begun making pancakes for any student that wants one every football Friday morning; proving that having traditions doesn’t always mean same old same old.
The students section leaders do a good job of making football Friday nights fun for everyone and can even draw in non fans. Katie Stewart said “I don’t care about the sport, I go [to football games] sometimes, mainly for the environment, it is very enthusiastic, and it’s a fully positive place no matter what.”
While Olentangy is excelling in its sports culture, it has subsequently left some of its other programs out of the spotlight. Stewart said, “Our school definitely values sports over arts.” The same is not to be said at Orange, where there is much enthusiasm for all of the art programs, especially amongst the students. At Olentangy many of the students appear to be indifferent to their marching band, while Orange’s marching band is the pride of the Pioneers.
Cooney, who participates in OHS’s drama program, also noticed a distinct difference between the two cultures. “I think that the way they(OOHS) run their theater is more like an intimate family, and ours is more like anyone can be involved. We have a lot of new people, and the program at Orange seems harder to be involved with. They also seem more involved with the other school activities,” she said.
After my glimpse into Olentangy, I can proudly say I’m happy where I am at Orange. Both schools have much to be proud of. Although the historical and tradition filled halls of Olentangy fascinate me, Orange is my home and there is something to be said about being some of the first.
Orange from the eyes of a Brave
“What is a Pioneer? We trailblaze. We set the path. We decide to go into uncharted waters. We are Olentangy, but we are unique—[whatever] we do, we want it to permeate pride,” Orange Assistant Principal Karen Sedoti said.
While shadowing an Orange student for a day, I found exactly how Olentangy’s younger, artistic and sometimes argumentative sister school exemplifies Sedoti’s words: they are still Olentangy, with a few slight differences and a strange excitement about the concept of “grit:” “a term introduced by [Principal Kathy] McFarland last year used to describe how [Orange] works hard,” sophomore Haley Mormon said.
The Pioneers have yet to develop traditions and celebrations Braves hold dear—no hallway dedicated solely to alumni portraits and their bizarre hairstyles, no special Student Section leader positions, no homemade senior skirts—but every classroom is draped in orange and blue.
“There are teachers who have more hype than Pioneer Pete,” Mormon said.
While Orange lacks our in-school marching band performances, our history, our
English hallway beats and our renowned student section, they do have a mascot.
“Pioneer Pete comes to the football games and pep rallies, and he interacts with the community. We have stuffed [dolls] of him sold in the school store. There is a bust of him in front of the school, but I heard somebody stole him,” junior Erin Barr said.
(Just so everyone is aware, Pioneer Pete—both bust and person—is safe. For now.)
Every Friday night, an unknown masked figure assists the two student section leaders in animating the crowd of students. The thrill reaches its peak at halftime, when the 260-strong marching band takes over the field.
“We love marching band. It’s the best in the land, and we know that. That’s what gets us hyped on Friday nights. We don’t think our football team is that great, but it makes it 15 times better when we do win,” senior Parker Castillo said.
While students still hold the football team close to their hearts, the arts programs shine.
“I think the theatre program and the marching band is a point of pride for our school. Most other schools focus on athletics, which is the normal tendency,” senior Mitchell Morgan said.
Orange’s musical, “Les Miserables,”sold out a Saturday performance, and the Ohio Chapter of the Educational Theatre Association named Cathy Swain-Abrams the 2016 Theatre Director of the Year. Former band director Marc Zirille was recognized
as a 2016 Music Educator Award winner. The band’s unique style led to student interest.
“We’re a show band, versus a competition style, so we play more popular music and march differently. We don’t do competitions every weekend; there are about six this season,” senior Heather Stock said.
Beyond the concepts of “Pioneers” and “Braves,” our schools share physical differences. The building is divided into four wings, two on each floor, and getting to class is a significantly shorter, although equally crowded, journey than at Olentangy. Since classrooms are slightly larger, Orange deals with overcrowding by allowing slightly larger class sizes rather than converting computer labs into classrooms. Sedoti predicts the permanent change from lab to Chrome-carts is inevitable. The true problem lies in the parking lot.
“We hired a parking attendant for the first time, who checks to make sure staff and students park where they’re supposed to,” Sedoti said.
Orange has a singular parking lot with about 300 spots shared among all students. Those who arrive late park in the over flow lot, next to the athletic practice fields.
In the end, our two schools hold one important similarity: opportunity. The district changes every moment as hundreds of new families flock to our schools. We may grow in different directions, but we still maintain a standard of excellence for every student to take pride in.