Thousands of students and administrators, along with representatives from Varsity Brands, gathered in the sunshine infused quad at Vista Murrieta High School this morning. But temperatures weren’t the only thing rising once Varsity Brands announced the school was the official winner of the title of America’s Most Spirited High School.
The announcement was made during a 9 a.m. Pep Rally, where students were led into the quad by the school’s marching band who made their way through the halls as students filed out of the classrooms and onto the grassy area.
Following speeches by teachers, cheers, performances by the band and even a rap from a teacher, the announcement was made and earsplitting cheers erupted from the students.
The announcement coincided with National School Spirit Day, which was recognized by Congress last year.
“Our students feel connected to Vista Murrieta and have an ingrained sense of school pride,” Vista Murrieta Principal Mick Wagner said. “The family atmosphere and sense of community is apparent and genuine.”
High schools across the country were invited to enter the contest, which called for each school to submit a 90-second video, a 500-word essay, two letters of recommendation and several photos demonstrating its school spirit. High schools from 33 states were represented in the contest.
Vista Murrieta’s video submission won based on a nationwide vote and included footage from games, pep rallies, and student activities that epitomize a robust school spirit environment that seeks to include all students.
According to Murrieta Valley Unified School District Spokeswoman Karen Parris, at least 85 percent of Vista Murrieta Students are involved in a club or sport and that is a number that leads to success in school on a variety of levels Varsity Brands Regional Impact Director Lee Tousignant said.
“There are innumerable ways in which school pride and school spirit affect the students beyond what goes on in the classroom,” Tousignant said. “Not to mention that what goes on in the classroom tends to be a heck of a lot more successful when they have this kind of pride and spirit.”
Tousignant said the video submitted by Vista Murrieta showed “Cohesiveness of the student body.”
“There wasn’t a single person involved who wasn’t a part of that,” he said, dding that the school was the whole package.
“The school superintendent was just telling me that aside from the academic success they have here, which he translates to being related to all of the spirit and pride they had that last year, they had zero fights reported on this campus. that right there is a perfect example. They have enough pride and spirit in this place that they respect each other so much.”
In addition to carrying the title of Most Spirited School in America, the school was awarded with a check for $25,000.
Vista Murrieta made the list of finalists September 10, along with Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Ala., Greenwood High School in Greenwood, Ark., and Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas. Fans across the country – from nearly every state – were then encouraged to vote online at www.nationalschoolspiritday.org through September 22, when Vista Murrieta earned the title of America’s Most Spirited High School.
“We’re proud to host this contest after our research last year confirmed the connection between school spirit and student achievement, involvement and confidence,” said Varsity Brands CEO Jeff Webb. “We are on a mission to expand student involvement and promote school spirit in America’s high schools, and we’re pleased to honor Vista Murrieta’s pride and achievements. Their submission truly represented their unique school spirit and dedicated student body, in every activity from marching bands and pep rallies to community service and student government.”
National School Spirit Day was first founded in 2009 by Varsity Spirit as a way to shine a spotlight on all the ways cheerleaders and dancers make a difference in their schools and communities. And while cheerleaders and dancers are still drivers of school spirit, Varsity Brands has conducted additional research which illustrates a direct correlation between overall school spirit, community and school involvement, academic achievement and self-confidence.
According to a Harris Poll and subsequent white paper published last year, 92 percent of principals agree that high school spirit is tied to high academic achievement, and 90 percent of students with high levels of school spirit are more likely to be leaders. This search for America’s Most Spirited High School went beyond spirit teams and sporting events and included the important roles academics, community involvement and overall engagement played in driving school spirit.
Full details regarding the contest and the finalists are available online at nationalschoolspiritday.org.