Students support one another through Cottonwood’s new club ‘The Stampede’Nov 22, 2021 11:52AM ● By Julie Slama
At Cottonwood High, The Stampede fills the student section, like they did here Sept. 9 at the girls’ volleyball game, and supports each student club to unite the school. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Cottonwood High junior Ethan Gerhart related a story that happened at his school.
Gerhart said when the school’s rookie robotics team qualified for the world competition in 2019, “everybody lined the halls and had a send-off for them, like everybody in the school gave them a round of applause and high-5s. I guess one of the students came up to the principal and said, ‘that’s the best thing anybody has ever done for the robotics club.’”
That, he said, was the inspiration behind the club that was formed this year, The Stampede.
“We want that to happen more,” Gerhart said. “We want to make everybody in the school feel included.”
The Stampede is a group of students who want to support one another, breaking down the groups or cliques in high school. By building up one another, he said, it builds up the school.
Gerhart said, for example, The Stampede club will be joining the Art Council in painting backdrops for the school’s upcoming musical, “Annie.”
“We’re wanting to appreciate everyone and trying to get everybody as one school,” he said. “We’ll invite a bunch of students, have some pizza, paint the props and just show the art team that we appreciate them and we appreciate what they’re doing. At the same time, we’ll have a great time and support our drama students in the musical.”
The Stampede also has delivered Gatorade with personalized notes to tennis and cross country members, Skor candybars to the girls’ soccer team, and made an archway with golf clubs for the boys’ golf team as they headed to a tournament.
“We did that in front of their classes and school so everybody knew about these athletes and gave them a big round of applause,” he said. “Our goal is to get every club and make every club in the school and specifically, every student in the school feel appreciated.”
The buy-in also has several different clubs and teams who are supporting others whether it’s the girls’ soccer team supporting debate or the cross country team supporting the drama club.
Gerhart relates the story of the volleyball team being down two sets in their match when the football team came in after their team dinner.
“They went and cheered on the girls’ volleyball team because you know, high school, people really only go to the football games right, like most of the rest of sports are very underappreciated,” he said. “The football team, and some of The Stampede members, went to the volleyball game and we think, just by us being there and cheering them on and showing them appreciation, that helped.”
While the team still lost, by only two points, he said, “that was kind of some of the inspiration for The Stampede club.”
The club’s adviser, Joseph Brinton, said that he met with Principal Terri Roylance and student government adviser Tara Battista and some community members about wanting “a way of connecting our school with each other, with fellow students, also an opportunity of connecting the local community with the school.”
“We began to see that the school had divided segments within it and thought Cottonwood would be better served if we could find a way of helping them see the need to support each other in this larger community of being a Colt,” he said. “It’s been a really cool group that’s brought all these different segments of the school community together.”
While Brinton sees the benefits of belonging of a group, such as the athletes, the Latinos in Action, the art students and sticking to those particular groups “that really have tight-knit communities and really help their students there,” he asked, “what if we could find a way of tying each other together, supporting each other. If we can find a larger cause than just your niche or corner, it will build a more positive community.”
He said The Stampede bridges interaction between students with different interests and helps to build that community.
“It has become their passion, their student experience to be involved in all facets of the school community,” Brinton said. “I really like a lot of the ideas come from the students and I’ve been blown away at the feedback students give about how they’ve felt giving recognition to their peers. The students have a sense of ‘I’m doing something to help the school.’ It’s really positive for our club members too.”
Parents have contributed, such as making 16 yellow and black flags, that The Stampede takes to games and competitions “to build a positive culture and environment.” Students can sign up to take a bus to attend away games and at home games, the club also has helped organize tailgates at football games to encourage students to attend, half-time competitions and other activities to increase student involvement.
“One of the pillars of the club is for The Stampede member to realize, ‘I can’t control whether the players for my school win or lose, but I can control is their experience both as a fan and as an athlete. I can make the students in my school feel like their peers recognize and care and notice them. We appreciate the sacrifices they make not just individually, but for our community,’” he said. “If they know we care about them, then maybe they’re going to start showing care toward their peers in a different hallway or different interest.”
Brinton said that any student is welcome to belong to The Stampede and in the early weeks of school, already 70 students joined in. Eight leaders have emerged from that group; Gerhart is one.
Until this year, he hadn’t joined clubs or activities.
“Honestly, school is really boring without clubs and extracurricular activities,” Gerhart said. “I’m not really an athletic person so I wasn’t really interested in any extracurricular sports. So, I figured, hey, this is a good way to get involved and to get everybody involved. It’s kind of just a club for the school, not a club for one particular event.”
Already The Stampede is changing the atmosphere at Cottonwood, he said.
“We feel it just brings everybody closer together,” Gerhart said, adding that it makes forming friendships easier. “We want to make sure everybody views each other as equals and we’re all one school.”