Spreading school spirit in the new normal

In the new normal that is the academic year and the principles at St. Augustine’s College (SAC) forgoing face-to-face learning in favor of virtual learning as the country battles to contain the spread of COVID-19, the SAC Lady Machines cheerleading team felt it was important to offer some sense of normalcy to their peers. With that in mind, the cheer squad produced a welcome back video for their peers, encouraging them to be hyped about the new school year. The video was released on Facebook and Instagram, and has garnered thousands of views.

SAC typically hosts a first day of school convocation which involves prayer, a welcome back address from the principal and performances by the school band, as well as the Lady Machines.

This year, the convocation was held virtually, with prayers offered by Monsignor Alfred Culmer and Principal Sonja Knowles giving her address virtually. The Lady Machines were not to be left out. The squad made certain they put on their first day of school performance, recording a physically distanced routine with masks on. The routine, which was recorded at the school’s grounds, was entitled “Get Hype”.

In the one minute and 28-seconds-long video, the squad’s message to the student body was that they need to be hyped about the new academic year, to be hyped because they’re back at SAC and to have a great school year.

Brianne Gibson, the Lady Machines coach, said they wanted to create some sense of normalcy to begin the school year.

“It was already disheartening that the new students could not be welcomed into the SAC family by the student body and staff members via the first day of school convocation. Therefore, we wanted to assist in making that memory a little less bittersweet,” said Gibson.

With crowd leader, spirit raiser, ambassador, athlete and entertainer being the five main responsibilities of a cheerleader, T’nya Butler, an 11th grade member of the squad, said she felt the video they produced was necessary because school spirit is important.

“It was a good thing for the other students to see that you can still have school spirit from behind a screen,” said Butler.

Senior Mercedes Seymour said she wanted to showcase her school spirit to others in hopes that they would also gain more school spirit.

“The video also served as a means of encouragement for the student body,” said Seymour.

Coach D’Aesha Rahming said she thought the welcome back video was a good way to show how they could make the best out of the current situation even though it was not the ideal way they would have wanted to start the school year.

“This video was not only meant to empower the student body, but also to promote SAC in a positive way and show that we care about making the SAC experience as exciting as possible,” said Rahming.

Senior Rachel Brown said she wanted to be a part of the video because she thought it would be a fun and exciting experience. She also said she was able to spend time with her fellow cheerleaders, whom she said she “missed dearly”.

Current and former SAC students were excited all the same to view the performance by the squad.

After viewing the video, Bolera Glinton wrote, “I love this. I remember being a proud cheerleader of the Big Red Machine.”

Apryl Burrows wrote, “I remember my SAC cheerleading days! Well done Lady Machines!”

The Lady Machines, which have been in existence since 2017, have been present at all SAC sporting events, but this year, it is uncertain whether there will be any events owing to the pandemic.

This is why the performance was important for senior Cynae Hall, who said, “Every memory is worth creating!”

The last school year ended abruptly for students and teachers around the country after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in The Bahamas on March 15. Schools nationwide were shuttered to in-person, face-to-face learning for the remainder of the school year to due to emergency orders to try to contain the spread of COVID-19. Students and teachers went from being able to closely interact with each other to having to do so through the screens of their smart devices.

The start of the new school year for just about every school in The Bahamas is drastically different. Some private schools opened offering a hybrid of face-to-face and virtual learning, but many, like SAC, opted to forego face-to-face learning in favor of virtual learning in an effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Three days after public sector schools opened on Monday, October 5, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced in a House of Assembly Communication that all schools on New Providence and Abaco may only proceed via virtual means.

“For now, there will be no in-person schooling for students,” said Minnis.

The Bahamas has 5,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday, October 17, with 4,392 confirmed cases on New Providence.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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