Schools all across Chesterfield County revere Midlothian High School for its legendary pep rallies, featuring games, contests, dances, and performances to differentiate it from similar events within the area. Videos documenting these events have amassed thousands of views on online media platforms such as Youtube, through Midlo’s old TrojanLive program, influencing the idea of such an enchanting pep rally to other schools within the county and beyond. At Midlo, students are known to deck themselves out head-to-toe in their class colors every season, showing immense support and spirit for their class and sports teams. However, a recent drop-off in senior participation at pep rallies has become an undeniable occurrence at Midlothian High School. Senior attendance at pep rallies in the past two school years has diminished significantly, and this year, the trend has reached extreme levels. At the 2020 Winter Pep Rally, roughly 50 students out of the 360 in the class of 2020 attended, resulting in an obvious issue facing administrators, teachers, and other students regarding these events.
Numerous seniors attribute this issue to a lack of interest as time goes on. Hunter Beck, an avid attendee of all pep rallies prior to his senior year, further elaborates, “The anticipation of picking out color-specific clothes and accessories, competing in games to beat the upperclassmen, and hoping to win the Spirit Stick was what kept all of us going during the early years of high-school. However, now those types of things seem juvenile and unimportant compared to what we’re about to face in the future.” Pep rallies contribute to a large part of Midlothian’s history, as they have existed for decades; however, they did not always include the class themes, games, and energy that surround them today. Over the years, they have shifted to suit an evolving society, yet many students and teachers show concern that they no longer belong at the school due to a lack of interest from the seniors. Midlo graduate and CTE teacher Mr. Steve Hayward shares, “It is apparent that many seniors have sadly lost interest in pep rallies due to their absence at the events. I hope to help suggest a new idea to change the event to help improve the experience for seniors.”
When presented with feelings on this issue from her seniors, economics teacher Mrs. Monica Van Arsdale attributes the problem to a theory known as the “Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility,” which states that as consumption increases, the marginal utility decreases, meaning the satisfaction derived from that action or product declines. By the time they reach senior year, students have experienced roughly 10 pep rallies, each relatively similar. This theory shows that every time a student attends another pep rally, their resulting enjoyment from the event decreases, creating either a lack, or complete loss, of enthusiasm by their senior year. Zoe Kopidis is proof of this theory’s presence at Midlothian High School, claiming, “As a freshman, pep rallies were a new, thrilling concept, but now, they’ve lost their novelty and excitement.” An explanation behind this change of heart could have to do with the maturing ideas and priorities seniors have come to adopt as they progress throughout high school. As seniors complete their college applications, receive scholarships from respected universities, and plan for their future endeavors, senior Paul Miller comments, “a high school pep rally may not be at the forefront of our minds.” Ethan Smith, a huge fan of pep rallies in the past, explains his opinion, “As a freshman and sophomore, I looked forward to pep rallies all week long, anticipating hanging out with all my friends and screaming as loud as I could for my peers and friends. However, towards the end of the junior year, this experience changed, and now, I just don’t feel the same about pep rallies anymore.”
However, not all students and faculty are ready to say goodbye to this long-standing, beloved Midlo tradition. Mrs. Carolyn Manheim speaks on this issue, sharing, “When I first arrived to Midlothian, pep rallies really stood out to me about the school. To me, they are one of the best parts about Midlo; they connect the students and foster excitement and pride in our school.” The tradition of a school wide competition of the classes has spanned the school’s history for decades, and the thought of completely removing pep rallies due to a small percentage of the school’s majority doesn’t resonate with the underclassmen and few seniors who still support and adore these events. Senior Erin Junkmann provides more insight, sharing, “I still look forward to each and every pep rally because I love a good competition. As seniors, pep rallies are our last bit of childhood before going off into the ‘real’ world. I am not ready to say goodbye to these thrilling events.” Adrian Cox adds to Junkman’s opinion, stating, “I don’t understand why so many seniors have stopped attending the pep rallies. Nothing excites me as much as gathering together with all my friends and cheering for our grade, especially because it is the last year we will get to enjoy something so simple, yet so fun.” Not all seniors relate to this growing phenomenon at Midlo, and many are willing to fight to keep them in circulation for future students to enjoy.
Ms. Emilia Mazzanti, the lead director and coordinator of the pep rally committee, comments, “The senior absences make me sad. Seniors should represent Midlothian High School and set a good example for the underclassmen.” Principal Shawn Abel also shares in her beliefs, adding, “It makes me sad. I’m not 100% certain why more students, particularly seniors, are electing to leave school early…This topic is on my agenda when I meet with my principal’s leadership team next week.” Many have proposed moving the pep rally to the morning to help build senior attendance. Despite the possible fix, Mazzanti fears this switch could lead to “impaired learning.” In addition, Dr. Abel hopes to end this phenomenon through a different approach, explaining, “For the spring pep rally, I am going to send a message to parents explaining that students should not be excused just because we are having a pep rally. I think parents hear from students that nothing is going on and that they should be dismissed. However, students who wish to not attend the pep rally can work under the direct supervision of a professional educator, completing school work. I would never force a student to attend a pep rally, as I understand that the loud noise and chaos is not for everyone. I just happen to love it.”
The buildup of anticipation for an entire hour dedicated to games, bursting instrumentals, and taunting chants seems thrilling (and sometimes intimidating) to students entering Midlothian High School for the first time, but as the months dip into years, for some, the novelty starts to slowly, but evidently, wear down. Senior Class President Preston Willett provided his thoughts as to why this trend has become more noticeable over time. “I feel as though the opportunities at a senior’s fingertips are greater than going to pep rallies, such as getting rest before a practice or grabbing lunch with friends. I don’t think pep rallies are below seniors, just that the other option seems like a better alternative. Spirit can’t be high when something else is being better incentivized.” However, the time-honored tradition continues to thrill numerous underclassmen and seniors, as well as add an extra level of excitement and spirit to a regular school week. While opinions at Midlothian High School vary from one extreme to the other regarding the escalating pep rally debacle, the faculty, administration, and Dr. Shawn Abel will provide the final say regarding the solution or change to this growing issue.