At Bryan Collegiate High School, celebrating homecoming looks a little different: It involves seven colors and 21 different mascots.
On Friday afternoon, the student body congregated in the school gymnasium, dressed in bright hues and carrying a menagerie of cardboard props for a pep rally to get pumped for the school’s homecoming soccer game. Bryan Collegiate does not host a UIL football team, so the school’s varsity soccer team played the high school alumni in a Friday match as part of homecoming.
Students moved across the gym floor displaying decorated cardboard boxes — some carried, others worn. The projects represented school spirit as well as a friendly competition between the school’s “houses” and “families” — classifications of students randomly divided and personified by animals and colors, much like the system described in the popular Harry Potter series.
“Since high schools don’t have homecoming parades through town anymore, this our kind of alternative for each group of students to represent themselves to the school community and to take pride [in] what they came up with,” said Lori Nichols, who teaches Path College Career, or PCC, at the school.
Upon beginning Bryan Collegiate, each student is randomly sorted into one of the school’s seven “houses,” represented by a specific color and broader animal type, such as the green Reptilia house. The student is also randomly sorted into one of three “families” within each house, represented by a more specific species, such as the Turtles within the Reptilia house.
Each family hosts 20-25 students from freshmen to seniors, and the groups congregate for about an hour each week, where they work on projects and practice social skills and team building exercises. The school’s houses are encouraged to compete against one another for “spirit points” earned throughout each semester through projects completed, school spirit and acts of exceptionally good character. The cardboard homecoming spirit props were created by each family of students in an attempt to garner more spirit points and win the coveted “house cup” by the end of December.
Andrea Tirado, a Bryan Collegiate freshman, is a member of Aves house, specifically the Owl family. On Friday, she arrived at school decked head to toe in her family’s color of royal blue, even sporting blue face paint and blue hair coloring. She had helped create a rainbow bird house filled with clay birds for her family’s cardboard prop.
“Our group thought about how to involve every family in the school,” Tirado said as she showed off her team’s box. “[We] put each family color on the sides, and we involved the panther, too, since the panther is the school mascot — as well as the different birds.”
Upperclassmen are encouraged to take leadership roles within their families and to encourage and mentor younger students. Mallory Garner, a junior with Mustelidae house’s Badger family, was selected as one of two official leaders within the her family.
“We teach our classmates social and emotional lessons about topics like cyberbullying,” she explained. “Or [we teach] communication skills, and how to build positive relationships. It’s a very fun process for us.”
For the homecoming prop project, the Badger family designed a cardboard badger-shaped helmet and a faux cardboard lantern with battery-powered candles. Like Garner’s outfit and makeup worn Friday, the props were bright yellow, the color of the Mustelidae house. The Badger family showed off their art projects in the gym to school faculty, as well as two local radio DJs with KNDE-FM, Candy 95, who helped judge projects as honorary guests.
Candy 95 presented the school with a championship belt, which they gave to symbolically designate Bryan Collegiate the best high school in the local area.
Biology teacher and Snake family faculty adviser Aubany Moon, who was wearing green Snake regalia, said the school classification system was first enacted three years ago.
“We already had an amazing culture here,” she said. “... having families just really amplified it... it gives the kids something to hold onto besides sports or academics. It’s something they can be a part of.”