By Ellen Hu
This year, Summit Denali students participated in a new tradition to create community bonds. The introduction of the one-day Community Day event marked the end of the school’s annual camping trip.
“The purpose of Community Day is to have fun; build a community with our classmates; and enjoy the outdoors,” Denali senior Will Torborg announced to the school during the opening ceremonies.
The day started with the annual Denali Mentor Olympics that have been held for the past three years during the camping trip. The competition was sorted into four events. Each community group earned points based on their placement in each event, and these points were added to create final scores.
This year three new events were introduced to the Mentor Olympics: Crazy Waiter, Fill the Bucket, and Tug-of-War. In Crazy Waiter, students held a plate with ping pong balls above their eye level and wove their way through a line of their community group peers. Fill the Bucket tested students’ speed and efficiency by having community group members fill a bucket with water using only a sponge while traveling between a pool filled with water and their bucket.
“Community Day is a day where we really stop and be present together,” Denali Dean of Instruction and Culture Allison Roberson said. She said she believes that creating an environment separate from the classroom helps build bonds between teachers and students.
Many students saw this bonding occur throughout the day. “I enjoyed seeing teachers try to connect with students,” Denali freshman Stella Vissers said. She found herself creating strong bonds with AP U.S. Government teacher Sarah Rivas and Expeditions Dean Kalyn Olson.
Other students saw Community Day as a chance to bond with their peers. “I like that you got free time to catch up with old friends or make new friends,” Denali junior Daisy Diaz said about the camping trip. “I still feel like that applies to Community Day.”
For the past six years, Denali students from both the middle and high schools participated in an overnight camping trip at the beginning of the school year. This year, all Summit Public School campuses transitioned to a one-day Community Day event.
Turning the camping trip into Community Day was due to several reasons, according to Ms. Roberson. The most important reason was that camping trips were hard for some students, which limited their ability to take full advantage of that time. The school wanted to make something that was more accessible to all members of the community, Ms. Roberson said.
“I liked how everybody bonded and got to meet new people and create friendships,” Denali senior Nicole Sanchez Steffanoni said. Denali senior Marina Seawick agreed, adding that it also created stronger bonds among community groups.
Some students were skeptical about the effectiveness of the camping trip replacement. “I think the thing about the camping trip was that we were in an unknown place together,” Denali sophomore Ella Chen said. She said she believes that facing the unknown helped build a sense of connection.
“I just feel like it’s less exciting because you don’t get to be in a tent with new people and spend more time outdoors,” Sanchez Steffanoni said.
Other students believed that the camping trip might not have been the best option for community building. “I didn’t really enjoy the camping trip,” Denali senior Josephine Martensson said. “I liked Community Day much more, especially the second half of the day.”
Denali senior Niels Van Roode agreed with Martensson. He said that if the school had held a camping trip he would not have attended based on previous experiences.
“There is a different feeling when we’re on home ground,” Ms. Roberson said. She said Community Day feels less foreign to her.
The second half of the day was composed of a structure similar to Fun in the Sun, an event that Denali held the previous school year. Staff supervised several activities and students were able to choose what they did in the afternoon.
In the closing ceremonies, it was announced that Devany Smith, who mentors seniors, won the Mentor Olympics for having the most points collected from all four events. Nicole Soriano, who mentors juniors, won the spirit award for keeping a positive attitude and cheering on other teams.
Featured image (at the top of this post): Denali sophomore Cleo Chen participates in a game of volleyball during Community Day. PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu