With a Virtual Mass and Car Parade, Welcome Week Was Full of New Traditions


Lukas Werner

At the welcome parade, students and staff members also collected school supplies for Lot Whitcomb. Director of Service Ms. Sarah Maher said that it “worked out perfectly.”

Kendall Whiteside, Assistant Editor

With campus closed, classrooms empty, and Zoom sessions in place, this school year is nothing short of unconventional for students.

Despite the obstacles that are posed when it comes to gathering in groups, members of the La Salle community are finding ways to connect with each other. Last week, in particular, members of the student life team and executive council worked together to host an event that is typically held at the start of every school year: Welcome Week.

Although Welcome Week was supposed to take place on the first full week of the school year, it was pushed back due to the Oregon wildfires that ignited and the dangerous air quality that followed.

While Welcome Week did not include all of the same events as previous years, this year’s events were adjusted to meet social distancing guidelines, and new events were introduced to ensure safety and allow for fun.

The week began with a virtual senior sunrise early Monday morning and a pajama dress code for the day. On Tuesday, the Welcome Week parade took place, along with the school supply drive for Lot Whitcomb, a nearby elementary school.

The club fair and welcome mass occurred virtually on Wednesday, and on Thursday, students participated in a teacher trivia contest on Schoology. Welcome Week concluded on Friday, where students were encouraged to wear the color purple in support of the Children’s Cancer Association.

While senior sunrise is normally a common tradition for seniors to participate in, this year was different from the past. Senior members of the executive council organized and hosted a virtual livestream of the sunrise from La Salle, during which members of executive council and a member of the Black Student Union presented speeches and reflections about the start of their senior year.

Senior Bella Chalmers said that she had a memorable experience watching the sunrise. “I had a good time with my friends,” she said. Chalmers went to a park to watch the sunrise and the livestream.

While other seniors, such as Egan Arnston, chose to make their own plans to watch the sunrise, they still enjoyed the symbolic kick-off to senior year. “I didn’t attend La Salle’s [senior sunrise],” he said. “[Instead] I did my own senior sunrise at Vista House and it was so beautiful. I would definitely recommend going up there to see the sunrise.”

The Welcome Week parade, which took place on Tuesday night, was organized by grade level. The freshmen class drove by the school at 7 p.m., followed by sophomores at 7:30 p.m., juniors at 8 p.m., and seniors at 8:30 p.m.

Decorated cars rolled through the parking lot that night, as a panel of judges, made up of teachers, observed each car that went by. Most students’ decorations pertained to their grade level and experiences at La Salle. “We put 2021 on the back of our car and respect your elders on the sides [of the car],” Chalmers said.

While several students showed up to campus with creative decorations attached to their vehicles, only one car, decorated by seniors, stood out to the judges. The car, which was decorated with balloons on the roof and 2021 displayed on the rear window, was a group effort from seniors Mallory Middendorff, GiGi Gottsch, Tristen Horsch, and Payton Horsch.

Mr. Gregory Larson was one of the judges for the decoration contest and he spoke on why their car stood out to him. “I currently teach, or have taught, all of those young ladies, and it was great to trade stories and share a laugh in person,” he said. “With that said, they pulled off quite a decorative feat — far more than I could accomplish, and a little school spirit these days goes a long way.”

During the parade, students were also invited to drop off school supplies for Lot Whitcomb. Director of Service Ms. Sarah Maher helped coordinate the school supply drive and said that although the drive was pushed back a week because of the wildfires, it “worked out perfectly.”

The primary organizers of the drive were sophomore Sydney LeFranc, who made the flyer to spread the word about the drive, junior Mary Loeb, who suggested the idea to Ms. Maher, and senior MaryGrace Mott, who as Officer of Service helped make signs and sort supplies.

Ms. Maher also noted that throughout the entire parade, 25 cars donated supplies, as did many of the teachers and student council members that were in attendance. “We were able to collect almost a whole minibus full of supplies and they took them all,” Ms. Maher said. “They already passed them out to families who needed them.”

The club fair took place virtually on Wednesday, with some students moderating the 24 active clubs and others joining and participating in them. Club moderators made videos to advertise to other students, and then students were able to sign up for clubs they were interested in.

Arnston is one of the heads for the Equality Alliance Club. “I’m super excited for it,” he said. “We have some really good ideas.”

A virtual mass over Zoom also took place on Wednesday afternoon. Director of Faith Mr. Gary Hortsch and senior Anthony Nguyen, who is also Officer of Faith, worked closely with executive council members to plan this event.

“Most of the planning was done by myself and Mr. Hortsch,” Nguyen said. “We also asked members of student council to help out with reading during Mass and a special shoutout to [senior] Robert Reiss for providing us with music through the piano at Mass.”

Nguyen said that he thought “the mass flowed really well without many flaws.” Although this mass ran smoothly, Nguyen did note something he wants to change for next time. “Next time we will try and see if we can get some choir members to either attend or record themselves singing some songs because as St. Augustine says, ‘singing is praying twice,’” he said.

On Thursday, students and teachers had the opportunity to participate in a trivia game in which old images of teachers and other staff members were displayed on a Google Form, with multiple choice answer options.

Staff members and teachers like Ms. Liz Banta, Mr. Aaron Hazel, Mr. Larry Swanson, and Ms. Maher were featured in the game.

Although many participated, only those who guessed each photo correctly were entered into a drawing for a gift card. Those winners were senior Mallory Middendorff, junior Natalie Rask, and Mr. Larson.

On Friday, members of the La Salle community were encouraged to wear purple during their Zoom classes in support of the Children’s Cancer Association.

Ms. Maher spoke about why La Salle supports this association.

“Supporting the Children’s Cancer Association started with Jesuit High School many, many years ago and that turned into an archdiocesan-wide event where all of the high schools are together, and wear purple, and walked on the last Sunday of the month,” she said. “It was just a way to raise awareness and raise money, but it keeps getting into a bigger ordeal the more awareness we have about it, which is awesome.”

Ms. Maher said that she, along with Mott and senior Executive President Dakota Canzano, wanted to continue to support the organization financially and through spreading awareness. “Even though we have COVID,” Ms. Maher said, “people with cancer are still fighting their same fights.”

Maher’s hope for the rest of the year is to “make sure that our students know that while life is different, there are others who still need our help,” she said.

Although Welcome Week was far from normal, many still enjoyed the event. For senior Sophia Owen, she enjoyed Welcome Week despite the challenges that COVID-19 creates. “I think the school did a good job of letting us know what events were going on and how we could be a part of them,” she said. “I still felt a positive energy, even in this weird time.”

For Ms. Maher, her takeaway from this week was that things are always changing and that this is the reality of the situation, so we have to make it work. “[We] just got to keep doing what we can, being as creative as possible, and knowing that things might not work or might not happen, but whatever we can do will be fine,” she said.