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Students at Pembroke Academy celebrate Winter Carnival traditions, senior class victory

  • Marcus Bessette, center, who turned 18 on Friday, and students of Pembroke Academy's senior class, dressed in green and waited for results of the week's school spirit competitions were announced. The seniors defeated their underclassmen and were followed by the juniors, wrapping up the end of Winter Carnival Friday afternoon, February 22, 2013. Each class was assigned a color for the week; freshmen wore white, sophomores wore red, and juniors wore blue and seniors wore green.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Marcus Bessette, center, who turned 18 on Friday, and students of Pembroke Academy's senior class, dressed in green and waited for results of the week's school spirit competitions were announced. The seniors defeated their underclassmen and were followed by the juniors, wrapping up the end of Winter Carnival Friday afternoon, February 22, 2013. Each class was assigned a color for the week; freshmen wore white, sophomores wore red, and juniors wore blue and seniors wore green.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • Each class was assigned a different color for Winter Carnival week at Pembroke Academy, which ended Friday, February 22, 2013. Seniors wore green, juniors wore blue, sophomores wore red, and freshmen wore white. The seniors gathered in the center of the gym giving each other hugs and were surrounded by their underclassmen as a send-off and the final event to close the school spirit week.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Each class was assigned a different color for Winter Carnival week at Pembroke Academy, which ended Friday, February 22, 2013. Seniors wore green, juniors wore blue, sophomores wore red, and freshmen wore white. The seniors gathered in the center of the gym giving each other hugs and were surrounded by their underclassmen as a send-off and the final event to close the school spirit week.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

  • Marcus Bessette, center, who turned 18 on Friday, and students of Pembroke Academy's senior class, dressed in green and waited for results of the week's school spirit competitions were announced. The seniors defeated their underclassmen and were followed by the juniors, wrapping up the end of Winter Carnival Friday afternoon, February 22, 2013. Each class was assigned a color for the week; freshmen wore white, sophomores wore red, and juniors wore blue and seniors wore green.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Each class was assigned a different color for Winter Carnival week at Pembroke Academy, which ended Friday, February 22, 2013. Seniors wore green, juniors wore blue, sophomores wore red, and freshmen wore white. The seniors gathered in the center of the gym giving each other hugs and were surrounded by their underclassmen as a send-off and the final event to close the school spirit week.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

There is a legend, from a time beyond memory, of a victorious junior class.

Ever since anyone can recall, the Pembroke Academy senior class has won the title of Winter Carnival Champions. But that didn’t stop the juniors, this year at least, from chanting as if they really believed they had a chance.

This week was Winter Carnival at high schools around the region, a week of team-building competitions among classes and stress-releasing activities like bonfires and relay races, including in Pembroke, where the festivities are a longtime tradition.

Old town and school district reports show photos of sledding and skating at winter carnivals in the 1930s, said student senate adviser Rene` Paquette.

The one-day event eventually grew into a week, with two days set aside for competitions and games in the gym.

In an age of increased testing, pressure to take advanced classes or find a trade before they leave high school, why are these kids spending two days wearing face paint and running relay races?

“Why do we have birthdays? Why do we celebrate holidays? Traditions are really important, ” Headmaster Mike Reardon said. “It adds character to the daily grind of school. . . . When these kids are 55 years old, they’re not going to remember their English class, they’ll remember their prom, the Winter Carnival, the times they had together.”

“This is educational for them. They’re working together as classes on something that’s really complex. They learn civility, the idea of screaming for your class but understanding that you’re part of an even larger community.”

The student senators who plan the entire week’s worth of activities learn even tougher lessons, Paquette said.

The students plan the whole week, from how to design and order the T-shirts, to scheduling each day’s events, from hiring DJs to coordinating with the local police. They maintained a Twitter account to remind students about the week’s events. The senators arrived at school at 6 a.m. Thursday to decorate and stayed through the end of the bonfire at 10 p.m.

On Thursday morning, the first round of events finished 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

“The leaders are just punting now, they’re trying to fill time,” Paquette said from her post on the sidelines. They gave the mic to a student to reprise his stand-up comedy routine from the talent show the night before. Then they held impromptu dance contests between each class. They reminded everyone to keep it clean. They coordinated with the physical education staff for the equipment needed for the rest of the day’s games.

And they’re getting a crash course on the democratic process, said Senate President Chantal Filiau, a senior from Pembroke.

Setting the carnival’s theme – elements, as in earth, water, fire and air – was a “wicked big controversy,” Filiau said.

The seniors wanted a different theme, but the senate, with equal representation from each class, is the deciding body. The senators polled every homeroom and held five open meetings to hear and discuss potential themes.

“No one ever came to them, but they were still mad when we picked it,” she said. Thankfully, the controversy “just died down after a bit, and they accepted it.”

On Thursday, representatives of each class competed in such contests as putting a cookie on their foreheads and using only their facial muscles to wiggle it down to their mouth. The juniors erupted in cheers when one of their reps finished first.

But as Abby Pinckney, a junior from Chichester, struggled, the cookie sliding onto her right cheek instead of straight down her nose, all the students in the first three rows leaned to the left with her, willing gravity to shift with them.

That’s what it’s all about, the students said.

“You spend the whole week working with each other and pulling for each other; it’s about your class being together,” said junior Mike Denis of Pembroke.

Even the freshmen class, assigned the element of “air” – just how festive can you be in a plain white T-shirt? – got in the spirit of things when they won an event Thursday morning.

“We just want to avoid humiliation as much as possible, and prepare ourselves for the real competition, when we’re juniors,” said freshman David Miner of Epsom.

“We’re here for fun, not the competition as much. You’re here to get to know your classmates better, learn more about what they’re like,” said Maddie Davis, a freshman from Epsom.

Still, “it would mean so much if we won,” Dennis said. “It would mean we were the best class ever. The seniors always win.”

Not so, said junior Lindsay Young, of Pembroke, who had heard, once, of a junior class that had won top prize. Others piped up that they, too, had heard of the fabled upset. When? Who? their classmates asked. No one quite knew.

But by the end of Thursday, the Class of 2013 had a comfortable 33-point lead, and yesterday finished the week, and their last Winter Carnival, with 259 points. It was enough for a comfortable win over the juniors, who earned 211 points, the sophomores 183, and the freshmen, who probably had a lot of fun anyway, 103.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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