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Community, school spirit focus of Concord High winter festival

  • From left: Concord High School students Amelia Moodie, Amber Anjim, Mariah Scannapieco and Samantha Ricker dance with Finny the Shark, the cheer squad's mascot, during the final day of the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    From left: Concord High School students Amelia Moodie, Amber Anjim, Mariah Scannapieco and Samantha Ricker dance with Finny the Shark, the cheer squad's mascot, during the final day of the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Soma Bhandari, 18, leans into the henna piece she was working on during the final day of Concord High School's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. Bhandari was working the "Be The Change" club table that offered henna designs and baked goods. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Soma Bhandari, 18, leans into the henna piece she was working on during the final day of Concord High School's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. Bhandari was working the "Be The Change" club table that offered henna designs and baked goods.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • From left: Bradley Rucker, Michael Shea, and Nick Carlson sing "Don't Stop Believing" for fellow students in the Concord High School gym during the final day of the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    From left: Bradley Rucker, Michael Shea, and Nick Carlson sing "Don't Stop Believing" for fellow students in the Concord High School gym during the final day of the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Halima Noor, left, and Amelia Moodie slide down one of the giant inflatables set up in the gym at Concord High School for the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Halima Noor, left, and Amelia Moodie slide down one of the giant inflatables set up in the gym at Concord High School for the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • From left: Concord High School students Amelia Moodie, Amber Anjim, Mariah Scannapieco and Samantha Ricker dance with Finny the Shark, the cheer squad's mascot, during the final day of the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Soma Bhandari, 18, leans into the henna piece she was working on during the final day of Concord High School's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. Bhandari was working the "Be The Change" club table that offered henna designs and baked goods. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • From left: Bradley Rucker, Michael Shea, and Nick Carlson sing "Don't Stop Believing" for fellow students in the Concord High School gym during the final day of the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Halima Noor, left, and Amelia Moodie slide down one of the giant inflatables set up in the gym at Concord High School for the school's Winter Carnival on Friday, February 22, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Concord High School junior Francine Niyansaba was doing brisk business yesterday morning during the school’s winter carnival.

She wore her long, dark braids in a loose ponytail and offered a coy sales pitch for her homemade amandazi, a traditional Rwandan baked good resembling an old-fashioned doughnut in taste and texture. She shared the ingredients – eggs, flour, sugar, water – and said she recently learned from her mother how to make the sugary treats.

“It’s only my fifth time making them,” she said.

Niyansaba and classmates Halima Aden and Jane Yen marshaled a table for the Be the Change Club during the daylong winter carnival, an event that has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.

Deeply entrenched in the winter doldrums, students see the winter carnival as an opportunity for fun on the eve of February vacation. “It’s nice. I think it’s good to get together and chat with your friends and have fun,” said senior Mariah Scannapieco.

Students milled about the gymnasium, alternately trying their hand at carnival games and sampling food offerings from more than 20 student clubs.

The annual event reflects the charge of its primary sponsor, the school’s Varsity Club. “The mission of the Varsity Club is solely to promote school spirit. That’s what we do,” said junior Will Charlotte. He wore a collared shirt with an American flag pattern in observance of yesterday’s “Stars and Stripes” theme.

Ryan Donnelly, senior class president, said the club considered a handful of themes before settling on “Stars and Stripes.”

“We just kind of brainstormed this and said, ‘What can people really get excited for?’ Then we said, ‘Hey, people are patriotic.’ It all tied in really well because of the Olympics. It’s the perfect match,” Donnelly said.

For administrators, the event provides an ideal setting for students to connect, both with their peers and with the school.

“It’s an effort to develop a sense of community,” Principal Gene Connolly said. “Certainly, our main charge is to educate, but part of that is developing a sense of community and the feeling that Concord High School is their school.”

The winter carnival has grown in recent years, said Varsity Club Adviser Chris Boezeman.

Several years ago, membership in the club had dwindled to single digits. At the time, membership was limited to students who had earned a varsity letter in athletics. A move to boost membership and open up eligibility to students who participate in athletics at any high school level has worked. Today, approximately 70 students participate in the club, covering significant legwork in the months before the carnival. Boezeman estimated 75 percent of student clubs participate in the carnival.

“What’s really cool about the carnival is the participation, not just from the Varsity Club members, but from all of the clubs,” Boezeman said yesterday. Boezeman, who has advised the club for three years, quickly redirects praise to those whom she feels it truly belongs to: the students. “The kids really do it all,” Boezeman said. “It does give them a sense of community, and that’s a good thing. It helps brings back the school spirit.”

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

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