ASB: The People Behind IHS Winter Traditions

Melanie Barry, Copy Editor

First winter break is a time of rest, travel, and celebration, and many students (and staff) spend the weeks prior anxiously awaiting its arrival. Others, like senior Erin Tylutki and junior Oliver Ohrt, spend those weeks working tirelessly to ensure that everyone is sent off to winter break on a good note. ASB Leadership, the school organization that these students and 29 others are a part of, is tasked with organizing school-wide fundraisers, events, and activities, as well as unifying and recognizing students and staff. Ask a student at IHS what this looks like during the month of December, and they will probably mention the giant inflatable snowmen that tower over the commons. “I think they’re really fun to have around,” explains sophomore Conrad Gannon-McKinley, who said the inflatables were the first ASB winter-themed decorations to come to mind. However, while they are certainly the most eye-catching, the inflatables are just one of the many, many school festivities planned by ASB in the weeks leading up to winter break.

As junior class council president, Ohrt’s general role in ASB is to help out with electronic advertisement, such as the digital newsletter, E-News. When it comes to Winterfest, he was most notably involved in the assembly skit playing the Grinch. According to Ohrt, ASB’s most popular winter activity are the winter wishes. Early in the month, students and staff can fill out a slip of paper during lunch and request a gift, such as a candy bar or a phone case. Those slips of paper are then hung up on a tree in the office, and anyone who feels inspired can pick one out and grant the wish, leaving the gift in a collection box for ASB to deliver during class time. “Everyone loves winter wishes,” says Ohrt. “The idea of requesting a gift and maybe your wish will magically get granted is kind of fun.” Freshman Sophie Enkbohld agreed, saying, “I think the winter wishes are probably my favorite winter activity because it’s just kind of special and different to give people presents and possibly get them.”

Ohrt also mentioned the Winterfest Spirit Week as being a school favorite, which ran during the third week of December. Each day, students were invited to come to school with some sort of festive clothing or gear. This year, that included PJ/comfy clothing day, ugly sweater day, winter gear, white out, and dress-like-your-favorite-holiday day. Gannon-McKinley said he enjoys watching students dress up for the spirit days, adding, “I see maybe a quarter of my classes participating in spirit days.” Additionally, each class council hosts a before- or after-school activity on one of the days of the week. Technically this is separate from ASB, but there is a lot of cross over since those in class council are required to also be in ASB. Senior class council president Erin Tylutki said that the senior activity was cookie decorating in the commons with Alex Stevens and Jared Fernandez, two science teachers at IHS. “Ours was pretty popular because seniors tend to be more involved in school activities,” she says. “Plus, we were giving away free cookies. Basically, any activity that gives away free food is usually very, very popular with the students,” laughed Tylutki. Ohrt said that the junior class council hosted a “Squid Game”-themed cookie-cutting activity. “I was at school until 7:00 pm the night before cooking the batter, so I was very excited to see our plans come into fruition,” says Ohrt.

Connection Week is another festive week of events, hosted on the second week of December; this year, that included an after school movie (Home Alone), a winter guessing game, candy cane grams for students, winter songs during passing period, hot cocoa and candy canes before school, and sing-a-grams for the teachers. Kurtis Evans, the ASB Activity Coordinator, says that he personally enjoyed the sing-a-grams the most out of all the winter-themed activities. He explains, “When I was teaching math, I always looked forward to the sing-a-grams and how they would break up the everyday flow of the classroom and liven up the mood a bit.” He added that he was pleasantly surprised by the nearly overwhelming number of sign-ups for candy cane grams, and especially sing-a-grams. “So, that was encouraging to see that so many individuals were excited to be a part of those activities and give back to their friends and teachers,” he says. Tylutki shared a similar explanation for her favorite activity, hot chocolate and candy canes before school, saying, “It was especially rewarding because we had actually first hosted the same activity as part of a different connection week earlier in the year, and it didn’t go as well. So, seeing it come together now and be a success after we worked hard to revise and solidify our plan was really nice.”

All the festive spirit from these activities culminates into the big event of the season: the Winterfest assembly. During this event, there are games, sing-a-longs, gifts, and a holiday show or skit put on by some of ASB. Some winter wishes are meant to be granted during the Winterfest assembly, so ASB will pick those out and incorporate them in during the planning phase. Ohrt explained that about a month before Winterfest starts, ASB establishes different committees within the class, each of which is in charge of different things. “One of those committees is in charge of the Winterfest assembly,” he says, “so they’ll go through the wishes daily as a group, read them out, and decide which will be granted during the assembly.” Tylutki, who was on the assembly committee, says, “Basically, we choose the wishes that would be the most interesting to watch. It also depends on whether people are willing to grant those wishes in front of others at the assembly.” Evans adds, “We also have to consider costs.” He explained that in past years, ASB would receive money from PTSA and boosters, but COVID-19 made that difficult this year. “ASB cannot gift anything to students with our own public money, so this year, money for, say, the props used as part of the wishes during the assembly, came from individual ASB students’ pockets.” Some of the wishes granted this year included a dinner date between students, a mock sword fight between three English teachers, and a sing-along led by Spanish teacher Kelsey Early.
Of course, assemblies have been a rocky reality since the beginning of school due to COVID-19 regulations, and as a result, things were a little different this year. Primarily, the assembly, which was hosted on the last week before winter break, was split across two days, the first day being for upperclassmen, the second day being for underclassmen. “This year,” explains Evans, “we were initially not allowed to have assemblies inside, and then we were allowed only one grade level, and most recently two at the same time, in the gym.” This new configuration lent itself to difficulties of its own, such as the fact that, as Evans pointed out, specific winter wishes that were granted for upperclassmen couldn’t be one of the wishes granted during the underclassmen assembly, which meant extra planning for ASB. He added that, in general, COVID-19 regulations have made large-event-planning considerably more difficult. “In a normal year, for most of the events we’d plan, we’d have a plan A and then maybe just slight variations. Now, we have a plan B and a plan C.” He goes on, “So, we’re actually planning completely different events just in case plan A doesn’t work out and we have to to be able to adjust on the fly.”

On this subject, Ohrt says, “The decision to do two different assembles for the different grade levels was very last minute, so we had to improvise some stuff, and we were very rushed in our preparation.” This preparation, he explained, included arriving at school every morning at 6:00 am for a week and a half to plan the games, write and practice lines for the skit, and talk to the students and teachers who would be involved in winter wishes. “There’s a ton of factors to consider, and that part is challenging, but as a group it’s easier because we can put our minds together to work tough problems out,” he says. He added that the limitations they’ve had to deal with due to COVID-19 has, on the bright side, inspired them to innovate. “I think that’s exciting and useful,” he says, “because, you know, stuff comes up in life, things change, and you have to adapt.”

Evans noted that, naturally, with such a diverse student body, it would be unrealistic to expect everyone to love everything they do. On this, Tylutki says, “We’re just looking to promote school spirit and get people excited for the holidays and winter break. Of course, we want to encourage participation, but if people can’t or don’t feel comfortable, we still want to give them something and thank them for being awesome students and letting us do our job.”
Both Enkhbold and Gannon-McKinley did not report participating very much in any of the Winterfest activities besides the assembly. Nonetheless, they seemed to appreciate ASB’s hard work, if from afar. “It probably takes hours and hours of work from lots of people to organize all this,” says Gannon-McKinley. Enkhbold shares, “As a freshman, my impression of Winterfest and the students behind it is that it’s clearly a really big thing for the school, and a lot of people enjoy it. Everything ASB has done to organize Winterfest is pretty impressive – especially the giant snowmen.”