Clear eyes. Full hearts. Hair-dos. Wait, what? That’s right — from gold highlights to Friday night lights, Plano’s senior high school traditions are as varied as the mascots. To find out what Wildcats, Wolves and Panthers (oh my!) are all about, we got the scoop from three Plano high school veterans.
Plano East Senior High School
“There’s a new cat in town.” In 1981, that was the talk of Plano. That new cat was the Plano East Panther. I was in the first group of teachers hired, not long after the concrete foundation had dried. I asked former and current teachers for their assistance with this article, but I’ve also tried to whisk away the cobwebs and recollect memories of our unique traditions at East.
Where did the school colors black and gold originate? Rumor has it that twin boys at Williams High School convinced the charter class to vote for these colors when they were about to be the first students at the new senior high. Apparently one of the twins was infatuated with the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Traditions at the 35-year-old school are still going strong, especially in football season. The Golden Girls drill team stands in two long victory lines on the football field for the team to run through. Sergeants wear black hat bands, social officers wear silver and the team wears gold.
The EAST ONE flag is carried out of the tunnel before each football game symbolizing we are “all one and all in on the East side,” according to Joey McCullough, head coach. The football players dye their hair gold when they go to the playoffs (I have personally witnessed some bizarre colors emerge from that tradition) and each player asks his favorite teacher to wear his jersey on game day.
The band starts and ends the year playing the school song, the first song they learn at band camp. The East Guards assist cheerleaders by running flags down the field when we score, followed by push-ups. The Homecoming queen is announced at the game and the king is announced at the dance.
Camp Panther is scheduled each August to introduce incoming juniors to traditions, songs, organizations, etc. Traditions aren’t limited just to football season. In the Spring, students are chosen to model the latest styles in the Prom Fashion Show.
The Jungle is the newest basketball tradition where the student body wears matching shirts and cheers wildly. I know many schools dread encountering the spirit of The Jungle. The power of the Panther lives on.
Plano Senior High
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Tradition is no exception, so I was thrilled to hear from Plano Senior High School Associate Principal Glenn Davis that most of my beloved high school rituals are still intact. Now, I’m an old-school Wildcat, having graduated 13 years ago (yikes). And even then, I had no idea about the history of our favorite events — like the annual blood drive, which just celebrated its 39th anniversary. The largest high school blood drive in the country, it’s been a popular way for students to give back for nearly four decades.
Of course, my fellow alumni all also fondly recall Duck Week, held annually during the week surrounding Earth Day. The PSHS pond, home to a flock of beloved ducks, needs a little love from time to time. And by participating in Duck Week activities like Stay Day, where students save fuel by not going out to lunch, they help the environment while championing the ducks’ habitat.
I was excited to hear the Mr. Plano pageant is still around as well. A student favorite, the pageant has always been full of fun shenanigans, kind of like that time Mr. Auto Body took the talent show too seriously, entered the stage in a cow suit and proceeded to chug a gallon of milk. You can probably guess how that turned out. And who could forget how the band, drum line and color guard marched the PSHS halls on big game days, playing our hearts out to the tune of “Grandioso,” hyping up the whole student population with Plano pride?
Oh, but there are a few traditions that died out over the years. I’ll always miss the Bump-A-Thon, when we turned our sound systems up in the parking lot so loud, you could hear the bass from three blocks away. And as Mr. Davis said, the Powder Puff football game has gone the way of the past. Why? Says Glenn, “The girls could not keep from taking it too seriously!”
Plano West Senior High
by Haley Pevsner
When I was an incoming junior at Plano West two years ago, the prospect of entering an entirely new school was a tad daunting at first. As we fed into the university-sized campus alongside another high school, my class size nearly doubled and my classrooms were almost impossible to find without help. However, a special tradition organized by administration and the student congress allowed me and my fellow classmates to cast away our worries of fitting in and to feel united with the entire student body. Before the school year’s first pep rally, all students are provided with a free, trademark royal blue “Blue Nation” t-shirt to wear on the special day.
This initiative began the same year that Plano ISD realigned attendance zones to include all Jasper students – a controversial change criticized by some parents for causing population growth at West. In a school of around 3,000 students, it is all too easy to succumb to feelings of loneliness and isolation. On the day of the first pep rally, however, feeling like a lone wolf among a pack of thousands is impossible. For me, seeing a cascade of blue t-shirt clad students flooding through the hallways and past our famed fountain made me feel less alone and more excited for the year ahead.
Fast forward one year and I was a senior, re-entering a school that truly felt like home. This was especially true for those who attended a newly established commencement event known as Senior Sunrise. Exclusive to seniors only, the gathering precedes its counterpart Senior Sunset in May, both of which target the innermost sentiments that only a graduating class is familiar with. As seniors come together in August to watch the sun rise above the grassy green outstretch that is West’s football practice field, feelings of excitement and anticipation for the year ahead are shared.
At the end of the year, however, an entirely different atmosphere encapsulates those present for the sunset. As soon-to-be graduates prepare to leave the Plano West community behind and say goodbye to everything they’ve ever known, the shared experience of Senior Sunset offers a chance to grapple with life’s changes alongside people you’ve grown up with since elementary school. For Wolves, it is a time to savor the final moments of youthful bliss, reflect on choices and decisions from years past, and face the future and its challenges head on.