Each year on Loyalty Day, Glenbrook North High School Spartans layer on their green and gold garments and pile into the gym for an assembly celebrating a spectrum of achievements from clubs, athletics and individual pursuits. Their emcees, the five-member Student Activities Board, introduce honors wearing the same striped long-sleeve polos that have been donned for decades. At the end of the assembly, the Down by the River Boys lead a chant that literally has the crowd jumping up and down and “going bananas."
Only three miles away, south of Willow Road, the students at Glenbrook South High School show support for each other in similar fashion. This fall, all 3,000 students worked together to produce a 14-minute Lip Dub; a hype-up video featuring dozens of blue-and-gold clad GBS students lip-syncing to feel-good songs as they walked through the halls. In the background, clubs, sports and classes danced along, celebrating their causes with confetti and swag. The finished result was aimed at building school spirit while also raising awareness for Youth Services.
Over the decades, the two high schools in the Glenbrooks have been named Blue Ribbon Award winners, ranked among the top high schools in the state, and earned accolades for state and regional athletic and academic achievements. But, many Glenbrook staff, parents, and students say what makes GBN and GBS most unique is their pursuit of school spirit and pride.
Mike Tarjan, GBN Assistant Principal for Student Activities, said the Glenbrooks are special in that there is a mutual respect between students and a camaraderie in the way students explore their passions in the schools.
“As a school, we definitely express the ‘rah-rah’ spirit you see at football games or assemblies. But I believe the spirit at GBN extends to the way we care about each other, the intense pride we have for ourselves and our peers,” said Tarjan. “The support GBN students have for each other is completely unmatched.”
Though the schools are often seen as rivals, GBS Assistant Principal for Student Activities Jim Shellard notes that both Spartans and Titans are ultimately committed to holistically engaging students. “Spirit plays a huge role in that.”
“Feeling Titan pride means that students are involved in all areas of GBS. This involvement helps students find purpose and accentuates their self-confidence in themselves,” Shellard said.
At both GBN and GBS, there are between 70 and 80 clubs and around 30 athletic teams that foster students’ interests. Shellard reported that around 90 percent of students participate in at least one sport, activity or both. Additionally, each club aims to contribute to at least one service-learning project a year.
“Every year, we survey our students to determine the effectiveness of our programming. Then, we adjust accordingly with the constant goal of reaching all 100 percent of students,” Shellard said.
Student Body President and GBS senior John Schurer, who also serves as Key Club president and Oracle newspaper editor, said his high volume of involvement with GBS is fostered out of a desire to create an unparalleled school atmosphere for his peers.
“I want to pay it forward for our underclassmen just as upperclassmen have done for me,” Schurer said. “We only have four years to form friendships, make memories, and leave our mark on the school. With everything that GBS offers, I think our desire to give back comes naturally.”
Sydney Cohen, GBN senior and Feminism Club president, said she discovered a voice inside she never knew existed while advocating for social causes through clubs.
“I never expected to be the most spirited Spartan but the activities at GBN have given me a platform to exude my passions and discover a spirit I never had before,” Cohen said. “The spirit at GBN has allowed me to find who I am as a person, and that’s something I will appreciate my entire life.”
Administrators aim to encourage the spirit that roams the halls, Tarjan said, because data supports the concept that spirit enhances school learning environments.
“When students build relationships - with each other and with staff - they’re more likely feel connected to the school and more likely to perform better. Academically, socially and emotionally.
We engage students as individuals on a daily basis by letting them be who they are, helping them follow their interests and showing them we’re present in their lives.”
-Dr. Mike Tarjan
Additionally, Shellard notes that many Glenbrook parents are alumni themselves and contribute to the atmosphere by reveling in their kids participating in the same traditions they loved as students.
“We have built upon a strong framework to create traditions that have lasted for more than 30 years,” Shellard said. “What makes us unique is that we tie trends into our values and don’t give up on traditions, while also allowing them to grow and evolve.”
Notable traditions include assemblies for fall, winter and spring sports rosters, float building for Homecoming parades, an annual district musical, weekly fundraisers in the hallways, student radio and video announcements, peer-led social cohorts, Canned Food Drives, and a variety of performances.
“When you measure all we have to be proud of it, it’s hard not have spirit,” Tarjan said.