Let’s Make These Houses Homes

Upper School Drops Friday Schedule to form Intra-House Bonds


Photo: Snowden Farnsworth

Cypress practices their stomp cheer routine. The stomp competition was paired with a dance-off to fill out the afternoon.

Co-Editor-In-Chief Snowden Farnsworth and Editor of Features Cary Robbins also contributed to the reporting of this story.

St. George’s Upper School kicked off the second annual house competition on Friday, dedicating the entirety of the day’s schedule to what was dubbed the “House Retreat.”

Mrs. Emmy McClain, who is responsible for much of the House Retreat’s logistical planning, said that Friday’s events were aimed at creating a sense of community within each house, rather than pitting the houses against each other. 

“The goal of the first day was to have more internal house bonding, getting to know each other in our groups,” Mrs. McClain said. “That’s kind of how we framed it, more than just running crazy [and] doing all kinds of competitions.”

Having that in mind, the day started off with an upper school-wide manic game of rock-paper-scissors that culminated with one representative from each house squaring off, leaving Honey Locust Senior Caden Wells as the last man standing. 

Ironwood Senior Andrew Helfenstein cited the pandemonium of the rock-paper-scissors gauntlet as his favorite moment of the day. 

Honey Locust screams for victory during the house-wide rock-paper-scissors game. Honey Locust went on to win the tournament and also took the overall lead.

“It was all really fun, everyone was really excited,” Helfenstein said. “It was a really good bonding exercise for all of us”

Upper School Director Mrs. Pamela McCarthy also found bonding and collaboration to be a central theme of the retreat. 

“I definitely see students across grade levels working together to do these various challenges,” Mrs. McCarthy said, “It’s really less about the challenges and more about the opportunities for kids to get to know each other, and it’s been really exciting to see that.”

Many of the day’s events, such as the photo scavenger hunt, designing house flags and the stomp cheer competition focused on making students work together with other members of their house. 

Willow Junior D.J. Loynes found the camaraderie displayed throughout the day to be ingrained in the nature of the house system. 

“We had a lot of fun making the flags,” Loynes said. “Occasionally one Willow would pop into the room where another set of Willows were working on another flag, and we’d complement each other on it and give each other suggestions or help each other out. I think that was an example of getting into the spirit of [the day].”

Ms. Wagner’s advisory works intently on their flag. Each house presented one flag per advisory, and were given points for best collection overall.

Another purpose of the retreat was to welcome the class of 2023 into the house system and give them opportunities to get to know students in the classes above them. Mrs. McClain commented on her surprise at the Freshmen classes’ ability to get into the spirit of the houses. 

“I saw freshman taking on some leadership stuff in the chants,” Mrs. McClain said. “That’s really the goal, is to welcome them to the high school, get them involved, pull them in.”

Andrew Helfenstein as an Ironwood house leader also felt as though it was his responsibility to make sure that the Freshmen are brought into a welcoming environment. 

“I want to make sure all the Freshmen feel comfortable and not scared of the upperclassmen,” Helfenstein said. “I just want to be really nice to everybody.” 

The house system’s ability to foster friendships across grade levels is part of the reason the system was implemented last year. 

“It’s really less about the challenges and more about the opportunities for kids to get to know each other,” Mrs. McCarthy said “It’s been really exciting to see that.”

And while collaboration and inter-house relationship building were the focus of the retreat, Mrs. McClain hinted at some more competitive events to come, as well as a leathery prize for the overall champions. 

“We’re getting leather rings made to show who won each year,” Mrs. McClain said, “I’m looking forward to the other more competitive [events] coming up this year.”