Half of student body attends first-ever virtual rally

Chelsea Nguyen covers her mouth in surprise as Zuleika Cruz announces that the juniors received last place with 60 points. In the chat, seventh grader Matthew Pham writes “bruh.” (Alexandra Rozmarin)

UPA’s Associated Student Body (ASB) held its first rally since January via Zoom on Sept. 4, the first virtual rally in school history. ASB also hosted a spirit week and virtual lunchtime activities leading up to the Friday rally, complete with a way for students to submit their themed spirit outfits for points to help their grade win a prize pack with pens, buttons and temporary tattoos for each student.

In preparation for the rally, ASB members attended the California Association of Directors of Activities (CADA) Leadership Camp in July for the first time.

“I think it’s always helpful to brainstorm what to do with other people because everybody’s in a brand new boat,” ASB Advisor Nicole Sebek said. “No one knows what they’re doing.”

Certain ASB members—like the president, vice presidents and secretaries of spirit—were given premium access to the camp, where they were put on councils that planned different events for the week with students from other schools. Council 6 planned the virtual rally, and those without premium access then attended that rally. Junior Tiffany Tran, one of three secretaries of spirit, was on Council 10, meaning she helped plan the talent show portion of the week.

“The camp was a learning experience for us all at ASB because not only did it give us a chance to see what other schools were doing in their regular or virtual year, but it also gave us the motivation to make the best of our current situation,” Tran said.

Because UPA’s rally was virtual, ASB placed an emphasis on looking for ways for students to engage through Zoom poll voting, Google forms to submit origami butterflies made after following a video tutorial played during the rally and other interactive activities.

Although only UPA’s Singing Club performed at the rally because other clubs had not formally begun holding meetings, Sebek thought competitions like speed water drinking worked well in the digital setting. Participants filmed themselves drinking a 16-oz. water bottle as fast as they could and submitted the videos to ASB; the winner, sophomore Juice Heeregrave, was announced at the rally.

“They’re like, ‘I drank as fast as I could, I gotta be the winner, right?’ And then you look at the other kids and you’re like, ‘Wow, you guys are all pretty fast,’” Sebek said. “We’re hoping that people saw that that was kind of cute, and so they might want to participate in more competitions, even if they are virtual.”

Reo Sato’s pet bunny, Bitsy, made a guest appearance at the Sept. 4 rally. (Photo courtesy of Reo Sato.)

Other activities included a “Bunny Break,” where science teacher Reo Sato shared video clips of his bunny, Bitsy, and a vote on fifth period AP Psychology’s pig drawings, where students on the first day of school drew pigs without knowing their purpose, and then science teacher Loren Schwinge connected certain qualities of the pig to certain personality traits. During the rally, Schwinge explained that the connections were fabricated, urging students to not believe every “fun psychology fact” they read on the internet.

Both Sebek and senior Zuleika Cruz, an ASB secretary of public relations who co-hosted the rally with Secretary of Spirit Chelsea Nguyen, were disappointed with the low turnout for lunchtime activities held earlier in the week, but were pleasantly surprised when approximately half the school attended the rally, hitting a high of 320 people.

ASB embedded Zoom polls during the rally asking students to vote for winners in activities like art contests in order to engage students; Sebek said she saw about 85% participation in those polls.

“In reality, because it was the first rally, I didn’t expect too much participation,” Cruz said. “It really surprised me when we got a whole bunch of people for the art competitions, and people were very much hyping up the Singing Club. That really exceeded my expectations, so I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

Sebek mentioned she saw a dip in participation about halfway through the Kahoot, played toward the end of the rally. She surmised that was a result of people not believing they could win or wanting to go to lunch early.

Tran created the Kahoot with an assortment of random facts from the internet in an attempt to make it different from the Kahoot with pop culture trivia ASB hosted earlier this school year.

“I’m like, ‘Bro, I worked so hard for you and you just left the Kahoot,’” Tran said.

Despite this, Tran still thinks the Kahoot promoted engagement and hopes to integrate more online games into future rallies.

In order to incentivize participation, monetary prizes were offered to winners of certain competitions throughout spirit week, like gift cards to an establishment of the winner’s choice. Sebek said even with the monetary prizes, ASB spent less money on this rally than what ASB normally spends on in-person rallies.

“It’s just something small to remind them that we’re thinking of them, that we still care about them and that we want to give them something to make them feel happy,” Cruz said.

After points were counted from participating in dress up days and the rally performances, winning relay races and the art competition and sending in the origami pictures, Cruz and Nguyen announced at the end of the rally that seniors won with a total of 535 points and juniors received dead last with a total of 60 points, trailing the freshman by 80 points.

Tran, who helped count the totals, had noticed a lack of participation from the Class of 2022 throughout the week.

“It’s just our class; we have no spirit,” Tran said. “I don’t think it’s because of our grade level, it’s just like the people do not care enough.”

Some students attending the rally also noticed the lack of junior participation and spammed the chat with messages of disappointment, drowning out important announcements and forcing Sebek to turn off the chat function at certain points. Students spammed the chat at multiple other moments as well. 

“I did hear that people were displeased when I would regulate the chat, but it is what it is,” Sebek said. “I mean, well, you were doing weird things, and you didn’t like [that I turned off the chat]? Oh, that’s too bad.”

Another area of growth Sebek recognized is the balance between MCs knowing the outcomes of competitions, as a result of rehearsals, and expressing genuine reactions.

“There was some feedback that [students] thought that the presenters knew the answers ahead of time, and, to be fair, they did,” Sebek said. “There’s a fine line between how much you rehearse and how much that reaction then looks like a paid actor.”

There were silver linings to the digital rally, though.

“We got teachers to come out and I felt like common teacher feedback was, ‘It was a lot quieter, so I didn’t have to hear the screaming,’” Sebek said. “So I felt like there was a lot of appreciation for that.”

As for next spirit week, ASB members are still deciding whether to host a rally or a movie night or video game tournament in place of the rally.