By Nora Lowe
On September 3rd, the eve before the first day of school, approximately one-third of the Byram Hills seniors used chalk to colorfully decorate the sidewalk in front of the entrance to the high school. The students’ eye-catching creations greeted incoming high schoolers on the first day of school. The seniors’ creations included their names, encouraging words, and some small illustrations. This has been a tradition at Byram for many years, and this year’s class had the intention of upholding it.
However, in past years, the seniors’ chalk was power-washed from the concrete before other students had the opportunity to see it. These actions were taken because some students had taken advantage of this tradition, and used the chalk to write inappropriate things. The administration was disappointed that students took advantage of this tradition, and thought it would be best to wash it off. This year, prior to the night before the first day of school, Principal Walsh informed seniors that if anything “insensitive, inappropriate, or demeaning” was written, the messages would be washed away. Seniors respected this warning, and their chalk was not removed.
Although the administration has not granted the senior chalk event the same amount of enthusiasm the students have, in the past, the administration has removed the students’ creations entirely. Some class members are of the opinion that adorning the concrete outside the high school with chalk is temporary and welcoming to incoming students. Byram Hills senior and mentor, Hayley Siegle, attests to the fact that the senior chalk event was a “great way to start the year as a grade, doing something together for anyone who wanted to participate”. She also understands how “chalking” the concrete could be interpreted as vandalism, but further comments that “[they] did a good job as a class in being sensitive to everyone and cautious that everything written was school appropriate”.
When asked how she perceived the senior’s chalk when she entered high school, freshman, Hannah R., asserted that she “viewed the senior’s chalk as welcoming and encouraging.” This comment signifies that, to many students, the bedecked sidewalk was welcoming, especially on an occasion as stress-inducing as the first day of high school.
The Byram Hills student body is a close-knit group of students which results in class-wide participation in various traditions. Some of the notable senior traditions include senior “blackout,” and for those who choose to be involved, the “assassin” game. In addition, in years past, seniors have been permitted to paint the rock adjacent to the tennis courts to personalize it for their class, but that event is no longer authorized. This year, the eagerness and support that have been shown towards the senior chalk event has given it the potential to ultimately become a new and improved senior tradition, and a great way to help the seniors begin their year in a fun and positive way!