MODESTO -- It was a great day for Zombies, Tigers, Pink Panthers and Confetti Blizzards. Dressed up and pumped up, they and 30 other teen teams roared through games for fame, glory and, mostly, fun.
It was a Wednesday for buttoned-up Central Catholic High School students to unleash their inner Aztec, test their wits in saints trivia and risk hoarseness (maybe deafness) while cheering.
The school's annual Family Day links all the students from all four years in team competitions, complete with crazy clothes, theme flags and Halloween store props. But beneath the glitter, fake blood and war paint lies a deeper purpose: forging community, said Central Catholic Principal Melissa Bengtson.
"This is their favorite day of the whole year and they do get into it," she said.
For this day, seniors play the parents, with juniors and seni-ors playing older siblings to incoming freshmen and transfer students. The school draws students from Stockton to Los Banos, she said.
"We are not a neighborhood school. We need to find ways to build that community," Bengtson said. "I do think it helps for teens to feel part of something, with somebody to answer to," she added.
Coach Jeff Mitchell, manning the run-tricycle-skateboard relay race, called the day a good bonding experience. Mitchell said his daughters had been looking forward to the day for weeks.
So had senior and Zombie team "mom" Mattie Gini. She said the best part of the day is getting to know kids she doesn't have in her classes. "It's a really cool way to meet new people," she said from behind vacant-eye contacts, her face dripping fake blood on a stained white tee.
Senior Allie Montgomery, bedecked in sky-blue tiger wear, said the day's a break from tough classes this year and college tests to get through. "I just like the school spirit. Being able to let loose," she said.
A break from stress
Bengtson said that's another reason for the day, "letting kids be kids stress release." Students now have more pressure over college and harder classes, in addition to all the social ups and downs, she said.
Dashing to join the rest of his clown team, a 6-foot-plus teen in a purple tutu and cone hat grinned at a question about his wardrobe. "It's actually not that bad," Jordan Boddie said.
Orange prison jumpsuits, complete with penned-on prison tats, cheered on their basketball team. Team Goth, all in black, showed off fake piercings. Hats and Tats team members also got a pass for the day neither hats nor tattoos are allowed on campus, the principal said.
Normally, Central Catholic students wear trim navy blue school shirts and slacks. The chance to wear neon green, searing pink, glitter-faced rainbows and gold lamé clearly was too good to pass up.
After shrieking, bouncing and shouting their way through kickball, relays, lacrosse, street hockey and the highest-volume Connect Four games possibly in the nation, the high scorers were the Aztec Warriors, Party Rockers and Pink Panthers, in that order. Best "parents" were Becca Yates, Ryan Thiel and Abigail Grisel of Team USA.
Almost prophetically, the spirit award went to the Kicking and Screaming team, and sportsmanship honors went to the Safety First family.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.