Zoomcoming 2021

Leadership prepares for a virtual Homecoming week

Claire Wen

“Come out and watch it, I guess. Don’t just turn off your camera and sleep. Get excited. We’re doing our best. We’re doing our best. I think it’s gonna be cool, because you get to see faces and people and you don’t get to see that a lot. You know, it’s just MVHS spirit. I’m really, I’m really, really, really excited. I think it’s gonna be good.”

MVHS’s virtual Homecoming, dubbed Zoomcoming, takes place from March 18 to March 24, with social media activities in the week leading up to a YouTube livestream on the final day. 

Junior Bhuvan Balagar, who is on the Spirit Commission, explains the basis for the event.

“We weren’t really sure how we were going to replace homecoming, like what event we’re going to do, because Homecoming, it has really high expectations, right?” Balagar said. “So, we didn’t want to have an event that would be like a direct replacement for Homecoming, and then it’d be like, really underwhelming. So we sort of had to think of an event that would be there in place for Homecoming, but it wouldn’t be like, exactly like Homecoming, right? So it’d be like activities and events, but it wouldn’t be the same, so it wouldn’t feel that underwhelming.” 

At the beginning of the school year, the Leadership class had hopes of returning to school in person for the second semester, which was why Homecoming was postponed from the usual October timeframe. Senior and ASB Vice President Melannie Ooi explains that the leadership team prepared for Homecoming with multiple outcomes depending on whether school would be fully online, hybrid or back in-person. As it became apparent that distance learning would be extending past the first semester, Leadership adjusted to Zoomcoming.

“Oh geez, it was a lot,” Ooi said. “So first, we have to look and see, we have to compare it. So we look at the in-person events of what we do for Homecoming, what our usual, normal, regular year would look like. And then we have to start peeling away from those ideas like, ‘OK, we can’t do skits,’ Or even if we wanted to do it, over Zoom, like virtually, how realistic is that to have the dances and the story and the script and everything? And then we look at Homecoming court, and then we look at the rallies and then we’re like, ‘OK, the rally, we could probably adapt it to something virtual.’ And then so we start moving on from there. And then I think we had a Leadership class brainstorm. So hypothetically speaking, if we were going to do a rally on Zoom, like a livestream, or like a video just to put out there for entertainment for everyone, what would it look like? And then you start to have all the individual ideas and aspects and segments to the livestream. And then people are like, ‘Hey, what about participation? And what if we want interactive activities?’ And then you start to see all the Instagram challenges.”

The Instagram activities in the week leading up to livestream consist of finding characters in an image for “Where’s Mickey, Monty, and El Toro,” drawing sign-ups to win a Starbucks gift card and estimation jars that correspond to the themes of the different classes — “The Lion King” for Class of 2021, “Aladdin” for Class of 2022, “Moana” for Class of 2023 and “101 Dalmations” for Class of 2024. 

Junior and Class of 2022 Treasurer Cindy Zou explains that a major goal was organizing activities that would be engaging despite the virtual platform.

“What we tried to do is, in order to keep students engaged, what we kind of focused on is giving versus asking,” Zou said. “So basically, what that means is we tried to make events that would give [to the students]. For example, with estimation jars, it requires really little work to participate but you can get something big in return, which is what we really wanted to focus on this year.” 

The final event is the livestream during Advisory on March 24, which will include announcements of the Zoomcoming court and drawing winners, a Kahoot game, videos from school organizations like the chamber orchestra and the MVHS dance team, trivia questions and a staff laughing competition. Ooi appreciates that the timing during Advisory will give the event a bigger reach.

“If you were having a skit in the rally court, so it’s, ‘Hey, we’re having a skit in the rally court, juniors are performing today, come out,’” Ooi said. “And then you have some MVHS kids like doing their homework and studying for a chem test on the other side of campus, you know. But if it’s during Advisory, then everybody has — well, they might not be watching it, but it’s the idea that it’s there, and everyone’s watching it at the same time, and that’s as much of the school as you’re gonna get as possible. So that’s really cool. That’s my favorite part. You know, because you reach as many people as you can, versus in-person, you don’t have control over that.”

However, the virtual platform also poses difficulties in other areas of orchestrating the event.

“The number one question is, when it comes to any Leadership event, is definitely, what is the school going to think, right?” Ooi said. “Like, is this something they would enjoy? Is this something they would watch? Is this, you know, something that they will participate in? And then you also look at inclusivity. Like, who can we include in this event? And I think the biggest challenge is, is this something that they would enjoy, because I feel like this stigma that comes with a virtual event is that it’s lame, you know. You think of prom, when they were like, ‘Let’s have a virtual prom,’ and people were like, ‘What’s that gonna look like? You just sit there?’ You know? So, it’s definitely hard, because there’s a stereotype and stigma that comes with virtual events. So it’s kind of overcoming that and pushing through that.”

“And then even though we kind of lost the like in-person interaction element, I think one thing that we wanted to continue having was, continue providing ways to bond, providing more bonding opportunities for the student body,” Zou said. “And I think with this year, the focus kind of directed towards what can we do for students rather than holding events that we think that people wouldn’t enjoy. So that’s kind of where the focus shifted. But also, we wanted to maintain our old traditions of keeping everyone together and unified.” 

Zou also appreciates how planning Zoomcoming brought leadership together more as all the classes and commissions were collaborating to work on it, whereas usually they would have their own breakout rooms during the period. Each class or commission was responsible for certain activities.

“I’m in Spirit, we worked on the estimation jars and the trivia questions,” Balagar said.

“2022 Class Office and Outreach, the Outreach commission, worked together to organize the Staff Laughing Contest,” Zou said.

“As Exec, we are in charge of drawing sign-ups, I think, and I wanna say the alma mater and the online ‘Where’s Monty and El Toro?’” Ooi said. “We basically just picked the events that people didn’t want to do, that’s what we did. And then also editing the whole thing together. And then, just as Exec, we usually just facilitate and oversee everything that the Leadership class does. So definitely, if they have any questions or anything, and if anything needs to be communicated to the advisor, any concerns, then that’s what we’re there for.”

Balagar reflects that his favorite part of the process was discussing the plans, as it demonstrates possibilities for future events.

“I think this event, it’ll show how successful rallies and more online events can be with the entire school,” Balagar said. “So I think discussing what we can do and what will get the most participation is probably the thing that I enjoyed the most, because this event could sort of lay a foundation for what you can do in the future. Like if you can do more online events that’ll be more successful and what plans we can have for that as well.”