The Alumni Field Experience

Quakertown Community High School’s stu­dent sec­tion, band, and cheer squad cre­ate a com­mu­ni­ty spir­it at Friday night foot­ball games that is the envy of vis­it­ing schools.

The Quakertown Community School District has devel­oped a for­mu­la that doesn’t need a score­board to prove it’s a win­ner. On Friday nights at Alumni Field, the mag­i­cal expe­ri­ence is cap­tured in the lead­er­ship of high school stu­dents by high school stu­dents, who come togeth­er to cheer on their Panthers in a fam­i­ly friend­ly way that is inclu­sive of the broad­er Quakertown community.

The ingre­di­ents include an exu­ber­ant stu­dent sec­tion, a nation­al­ly ranked band, an awe­some cheer squad, and a hard-working foot­ball team built on char­ac­ter that appre­ci­ates the sup­port. The recipe pro­duces an expe­ri­ence that’s sec­ond to none on the high school level.

These foot­ball games have shaped my high school expe­ri­ence in unimag­in­able ways and to see every­one in the stu­dent sec­tion smil­ing, laugh­ing, yelling, and cheer­ing togeth­er exhibits how much we care about our school and the peo­ple around us,” said Madison Jeffery, one of 12 stu­dent sec­tion lead­ers who have tak­en on the respon­si­bil­i­ty for the pos­i­tive behav­ior of their class­mates. “No mat­ter the out­come of the games, peo­ple show up every week because the atmos­phere of being in those stands with your friends and class­mates and watch­ing the peo­ple you know and have grown to care about on the field is an amaz­ing feel­ing. Friday night foot­ball will always be the most excit­ing expe­ri­ence through­out my years of high school and it will absolute­ly be the num­ber one thing I will miss most when I grad­u­ate next year.” 

Brooke Ziemba, the band’s Drum Major, said “We love com­ing out to sup­port our com­mu­ni­ty and student-athletes. It’s exhil­a­rat­ing to see the stu­dent sec­tion and cheer team sing and dance to the music we are play­ing. Quakertown has such a won­der­ful atmos­phere, and I’m so glad the band is a part of it.”

While the foot­ball team is cen­tral to the gath­er­ing — and the 7–0 Panthers are hav­ing an awe­some cam­paign — the stu­dent sec­tion is the one area where stu­dents are respon­si­ble for their peer’s behavior. 

It’s a respon­si­bil­i­ty they seek out by fill­ing out an appli­ca­tion that’s sub­mit­ted to the high school admin­is­tra­tion, which then selects stu­dent lead­ers. Their tasks include con­trol of the @QCHS_student22 Twitter page, choos­ing the game’s themed attire, orga­niz­ing the sec­tion seat­ing by grade lev­el (seniors in front), and get­ting the cheer­ing start­ed. They meet reg­u­lar­ly with Principal Mattias van ‘t Hoenderdaal.

You want to see our young peo­ple in the build­ing take that piece of own­er­ship,” Mr. V said. “You want stu­dents to step up and make it their own. There’s pride in that, and I’m proud of how they’re han­dling it.”

Band Director Frank Parker com­mend­ed the stu­dent sec­tion for the respect it shows to oppo­nents. “They don’t boo or say any­thing neg­a­tive,” he said. “They won’t do that. And that’s a cul­ture the admin­is­tra­tion, teach­ers, and stu­dent lead­ers have worked hard to estab­lish.” For exam­ple, when an oppo­nent is injured, the stu­dent spir­it sec­tion sits down, while the foot­ball team and cheer squad take a knee. 

In addi­tion to Madison, stu­dent lead­ers include Alli Caputo, Amelia Cianciola, Emma Donnelly, Kyla Frederick, Jadyn Fuentes, John Juszynski, Todd McGann, Leah Mestayer, Laney Mitchell, Brandon Pierce, David Pyfer and Brendon Ruzicka.

Being a stu­dent sec­tion leader is one of my great­est high school mem­o­ries,” said Brendon, a senior. “Being one of the peo­ple in charge of get­ting every­one going and get­ting the foot­ball play­ers hyped up is a spe­cial feel­ing. When the band is play­ing their songs we feed off that by going along with them and just being loud, which is our job.”

They’re loud and they’re fun,” said Will Steich, the senior quar­ter­back. Every now and then you look up and appre­ci­ate every­one being there. It’s great.”

Senior run­ning back Tyler Woodman said “They real­ly make it fun to go out and play. Their noise on third down def­i­nite­ly makes a dif­fer­ence. It’s ridiculous.”

Football Coach George Banas has told his play­ers to “stop, take in, and enjoy” the stadium’s atmos­phere. “We’ve been real­ly blessed,” he said. “There’s not an emp­ty seat and peo­ple are stand­ing shoul­der to shoul­der. The inter­ac­tion is super pos­i­tive. Our play­ers def­i­nite­ly feed off that.” 

When the Panthers play at home on Friday nights, there’s school and com­mu­ni­ty pride in evi­dence on Park Ave. between 7th and 8th Streets in Quakertown Borough. When the lights go on, mem­o­ries are made, and friend­ships are strength­ened to last a lifetime.

The body of Alumni Field adds to the cozy feel. There’s no walk­ing track nor eight-lane track. The stands are essen­tial­ly on top of the field, giv­ing addi­tion­al strength to the noise lev­els of the stu­dents sec­tion, cheer team, and band.

Coach Banas said every vis­it­ing coach has remarked to him about how spe­cial Alumni Field is. “They all say, ‘Man, this com­plex, this facil­i­ty, is like no other.’ “ 

Athletic Director Sylvia Kalazs said staff mem­bers from oppos­ing teams have told her they are “amazed and awed” at how the band and stu­dent sec­tion “inter­act for such a won­der­ful Friday night atmos­phere.” She said the band and stu­dent sec­tion were inten­tion­al­ly moved togeth­er approx­i­mate­ly five years ago to enhance the camaraderie. 

Cheer Coach Liz Ebersole, a 2013 QCHS grad, said “The stu­dent sec­tion is so loud and so big. It has expand­ed so much since I was a stu­dent here, not even close. It’s def­i­nite­ly more of a social event.”

After a recent game, Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said Neshaminy Superintendent Dr. Rob McGee told him he has “nev­er seen a high school sports sec­tion like Quakertown’s.”

Dr. Harner, who called the stu­dent sec­tion “elec­tric,” said a “pos­i­tive school cul­ture is fun­da­men­tal to aca­d­e­m­ic excel­lence. And a very impor­tant part of that excel­lence are pro­grams for ath­let­ics and arts. It rais­es the expec­ta­tions and per­for­mance of every­one involved.”

Coach Banas believes that in the midst of an 18-month pan­dem­ic, Friday night com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ings are part of a “heal­ing process.”

Our full com­mu­ni­ty is com­ing togeth­er, from ele­men­tary on up. They’re hav­ing an expe­ri­ence with their friends to enjoy life again.”