All schools have unique personalities that are based on their traditions. McNicholas High School, since its beginning, has had traditions of its own that have made students and faculty proud to be Rockets.
During Catholic’s Schools Week, Friday is Penny Day, where students are encouraged to bring in pennies for the school to donate to charity. Penny Day started in 2000 when Service Club moderator Sam Roflow took a group of students to a leadership conference. “When I took a group of students to the Mayerson Service Leadership Conference they heard about something like this. We took it on, added our own twist, and went with it,” Roflow said. “This will be our 12th year and we have already donated over $60,000 over the years.”
On Penny Day, classes can’t start until all the money is collected and counted. Once the money is collected in the classes, teachers don’t start their lesson plans because they want students to help participate in the day and be involved in the spirit of the charity. Penny Day is coordinated and run by the Service Club each year, and the profits each year go to St. Joseph School in the West End to assist families who are struggling to pay for a Catholic education.
“Penny Day is my favorite McNick tradition. It mixes all the students interests like shortened classes and giving back to charity,” senior Paul Conrady said.
Boom Chick a Boom
This tradition of chanting began when the Sisters of Saint Joseph weren’t allowed to go the games because of their commitment to living a simple and consecrated life. They still wanted to know how the boys did before the newspaper reported the score the next morning, so the players would come back to the school and count out the score of the game on the steps of the convent no matter if they won or lost the game. After the nuns were given permission to attend the games, the cheer was lost for a time.
Sister Judi Keehnan, McNicholas Class of 1959 and a Sister of Saint Joseph, revived this tradition when she suggested it to the new football coaches when she began to teach at McNick in 1967. Now, after every victory, the players and coaches pray at the grotto and then race up the convent steps to chant their battle cry.
“My favorite traditions at McNick are Mardi Gras, the counting on the steps, and the musicals done every year. The boys would especially go over and count out the score for Sister Roberta when she was dying and couldn’t go anymore,” Keehnan said.
Mardi Gras at McNicholas was started by the Sisters of Saint Joseph when the order brought the celebration to Cincinnati from New Orleans where the tradition originated. When the tradition of Mardi Gras began at McNick, the king and queen were determined by who sold the most raffle tickets. The sisters were a poor society when McNick started and this was their main way to raise money for the school.
In the 1960s, this changed and seniors were honored for their dedication and service over their four years to the school. The students are nominated each year and then are voted on by students and faculty. The Mardi Gras season is kicked off by the naming of the sophomore and junior honor guards, and the senior court. The senior court consists of 20 young men and young women who have conveyed service and participation over their years at McNicholas. Among these who are named are the Maid of Honor and Captain of the Ball, who both have received the second highest amount of votes. The young man and young woman, who received the highest number of votes, become the King and Queen of Mardi Gras. The King and Queen are announced on the night of Mardi Gras during the opening ceremonies that occur before the dance.
“Mardi Gras is our best tradition at our school. We are the only school that does this event and it speaks about our heritage and honors our students for their service,” Director of Academic Services and Enrollment Ms. Lizanne Ingram said.
Appalachia and Kairos Retreats
Every year, juniors and seniors wait anxiously for when they can embark on their retreats that help them to grow spiritually and connect with their classmates on a deeper level. Kairos started at McNick in 1994, and even though the trip isn’t unique to McNick, the students take it as a time to reflect on their spiritual lives. Kairos 82 departs on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The Appalachia retreat was instituted at McNick on 1981 and has just celebrated its thirty-year anniversary. On this trip, students help serve the rural poor and strengthen their faith through service and prayer.