School-Spirited Fun with a Purpose

DSHA has several aspects that set its high school experience apart from other schools: its all-girls environment; the special relationships between students, faculty, and staff; and its Catholic mission rooted in the goodness and kindness of Jesus Christ. But, there are other things that build the Dasher community that may not be as well known to our wider audience — aspects that are the essence of fun with the purpose of creating community. While COVID-19 and social distancing tested the tight-knit community at DSHA, Dashers maintained a sense of school spirit and unity thanks in part to the Empress Crown competition, a school-wide engagement opportunity which allowed students to stay connected while apart, and the DSHA Class of 2020 to shine even while missing some of the coveted end-of-high-school milestones.
It’s a picture the DSHA school community sees at the end of almost every all-school assembly; the three Penny Dashers ask the most anticipated question; the one seniors wait three years to hear:
“Seniors, seniors, what’s your num­ber??!!??”
And the answer comes in soundwaves so loud it will leave your ears ringing:
“2-0, 2-0, 2-2-2-0!!!”
It’s no doubt the DSHA Class of 2020 has been robbed of — or are stuck waiting for — many end of the year milestones, like shouting this cheer as a group.
But one tradition of school spirit they did not lose out on: becoming Empress Crown champions.
Sponsored by the DSHA Student Council, Empress Crown — named in part to represent the female version of the Emperor Penguin — is a whole-school, year-long competition between classes. The goal of the competition is to foster a spirit of community; to celebrate class and school pride, encouraging participation from everyone in all-school events and activities, Student Council-sponsored or otherwise.
Classes are awarded points based on the percentage of participation in certain events that span the width of the DSHA whole-person experience. Events might be for-fun-only like dressing up on special theme days; or they may have a greater purpose such as raising the most money in the Penny Wars that support the Lenten or Advent project; bringing in the most food during collections days; attending Dasher Dialogues, and so on. 100 points are granted to the class that has the highest percentage of participation; 75 to the class with the second highest percentage of participation; 50 for the third, and 25 for the last.
As for the class that collects the most Empress Crown points by the end of the school year, they receive their own spirit week, often times complete with something extra special, like a bounce house, pizza party, or an ice cream sundae bar — just for them.
According to School Counselor and Student Council Advisor Dave Lynch, the Empress Crown competition promotes school spirit throughout the whole school year, both during busy months and the “doldrum” days.
“School spirit is not just for grand assemblies,” he said. “Spirit can be shown in small ways as well. A Tuesday in January can have as much spirit as the Friday before homecoming.” And it all serves a purpose of creating the extra special sisterhood that is created amidst the walls of DSHA.
Although the Empress Crown competition started in-person throughout the first semester, it continued with tweaks as DSHA transitioned to online learning in mid-March.
Lynch encouraged participation through daily themes on Microsoft Teams, the online platform DSHA has utilized to facilitate student and teacher connection. Students were asked to post pictures or GIFs based on the theme of the day, such as crazy sock day, favorite memory from the school year, or wear your uniform day. This action allows them to see their classmates, and interact with one another’s posts.
“Empress Crown unifies classes around a common goal and helps make ‘we’re all on the same team!’ more concrete,” said Academic Dean Heather Mansfield.
“We look forward to the Empress Crown opportunities, because when we become united and participate, we have a sense of pride in each other,” said Leena Bekhiet, DSHA ’20, one of three Penny Dashers. “If Empress Crown disappeared, so would that pride, as well as the opportunity to have fun with our peers.”
“Mr. Lynch was passionate about maintaining Empress Crown during our time apart,” Bekhiet continued. “Those normal, same things we use to do at school — we need those now more than ever,” she said.
The continuation of the Empress Crown competition did in fact maintain a sense of normalcy and sent a message about staying positive even in the midst of crisis.
“Although it feels like this period will last forever, other classes (freshmen – juniors) will return to school,” Bekhiet said. “School spirit and the drive to win Empress Crown must continue and must progress throughout your years at DSHA.”
It has for the DSHA Class of 2020, and having an Empress Crown competition in the midst of COVID-19 was something they could still rely on, and something for which they could rally together.
The class of 2020 is the only class in the seven-year history of Empress Crown to win the competition more than once. They’ve been able to enjoy a class spirit week since 2017, and as of May 16, they became the first class to four-peat the competition.
“It really sets us apart,” said Bekhiet. “It proves that we’re a special and strong class, winning for four years.”
According to Bekhiet, teachers and administration have commented that the class of 2020 is different in a good way, united in their actions with a sense of care for one another. Jonna Lareau, DSHA ’20, also a Penny Dasher, says that her class has been in tune with each other since the very beginning. “We’ve lost so much because of this quarantine,” Lareau said. “We can’t have a senior prank or anything like that, but we won this. We maintained our champion status.”
While the seniors took school spirit seriously, it was also the connectedness of the DSHA community that kept the school community alive throughout COVID-19, Bekhiet shared.
“We are such a tight-knit community,” Bekhiet said. “Not just any school would continue spirit days and be passionate about it. It takes a special type of community to do that.”
Both Lynch and the Penny Dashers agree that among this special community, school spirit is a necessity.
“DSHA has a lot of rigor and difficult coursework,” Bekhiet said. “It’s super important to have some sort of excitement to balance the hard work and stress out.”
This commitment to maintaining a balance between working hard and having fun with a purpose is a piece of what DSHA means when it promises to develop the whole person. Like Bekhiet said, girls come to DSHA not just for the academics and faith formation, but for fine arts, athletics, friendships, and yes, school unity that is rallied through the work and spirit that the DSHA Student Council works so hard to maintain throughout the year. According to Bekhiet, while the community practices social distancing, it’s that much more important for the leaders of school pride to step up their game.
“It’s important to us that our classmates are still excited about DSHA, about coming back next year, and more importantly, about being a part of this awesome community,” she said.

Seniors: 4250 points
Freshmen: 3775 points
Juniors: 2460 points
Sophomores: 2325 points


- Attending Dasher Dialogues
- Bringing in the most food/clothing/ school supplies/money during collection days
- Attending guest speakers
- Dressing in theme during spirit week/days
- Winning the powderpuff football game
- Winning grade vs. grade pep rally competitions
- Bringing in Dash-a-Thon quota
- Participating in Gr8 Lengths
- And so much more!
    • Leena Bekhiet, DSHA '20 (far right), one of the three Pennys.

    • Jonna Lareau, DSHA ’20 (far left), one of the three Pennys.

    • Kaitlyn O'Hair, DSHA '20 (middle), one of the three Pennys.


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