You'd probably guess if you rolled up to the doors at SSHS at 3:40 you'd be the first one there. And on most days you would be, but Wednesday morning, I was practically late. About 2,000 SSHS students, faculty members and community goers all packed in the Spanish Springs large gymnasium to take part in Good Morning America's national telecast, promoting the school's video submission into a contest sponsored by GMA and pop music star Katy Perry.
I was blown away by the turnout. When I first heard, on Monday, GMA was coming out to the Sparks school for an early morning broadcast, I was a bit worried there wouldn't be much of a turnout and it might look poorly on the school's students and their hard work. I even wrote a column pleading with school officials to roll out the red carpet for GMA and do whatever they could to entice students to come.
I think it's safe to say I underestimated the early morning rally power of the teenagers in the Spanish Springs valley. I'd venture to say half of the school's student body of 2,400 was in attendance to greet a national television audience and welcome them to a new day.
"It's early and it's hard to get people to come out early," Spanish Springs leadership teacher Matt Faker said. "The kids were excited to show up. The spirit at our school is at an all-time high. You can never doubt what Spanish Springs is capable of.
"To get all these people here with a day's notice is pretty amazing. Our leadership class helped out. We made a lot of posters and got raffle prizes. We helped with logistics. We're really good at event planning, but with just a day, we did what we could."
They did a lot as evidenced by the flurry of signs, waving towels and purple pride that oozed from the gym for three hours early Wednesday morning.
"I'm happy to see how many kids showed up. I'm not sure when I was in high school I'd have shown up at three in the morning," quipped Washoe County School District area superintendent Troy Parks. "I visit out here a lot. You hear about the great kids and families in Spanish Springs. This is another piece of evidence that shows the good things going on at Spanish Springs."
The winner of the video contest will receive a free concert on campus from Katy Perry later this month. Spanish Springs is completely bought into winning the event, from putting together a quality video, mimicking Perry's 'Roar' anthem about empowerment, to showing up in droves for a national TV telecast.
GMA is broadcasting live from each of the five finalists schools this week. Spanish Springs principal Tasha Fuson was ecstatic about the turnout from her students and was pleased to see her staff putting in extra time to support the student body.
"I've got over half my staff here and they're not getting paid. They're just here to support the kids," Fuson said. "The other half wanted to be here, but many had little ones at home or other commitments, and they were emailing apologizing they couldn't be here. I'm proud of our staff, our students and our community. This is great."
Spanish Springs teacher and football coach Scott Hare summed it up pretty well when he elaborated on why he felt it was important to be at Wednesday's early morning event.
"It's just part my role, my duty at the school as a teacher and coach," he said. "The school, students and community have really rallied around this. It's pretty special. A lot of these kids showed up at 3 a.m. today and they can struggle to be here by 8 a.m. People can be pessimistic about what's wrong in our schools, but this is what's right. Spanish Springs does things the right way and it's cool to be here and be a part of it."
Spanish Springs students were set to take midterm exams Wednesday, but they didn't let that stop them from showcasing their school spirit to all of America Wednesday. More importantly, the school's administration embraced the once-in-a-lifetime special opportunity GMA brought Wednesday. Cougar Nation seized that opportunity. It was awesome to watch our Sparks-area teens engage in something for the collective and not the individual.
They should be proud of each other and enjoy the excitement. It should be a fun time. They've earned their moment in the spotlight.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's Managing/Sports Editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org