True to Tradition

Current and former STA students reflect on how to keep long-standing traditions alive after the COVID-19 pandemic disruption.


“At St. Teresa’s Academy, time-honored traditions have been passed down through generations of alumnae. From the sisterhood and relationships found only here, to events like the Father-Daughter Dinner and Dance and the Mother-Daughter Luncheon and Fashion Show, STA traditions are unbeatable.” This is STA’s statement on tradition that appears on the school’s website.

Senior Maggie Reintjes has been a class representative for three years and serves as class president this year, in addition to being a member of Spirit Club since her freshman year. Contrary to the STA website tradition statement, Reintjes feels as though in recent years certain traditions have been lost or changed.

“Some of the traditions have kind of been erased,” Reintjes said. “Not all, but for instance, we used to sing “Lean on Me” every Mass and we would end it and everybody would dance.”

2019 alumna Margeaux Renee remembers how special singing those unique STA songs was to her during high school.

“The way that we would all come together and share songs in a really passionate and earnest way will always be really special to me,” Renee said.

Reintjes believes this loss of traditions could be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My freshman year was not a [full] year and my sophomore and junior years were COVID-19 and [there were] a lot of traditions we weren’t able to participate in,” Reintjes said.

Reintjes reflects on how she learned STA’s traditions her freshman year.

“My first time I learned the cheers was actually at one of the Future Stars nights when the middle school students come and watch the STA games [and] they actually taught us the cheers,” Reintjes said. “Then at the first pep rally, they would teach us the cheers and for Spirit Club, you actually had to memorize them and say them as a freshman in front of the whole club and that was tough but it really helped us learn.”

Freshman Audrey Coppinger is also a member of Spirit Club and believes that students themselves need to put effort into school spirit and cheers. Contrary to Reintjes’s experience, Coppinger does not remember the chants being reinforced as thoroughly.

“It’s not that hard to learn the chants; it’s just that no one knows them,” Coppinger said.

Hope for reviving these treasured traditions is not lost.

“Students push against this loss; students notice it,” Reintjes said. “I don’t think it’s something that students like. The seniors can feel something’s missing and so they want to put their enthusiasm into their club, into their classes and into their sports.”

Reintjes and Coppinger agree that it’s the upperclassmen’s responsibility to bring back traditions that they are passionate about and pass them down to the younger classes.

“As freshmen we need to carry on [our traditions] to the next classes,” Coppinger said.

Reinjtes does her best to make sure students are participating in tradition and showing school spirit. With 10 members per grade, Spirit Club focuses on getting the student body excited and involved in school activities and events through consistent reminders, engaging flyers and pep rallies.

“We’re never gonna force someone to go to a sports game but bringing it up constantly will make people at least question going to the game,” Reintjes said.

When Renee was a student at STA, attending sports games were some of the most memorable STA events she could recall.

“Games of all kinds were generally pretty big deals,” Renee said. “I don’t remember missing a big basketball game or anything like that. Everyone went and it was a big part of the culture.

There was also plenty of support for STA theater performances. According to Renee, when she was in a musical or play, all of her teachers knew and the events themselves were always very well attended.

“A really big part of the culture was everyone attending each other’s events, whether that be sports, arts, theater, and so on,” Renee said. “At a certain point we all become one with the culture of showing up for one another and the sisterhood.”

A tradition that everyone has the opportunity to partake in are the many themed dress-down days throughout the school year, particularly during Spirit Week leading up to Teresian. Reintjes feels that participation on theme days has been declining.

“For Spirit Week people used to go crazy; you would walk in the quad and everyone would be dressed up, but last year nobody really dressed up because we were still in masks and the year before that [as well]; school spirit has been on the low over the last couple of years,” Reintjes said.

Reintjes noticed an exception to this low participation was the Father-Daughter Dance, held last month.

“People have gotten really creative with it, like at the Father-Daughter dance, that was awesome,” Reintjes said. “There were some pretty great costumes [in the past], but this year there was nobody who wasn’t in a costume.”

Coppinger, on the other hand, enjoys themed dress down days at STA because of how students tend to go out of their comfort zones for these days specifically.

“Those [theme days] are really fun because you get to see how outgoing people are with costumes,” Coppinger said.

Renee believes it takes time for students to become involved after enrolling at STA.

“The upperclassmen were more into it [themes],” Renee said. “When I was an underclassman, I remember not really getting it or feeling too embarrassed to wear a silly costume and then by my junior and senior years, everyone around me was doing it and everyone was excited about it. Definitely the seniors are the most into it because you get this feeling of ‘oh, this is my last time.’ The sense that it was all coming to an end soon was really powerful and drove us towards giving it our all.”

Renee also believes the closeness of traditions came naturally over time.

“I don’t think that they’re necessarily taught, it’s just one of those things where it’s like, ‘oh, we’re going to the game, you’re coming to the game’; it’s almost a non-negotiable tradition,” Renee said. “Even with [themed] Fridays it’s not cool to not show up and not look stupid. We’re all looking stupid together on a Friday and that’s the beauty of it.”

One of STA’s longest-standing traditions is Junior Ring, recognized by many generations of STA students, according to Reintjes. 

“[Junior Ring is] very special because that’s your realization that you only have one more year and it bonds you together,” Reintjes said. “I was in a store and I saw a mom who went to STA and recognized the class ring. We started a conversation and we wouldn’t have had that conversation if she didn’t see the ring. That’s a very special tradition.”

As a class officer, Reintjes had a special role in planning the Junior Ring ceremony.

“The other class officers and I actually hand wrote a little letter to every single person and we called up all the students and handed them their rings and gave them a card and a hug; it was very special to have that moment with our classmates,” Reintjes said.

To Reintjes, the class ring is a strong symbol for STA.

“It symbolizes the bond between everybody in your class, the bond that this sisterhood has and that people are there for each other in that,” Reintjes said.

Renee echoes this. 

“You’ll have conversations with people that didn’t go to a school like STA and they don’t understand [the big deal about Junior Ring] because they don’t have that same culture,” Renee said. “From the outside it does sound kind of silly, but we all understand it to be a special reminder [of the sisterhood]”

Similarly to her special role in the Junior Ring ceremony, as class president, Reintjes was charged with giving a speech at the Passing of the Legacy ceremony. During this event, seniors welcome freshmen to the sisterhood and gift them necklaces engraved with St. Teresa of Avila as well as a card and a hug. 

“It was a really happy moment for us [seniors] to realize how far we have come,” Reintjes said. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve changed. We’re so different from our freshman year. There was a very special moment for us passing it on to the freshmen, realizing the journey that they’re about to go on too.”

Coppinger had a similarly impactful experience with the ceremony as well.

“I still have my necklace and it was cool because we all saw seniors passing it on to us, and us saying, ‘we’ll be them someday,’” Coppinger said. 

Like Coppinger, Renee has her necklace even years after graduation and wears it every day as a reminder that STA will always be with her.

“I do remember being given this [necklace] and I still carry it with me all the time, 24/7, so that ceremony is with me,” Renee said.

A tradition that students wait to participate in throughout high school is earning Senior Privileges, such as coming to school late or leaving school early during free periods and special seating reserved for seniors only, Friday theme days and parking in the senior lot are just some of the additional privileges students wait years for. Reintjes has noticed not everyone is aware of these privileges.

“I had to talk to some freshmen about sitting in senior seating and parking in the senior lot,” Reintjes said. “There are some valuable aspects of seniority as in learning your way around and keeping the tradition alive.”

Despite wishing that underclassmen would respect seniority more, Reintjes also believes that it is the seniors’ responsibility to properly enforce the senior privileges they wish to keep.

“There’s definitely been a loss [of seniority] but I think it’s a matter of whether the class wants to assert it or not, ” Reintjes said.

This is very different from when Renee was a senior at STA.

“My experience of STA was that [seniority] was taken pretty seriously,” Renee said. The senior lot is the main privilege that we all enjoyed and it’s the biggest rite of passage to park there.”

The continued tradition of sisterhood is another aspect that perpetually bonds STA students and alumnae together. 

“[At] STA as a school, the sisterhood is very strong, and it does last past your high school years and I don’t think that is the way for kids at other schools,” Reintjes said. “Once kids go out of high school, they’re like, ‘I don’t want anything to do with high school,’ which is understandable. But at STA there’s something there that makes kids want to do something with it. They want to come to the reunions and be involved.”

Coppinger agrees with Reintjes and can feel the sisterhood that STA has to offer. 

“[Traditions] are really important because it’s our sisterhood bond; it keeps us all together,” Coppinger said.

“St. Teresa’s is a very unique schooling experience that I don’t think is paralleled anywhere, at least in Kansas City,” Renee said. “The experiences of friendship and sisterhood and especially community that I had in high school is something I’ll always search for and I really am not positive that I’ll ever find again. Even though they [traditions] might seem silly or part of the daily life of the time, they’re things that I don’t think I’ll ever get back.”

Since STA’s establishment more than 150 years ago, traditions have been the backbone of the school’s history, and are an integral part of continuing the legacy of sisterhood into future generations.

Reintjes feels that the reason traditions are so important is their community-building effect.

“When we have these traditions to look forward to like Teresian, Junior Ring, Prom, the Mother Evelyn O’Neill award, people look forward to those and it builds on the community,” Reintjes said. “[School] is not just a place to learn in.”