How do you keep school spirit and engagement alive when there aren’t any games or rallies, students can’t be on campus and in-person communication is rare? The answer is Instagram.

Monache High School’s Associated Student Body (ASB) realized the value of their Instagram account, @monacheasb, when COVID-19 struck and they all had to become virtual.

“No one really understood how valuable our Instagram really is,” ASB president, senior Addison Sampietro, said. “We didn’t realize just how much engagement we could gain from using our Instagram. We would always just focus on school functions and now we have to resort to the Instagram and I think it’s going really well.”

By really well, Sampietro means that students are actually interacting with the account and participating in the activities they put on. Last week that showed with a dress-up week called “Quarantheme” with themes like “Coronacation” for Hawaiian vacation attire and “Quarantine Chaos!” showcasing wacky clothing and hairstyles. Dozens of students shared their outfits on Instagram, and even teachers joined in to show their support and school spirit.

“We always have a big group of teachers that are really excited to participate, and the kids love to see that,” ASB co-advisor, Tahnee Baxter, said.

But the Instagram account is about more than showing school spirit. It’s also about letting students know their classmates are there for them and that they’re all going through something. It's something students are able to relate to through the Questions of the Week.

ASB asked “How are you staying motivated throughout distance learning?” last week and received over 40 responses that were shared anonymously. This week students were asked “ What keeps you busy during quarantine?” on Tuesday.

Both questions had similar responses with students admitting that it was hard to stay motivated because the classes were difficult and the numerous assignments were keeping them busy. Others said their family and friends kept them busy and motivated. Several students also said Tik Tok, drawing, fishing, watching the NBA playoffs and more were their go to activities.

“Again you’re getting students feeling like they’re a part of something,” Baxter said. “So seeing those instant responses and getting to read through them, for the students to see other students’ struggles or what’s helping them or motivating them, I think that’s so helpful.”

The theme for this week is mental health awareness since September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Today was Wellness Wednesday, encouraging students to post pictures and videos about what their real reason is for wanting to be successful.

On Monday, the theme was motivation and ASB posted a video of teachers reciting their favorite quotes to its page and shared students' motivational quotes on Instagram stories. As always, students were also encouraged to tag their friends and get them to share, which some of them did.

“We’ve been getting a ton of engagement on that,” said Sampietro, who posted a Drake quote Monday. “And we’ve been getting students kind of interacting with other students which is totally the goal. I think our little polls and questions of the week have been nothing but successful, and I think that we’re doing a great job. I think that our initial goal is being met.”

Fifty students and two advisors make up the ASB class, and they all work daily on Zoom to create the content that goes out over social media. With all the work that goes into their Instagram, students learn how to use social media to build a brand and increase communication online.

“There is so much real-world application to ASB,” Baxter said. “The planning part of it, the organizing, and the being thorough with thinking of all the different things they have to create. And we talk about it all of the time, as advisors, how beneficial these tools are going to be in the future.”

Baxter added that by using Instagram, ASB students are able to gauge their classmates interests in posts and activities by how they interact with them. Those interactions can be students doing the activity, answering questions or liking and tagging their classmates in posts.

“Students always have these grand ideas but then you work on it and you carry it out and see, oh man, that one kind of fell flat,” Baxter said. “We kind of felt like that with the dress-up days. Dress-up days are always a struggle, even when you’re at school.”

For Sampietro, creating content for Instagram is like learning a new skill. One that comes in handy as communicating with each other becomes more virtual.

“We’re really having to think because social media is still so new to everybody,” she said. “And we’re having to switch our focus from just people interaction to really learning how to interact and get engagement from others, virtually, which is something we never had to do. …. It’s a new skill. It’s definitely different, and it’s super valuable considering that social media is the new age right now and we’re going to have to definitely use it in our future.”

But for the present, Monache ASB’s main focus continues to be on letting students know they are a part of something and that they are all there for each other, even if it is at a distance.

“I want the students to feel some sort of inclusion even though we’re not together,” Sampietro said. “That’s been our main focus in ASB, and that’s been my main focus being president.”

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