It’s never easy being a teenager in high school, but it’s been especially difficult for Millikan students this year dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and a recent shooting near campus. However, the Associated Student Body has created a big and strong student section at football games where the Rams have a safe and inclusive environment that’s all about having fun.
“Everyone comes together no matter what’s happening outside of school,” Millikan junior Sydney Trump said. “Everything around you disappears in that moment,”
Trump and a handful of other ASB members like sophomore Natalie Heilig have volunteered and were selected to be on the microphone at the games leading the large student section in cheers and playing music. At the Lakewood game a few weeks ago there were hundreds of students enjoying the festivities during a big Millikan win over the rival Lancers.
“The beautiful thing about football games, especially high school football games, is that no matter who you are you can come together for a common goal,” Heilig said. “It’s not really about the wins and losses. It’s more about coming together, enjoying everybody’s company and working for something bigger than ourselves. Being able to lead chants, to be in front of the student body and see them happy and engaged is really special and really important, especially after COVID.”
Millikan activities director Grant Robinson took over for Andrea Itson a few years ago after she started building the football student section, and he added the ASB Hype Squad to the mix. The selected students have developed a rhythm of off-field additions during the game alongside the cheer squad, marching band, color guard and dance team.
“The idea behind all of this is just trying to continue to build a sense of belonging and community,” Robinson said. “It’s about building community with all Millikan Rams coming together for a common goal in a positive environment. We’re here to support football and one another. If we can come together in difficult times by sharing positive energy and pride in our school and our community then maybe we can get through the more difficult times like the pandemic or the recent things that have been happening around campus.”
Millikan football coach Romeo Pellum said the raucous student section makes his team better at home.
“They’re a part of our success because our kids feed off of them,” Pellum said. “A few weeks ago after we saw the Carlsbad student section, and at a rally I challenged them to be the best students sections in the area and they’ve gone above and beyond.”
“We want to do things for them and we think they’re a good team,” Trump said of the football team. “It’s a close bond that we have with each other because they give back to us.”
Other than its sheer size with hundreds of students, the first thing you’d notice about the Millikan student section is that they respond with energy to a wide variety of songs they play over the loudspeaker. After the first game, some of Heilig’s friends in the crowd gave her some additions for the playlist. She took those suggestions to her friend Brandon LaFleur who is part of the stage crew that sets up the speakers.
“We take the students’ opinion, plus what we’re allowed to play, and we just go from there,” Heilig said. “We try to feed off the crowd so if we notice they’re not getting hyped we talk to our stage crew counterparts to play some songs to get them engaged. It’s a collaboration to make sure that everybody is participating and we don’t have a boring group of students sitting around. You have to have something for everybody.”
At one point during the Lakewood game, the student section rocked out to Taylor Swift, Village People, Soulja Boy, Drake and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ classic hit Come ON Eileen in that succession.
“You have to keep the parents involved and the students involved,” Heilig said. “A lot of what’s suggested are rap songs because they’re more upbeat but it’s always fun to do some throwbacks like Backstreet Boys… It’s fun to play stuff that everybody knows. It keeps everybody feeling like we’re playing music that they like. It’s about having a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy.”
“We literally just dance the whole night,” Trump said.
Trump added that she’s had so much fun leading the student section that she’s considering doing something like that in college.
“It’s an amazing feeling because it’s like you’re in control,” Trump said. “Everyone is getting pumped up and that gets you fired up. It’s really fun to be down there with your friends pumping up the crowd… It’s pushed me more to open up to more people than I would have. I’ve made some many new friends and made connections and it’s only been one year in ASB.”
Heilig, who decided she wanted to lead the cheers when she went to a Millikan game as an eighth grader, is extra motivated to be involved with the student section because as a sophomore this is her first year on campus post-COVID shutdowns.
“We want to make sure that no one is missing out on having fun and just to keep everybody in a positive mindset, and to keep everybody engaged and happy to be at Millikan,” Heilig said.
“Natalie is a critical thinker,” Robinson said of Heilig. “She can notice a lull in the student section and she can kind of get the students back up. She takes initiative. They don’t wait to ask me questions. They take it upon themselves to try something new.”
“It’s easier to do chants when you’re winning,” Heilig added. “We’re all one big family and it’s really awesome to see everybody working together to cheer on our team.”