2021-2022 All-School Handshake: A tradition brought back

Photo Courtesy of LFA’s Instagram

Mr. Jose De Jesus fist bumps students during the 2021-2022 All School Handshake



    This year’s All-School Handshake is perhaps one of the most momentous ones in LFA history. Primarily, because of the absence of this ceremony last year, and the modifications made to it the year prior. During the 2020-21 school year, one of LFA’s most cherished traditions wasn’t able to be held due to COVID-19 restrictions. Before that, the All-School Handshake had untraditionally taken place in Cressey during the 2019-20 school year due to weather conditions.

    Coincidentally, the All-School Handshake has not been performed traditionally since Head of School Jose De Jesús arrival at LFA. Despite the event still not being entirely normal due to the present restrictions, during an interview, De Jesús mentioned how “that feeling of looking at everybody’s eyes is just a powerful feeling; it’s a reminder that we are a community.” When asked about whether he felt the tradition had been broken over recent years, he said he didn’t believe that to be the case. 

    “We were gonna use 470 foam fingers [for last year’s all-school handshake] but we probably would have been violating some of the guidelines if we did it. The fact that we bought the foam fingers and the fact that Mr. Freeman and Mr. Tennyson spent hours the night before designing a plan for Cressey [the year before], we’ve shown as a community how much the tradition  matters.” Hence, De Jesús feels as if the tradition hasn’t really been broken considering the efforts made to go on with the All-School Handshake.

    Along with other efforts put into this year’s All-School Handshake, Anna Kliner, Director of Health Services School played a crucial role in being able to uphold this tradition. In an interview with Kliner, she discussed the hours of planning that went into making sure the  All-School Handshake was safe and followed all regulations.  It was not an easy decision to make, many concerns crossed the minds of the Health and Wellness Committee members. 

    “There is a group of people  who are essential to the well being of the school. There was a lot of back and forth on whether we should carry it through or not but in the end, we decided that if we were going to bring back traditions, now was the chance” stated, Kliner.

    “Our job as adults is to not enforce the rules but to remind you as students as to why they are there. We are not supposed to tell you “no”, we are supposed to give you reasons as to why restrictions are put in place. We knew from the start that it would be risky but we would do many walkthroughs and re-check in with each of our plans and guidelines to make sure they were in the best interest of our students and keeping you guys safe” expanded Kliner. 

    When asked why it was acceptable to hold the All-School Handshake this year and not last year, Kliner explained the changes that have taken place since August of 2020. “The vaccine rates in our community are high. With more students and faculty members getting vaccinated, we were assured it was safe to hold the tradition outside and masked. We know more about the virus and how it transmits. COVID is transmitted through breathing and if all community members were masked, distanced and gave a wave or fistbump instead of a handshake, there would be a very slim chance of a spread” explained Kliner. 

    “Many precautions were taken as well, such as testing of our unvaccinated population” concluded Kliner. These precautions being taken made students feel more comfortable in taking part in the All- School handshake.

    One of these students was Safiya Nicol ‘22, who was joyful to have the tradition back as a senior, “It was one of the first LFA traditions I was introduced to, and I’m happy that it could be one of the last as I kick off my senior year!”

    However, Nicol believes that the tradition was broken, with good reason as “it’s honestly better to be safe than sorry, whether that’s not standing outside in the rain, or just keeping everyone safe with only a fist bump or wave”. 

While precautions were taken, some students decided to opt-out for their safety and comfort. In an interview, Jordan Sebolt ‘23 discussed how he decided not to participate in the All-School handshake this year. 

“While the school did a very good job making the tradition safe, I still decided to not partake in it because I thought it was too risky. COVID is still very much alive and I want to make sure that LFA can comply with the COVID regulations as soon as possible” expanded Sebolt. “I just want some normalcy to come back to the LFA community and if that meant not participating in one tradition, so be it” concluded Sebolt. 

All in all, the community was rejoiced to have this tradition back and is optimistic that the school will gain some regularity this school year.