Students celebrate Homecoming in unconventional ways

Emma Saltzman

More stories from Emma Saltzman

(Left to right) Seniors Nicole Uhl, Anne-Fleur Winter, Danielle Nevett, Ella Mochizuki, Sophie Kotlove, Emmie Maisel and Maggie Lieberman pose for a photo in their dresses and masks at the Lincoln Memorial.

Around this time of year, the WJ gym floors would be covered by tarps, the walls decorated and the local restaurants crowded by students in their finest attire. This year, however, WJ will be sitting dark and empty on what would have been Homecoming night. Fortunately, a pandemic is no match for the creativity of high schoolers. Although this school year has been anything but “normal,” many students have found ways to still have their annual homecoming celebrations, coining the term “foco” (fake-homecoming) for their COVID-safe festivities.

Senior Ella Mochizuki and her friends dressed up and went to the Lincoln Memorial in DC to take pictures and have dinner. She missed being in a large group like she would during normal years, but enjoyed a more casual, laid-back gathering.

“On a normal Homecoming year we probably wouldn’t have that much time to hang out in DC. I also liked how we could be more casual with our plans and what we wore. I ended up wearing sneakers instead of heels so I was more comfortable and we pretty much made our plans last minute because it was only a small group of us who went to DC,” Mochizuki said.

For many, COVID safety was of top concern. Groups had to figure out how to safely go about foco with these concerns in mind, taking measures like wearing masks and quarantining in advance. Senior Yolita Barretto and her friends went to Georgetown for photos and dinner and made sure to take these precautions.

“We made sure to wear masks at all times. The only time we didn’t wear our masks was for pictures. We also made sure to not go out a lot before we met to take pictures and stayed away from other groups that were in Georgetown,” Barretto said.

Sophomore Lizzie Kotlove and her friends enjoyed an outdoor dinner at Matchbox in Rockville. They didn’t go inside and wore masks most of the night—unless they were eating—to ensure that it would be COVID-safe. While she had a great time, Kotlove did miss some key parts of a normal Homecoming.

“I enjoyed foco a lot because it was more chill and we could basically go wherever we wanted, but it did feel a lot different then normal hoco. I miss that you can only see the people you planned it with, you can’t see your other friends,” Kotlove said.

Many students from other high schools in Montgomery County have participated in similar gatherings to honor Homecoming season.

“It was crazy how busy DC was the day my friends and I went. We saw many small groups of friends taking pictures at the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool who looked to be from local schools,” Mochizuki said.

Most years, Homecoming is a weeklong celebration, beginning with a spirit week, Homecoming hallways, the Homecoming movie, the Homecoming football game and finally the dance that Saturday. Although these normal celebrations could not take place, SGA and Leadership hope to be able to do something for the students.

“There are so many guidelines and restrictions we have to follow so it makes it very hard for us to create something or hold an event that encapsulates the spirit of WJ and the feeling of Homecoming as of now, but, we are working on a fall pep rally hype video,” SGA President, senior Konchock Chopel said.

2020 has proven to be the opposite of normal time and time again, but WJ students were not ready to let go of every tradition just yet. Those who celebrated foco were glad to hold onto a shred of normality and have fun with their friends in a creative way.