New Traditions: Poly Students Look Ahead to First-Ever Winter Formal

Selah Ilunga-Reed, Editor-in-Chief

All around campus, students have been talking about the idea of a winter formal, which was introduced at the beginning of the year by Spirit Captains Olivia Umeh and Justin Mondesir. According to Director of Student Life Jared Winston, the winter formal was born “over the summer, when thinking about how as we return to school mask-free without COVID protocols we can build community within our Upper School specifically.” 

The planning process for the formal began in late September, in conjunction with student government. According to Junior Student Government representative Adam Ellozy, student government was “given multiple options of when [they] wanted the winter formal to occur.” Ultimately, decisions of the date came down to a vote of juniors and seniors. Ellozy mentioned “a big push from many of the seniors in the student body for December 10th which influenced the decision.”

This date was confirmed by Winston in an email to the Polygon saying, “We are in the final stages of ironing out Winter Formal details and hope to send details out before Thanksgiving break. The date that the Student Government agreed upon (Saturday, December 10th) has been approved by the school.” The student body should keep their eyes peeled for updates as the holidays approach. 

Winston wants two formals to provide “rite[s] of passage” for Poly students; the winter formal would be a bonding experience for upperclassmen, and the spring fling later this year would be the lowerclassmen’s counterpart. “I remember being in high school and having school dances be such a large part of the culture,” said Winston. He mentioned that he often thinks about “what benchmark moments that we can provide that say to our students, ‘hey, you have now hit a new chapter of your Poly experience.’”

The formal is meant to be driven by students’ wishes, Winston noted, adding that that “if the student body had responded in a way that was … indicative that this wouldn’t be good for the community, then we wouldn’t be going forward with it … we’ve gotten some positive feedback, a great deal of excitement.” It’s certainly true that a large population of students are excited about a winter formal being a way to socialize and enjoy a school dance outside of prom in the spring. Junior Laila Baluk said “I think it’s a great idea…if everyone goes it’ll be a really fun time.” Similarly, Junior Calder Glassman said, “it depends a bit on whether my friends are attending.” 

On the other hand, some see the winter formal as a breach of Poly tradition — namely having the only school dance be senior prom — as strange and depreciative to prom. Senior Abbe Arnsten commended Poly’s efforts to “incorporate more social aspects for all high school grades,” but tentatively called the idea of the formal “interesting,” saying “we’ll see how that goes.” Another senior, Eliza Manny, took a stronger position, saying “I don’t know what to think about [the winter formal]. Honestly it takes away from the Poly Prep prom, which is just for seniors.” 

Winston sees the creation of the winter formal as a way to further develop lasting Poly culture and connections between generations of Poly alumni. “From a school culture standpoint, we look at everything as a new opportunity, and this is one of those opportunities to create a lasting legacy at Poly,” said Winston, noting that though the class of 2023 will be the first to enjoy the formal, they will have years of students to come to connect with about this new tradition. Some students share this sentiment. When asked whether he’d be attending, Senior Jackson ten Oever said “As a senior I kinda just want to do everything I can … senior year is about social interactions and making the best of what you have right now.”