Brandon Hernandez: Turning up the “spirit factor”

Published 10:34 pm Friday, May 8, 2015


By Mark Schmerling


Brandon Hernandez said that Landrum High School used to have a reputation for not having enough school spirit.


Hernandez, who served as student class president in his freshman and sophomore years, is wrapping up his senior year, and also his year as student body president.


After being elected to his current post by the entire student body, Hernandez has worked hard to turn that reputation around and boost school spirit.


Today’s Spartanburg District One Color Us One Color Run, a benefit 5K event, is one way he’s been working to boost school spirit. It is a project of both Hernandez and Chapman High School’s student body president, Drew Copeland, and the student councils of both schools.


Last year’s event was held in Inman. Today’s second annual Color Us One Color Run begins at the Landrum Middle School.


Scheduling more pep rallies and setting up student sections at athletic events, is another part of the effort by Hernandez to get more students involved, and to turn up the “spirit factor.”


Have those efforts had the desired effect?


“Yes, they definitely did,” Hernandez reported, noting that according to some students, pep rallies during the 2014/15 school year were the best they’ve known. At the student sections, Hernandez said the goal was not simply to have students attend events.


“We wanted them to be part of it.” He also deems this effort a success, with a boost in school spirit among students.


Another event that Hernandez coordinated with student council was a litter-free event at one of the Cardinals’ home football games. When spectators arrived at the game, they received trash bags for materials they might otherwise discard improperly on the grounds. After the game, student council members from the lower classes were assigned to pick up loose trash that did not go into bags.


“We went around after the game, and asked (departing fans) what they did with their trash,” he said. The also gave out more trash bags that people could use in their vehicles and at home.


Hernandez has helped coordinate other initiatives, including a canned food drive around Thanksgiving last year to benefit needy families. According to Hernandez, this effort was “very, very successful. I do recall that we had a classroom full of boxes of canned food.”


Helping the Stand Down for Homeless Veterans group in Spartanburg with a shampoo drive also produced contributions that exceeded organizers’ goals. Hernandez’s and student council’s goal was to collect 300 bottles of shampoo. Donations totaled some 600.


“It’s sad they go and fight, then come home with struggles sometimes,” Hernandez observed about the armed forces.


How, one might ask, do donations from various drives, go to the intended individuals?


Hernandez noted that the school’s two student council sponsors Debra Giles and Jennifer Johnson, both faculty members, coordinate that effort.


While Landrum High school “doesn’t have a big bullying problem,” said Hernandez, his administration has helped create an anti-bullying effort.


“Landrum is a pretty accepting school,” said Hernandez. “No one is left out, and no one is excluded. Overall, everyone has been pretty accepting of everyone.”


Of bullying, he said, “We encourage students, if they see anything like that to report it.”


Today’s Color Us One Color Run is headquartered at the Landrum Middle School, with a 5K race for serious runners, a 5K Run for Fun and a one-mile fun run.


Lat year’s event, Hernandez said, attracted some 500 participants. As of two days ago (Thursday), pre-registration was 300, with runners still able to register at the event.


The event, which bolsters school spirit, and is the culminating event of a year-long district-wide focus on health and wellness, also benefits Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children. This program provides vital dental care to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it.


Registration cost is one can of food per runner. Funds from sponsors will benefit Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children, while food donations help local food banks provide nutrition for poorer residents.


The race is untimed, sponsors say, unless one wishes to time him or herself.


Opening ceremonies are at 9 a.m., with the first heat starting at 9:15 in the lower parking lot. The number of heats is determined by the number of runners.


Hernandez said the 5K (about 3.1-mile) route will take runners through the City of Landrum, and on surrounding roads. Each school in the district will have a “color station,” where individuals can get “colored up.”


After the run, participants and spectators are invited to stay for the closing ceremonies that will include music, dancing and the “color-throwing” party.


Two months ago, Josh Steadings, an employee of Spartanburg School District One, was paralyzed from the chest down in a serious automobile crash. Steadings is undergoing rehabilitation at the Shepherds Center, Atlanta.


His wife Autumn, and their two children, Ainsley and Camryn, will be leading the run as grand marshals.


Funds from the event will help the family cover some medical expenses, Hernandez said.


After graduation, Hernandez will attend University of South Carolina Upstate, where he plans to study mass communications.


Will his experience as student body president benefit him there and beyond?


“I think the responsibility I gained with student council will help me in college,” he replied.


“As student body president, I have to do a lot of speaking. It can help me in college. It helps with people skills. Even after college, it can help.”