Denfeld News

April 19, 2014
Duluth News Tribune

Student-created video energizes Denfeld pride
By Jana Hollingsworth

The 2010 merger of Central and Denfeld high schools drove a wedge between students from each boundary area that still exists today, students say.

This year’s senior class at Denfeld is the last class that has attended both schools. Denfeld students attended the former Central in 2010-11 while Denfeld was being renovated under the Red Plan, and then the entire school moved down the hill to the West Duluth high school when it was finished for the 2011-12 school year.

“We’ve always felt this big rift in our school between Central and Denfeld kids,” said senior Hayden Schulte. “We wanted to do something to pull the kids together. We wanted to show the community we had pulled together.”

The result is a 7-minute “Glee”-esque “lip dub” video to the Owl City/Carly Rae Jepsen song “Good Time” that captures nearly the entire student body. More than 50 student groups — from the key club to the hockey players — flank the halls, gym and auditorium of Denfeld, dancing and lip-synching as senior Kelsey Soderberg films. Students end up filling the auditorium where they don “Hunter Pride” T-shirts, free to all students with money raised through Junior Rotarians. Mayor Don Ness even makes an appearance in the video, declaring every day in Duluth, “Hunter Pride Day.”

Developed as a Junior Rotarian service project intended to give back to the school, Soderberg and senior McKenzie Thomas spent dozens of hours coordinating the various groups before any of the filming took place. The actual filming took about an hour and only two takes. But many students helped out with things such as sorting T-shirts the week they came in, said Jenny Wellnitz, Denfeld guidance counselor and Junior Rotarian adviser.

“Kids not involved in anything would walk by the guidance office and see us getting the T-shirts ready and say, ‘Can I help?’ ” she said. “It didn’t just belong to one group. It belonged to everybody. I hope that’s what the kids felt.”

Since the video went public Monday, students and staff members have heard from alumni and family from across the country thanks to YouTube and other social media sites. Students say it’s energized the school in a way they haven’t seen before. Some teachers who attended Denfeld as students, Wellnitz said, told her they haven’t seen such school spirit in years.

“It’s been emotional for a lot of people,” she said.

Animosity has decreased each year since the merger, said senior Tommy Wolfe, but negativity and a sense of loss from the combination of schools has lingered and affected school spirit, spilling down from the upperclassmen when he was younger. Students want to put those feelings to rest, he said.

“If we hadn’t combined, I wouldn’t be friends with the same people I am today,” said Soderberg, who wrote her college essay on how the school merger affected her outlook on community. “A lot of people … don’t realize how much good has come of it.”

Wellnitz hopes new students with film and editing skills will take on a similar project next year, or alumni donations pay for a videographer. Denfeld doesn’t have a media class. The idea, students said, was to not only create cohesiveness among current students but to plant the seed of a new tradition.

“Tradition is huge; especially in high school. It’s what makes your high school experience unique,” Wolfe said. He cited one of Denfeld’s pep rally cries: “freshmen on the shelf, seniors in the cellar,” as an example. But students wanted something that they formed together as a new student body.

“So something like this, it’s something everyone can share,” he said.

Denfeld is made up of students from huge swaths of the city, said senior Kevin Hendrickson, from Morgan Park to parts of Central Hillside. And many of the kids have parents who were part of the Morgan Park High School/Denfeld merger in 1982.

“That’s what’s nice about Denfeld,” he said. “It’s a blend of so many traditions.”

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