LAHS 2021 Homecoming parade: The kids are alright


Rohan Vaswani

Seniors Serena Gaylord and Oliver Breitbart wave to community members as students parade behind them at the 2021 LAHS Homecoming parade in downtown Los Altos. The parade was one of the first school and community wide events to be hosted since the COVID-19 lockdown.

The basketball team’s jubilant, rhythmic jumping and hooting, the Green Team’s joyful shouting back at the teachers cheering from the curb, the prom court kids sitting atop the fancy convertibles, looking too young and too old for the moment at the same time, just as tradition promises. The Homecoming Parade. Back from the dead! Freed from the clutches of the Year of Doom and Zoom. 

It signaled that even with COVID-19 and masks and never-ending construction and bomb threats and vaping and depression and remote learning and delayed learning, we are still here. And better. Because we will not take community for granted anymore.

What is a parade? It’s not just a bunch of different clubs and sports teams walking down the road. It’s the entire spectrum of diverse interests, backgrounds, and talents inside each of those little communal units. It’s all of us together yelling something like Walt Whitman’s barbaric “yawp” from his poem, “Song of Myself.” It’s a made-up word that Whitman coined to capture the feeling of unafraid expression of self. Here’s a big middle finger for the pandemic. Yawp! Here’s us smiling and yelling into the doubt and fear that surrounds us. Yawp! Here’s where our home and community is, regardless of how fractured and tribal we may seem at times. Yawp! 

The high school Homecoming parade still represents an ideal worthy of our aspirations. American high schoolers have long been mocked, parodied, and  John Hughes-ivied; more recently they have also been understandably traumatized by climate change, school shootings, political dysfunction, and the successful hijacking of their better instincts by social media monopolies. Despite all of that, the high school Homecoming parade remains one of a dwindling set of non-smartphone experiences that offer high schoolers in this country a shared point of connection that doesn’t involve Olivia Rodrigo* or the Kardashians. It is a rite of passage. And a rite requires ceremony,  fanfare, and passion. All were on display on State Street in downtown Los Altos on a sun-splashed Friday afternoon, October 29. May the same spirit carry forward and vaccinate the next generations of Eagles from the feigned ironic indifference of the insecure teenage world in favor of risking that rarest of things in our culture these days: sincerity. It’s okay, Eagles. It’s okay, America. It’s okay to care. It’s not weakness. It’s strength. Any Los Altos High School teenager can tell you that. Onward.


*Admittedly, I find “Driver’s License” to be naively melodramatic but irresistibly charming.