What does a school-wide Rouchambeau tournament with 680 high school boys look like? On January 8, the tournament unfolded in the newly-renovated Crusader gym. Watch the video here.
Simple tournament instructions read as follows: Everyone pair up and play the “best 2 out of 3 rounds.” Whoever loses, cheers for the winner as they get closer and closer to the championship round. Scream! Cheer! Get excited! Winner of the Mentor Group will play another Mentor Group, then one winner per house is named and will play in the finals. After a flurry of excitement, the House of Pilar took the win.
The Rouchambeau tournament is just one of many positive and fun activities that are possible with Riordan’s new House System that launched at the start of the 2017-18 school year. At its core the House System provides a platform to create opportunities for the development of stronger cross-divisional bonds and mentorship, and drives healthy competition among young men. With origins in all-boys Catholic boarding schools, the House System is widely used at many Marianist high schools across the country.
Months of research and planning went into the launch of the House System, including student and faculty site visits to Marianist schools in Ohio and Missouri with long-standing, robust House programs, and House Provincial and administrator attendance at the House System Institute at Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis, a national leadership conference.
The House System started with a “House reveal party” at the faculty and staff meeting prior to the start of the school year (all faculty and staff members are assigned a House, with the exception of five adults who serve as impartial judges). Similar spirit-raising iterations took place with students as they returned to campus for their back to school orientations and learned what House they would be part of for the duration of their Riordan career.
The four Houses of Riordan—Bolts, Cana, Pilar and Russi— are made up of students from different grade levels. Each House is divided into smaller Mentor Groups with a faculty/staff Mentor Teacher, and has a designated guidance counselor.
Houses compete throughout the year in a variety of activities to earn pride, purpose and performance points that go towards the coveted “Chaminade Cup,” a perpetual award given to the House with the most points.
While Riordan is still a community of die-hard Crusaders who bleed purple and gold, each House has a specific color to further build House unity (though purple and gold spirit days are still offered frequently). On House color days, a student might walk down the hall and greet someone they have never met in their House who is now easily identifiable in a House color.
The Mentor Group is a key part of the House System and the base for small group activities. Each Mentor Group has around six students from each grade level and is led by a Mentor Teacher, and meet on average four times a month for 35 minutes. Sometimes the goal is simply to conduct an icebreaker and participate in a fun activity, such as decorating classroom doors for Halloween. One meeting presented an opportunity for upper division students to speak with lower division students about the importance of keeping up with grades and community service hours.
“The Houses create healthy competition in the community at Riordan and encourages camaraderie among students in the House System, especially in the Mentor Group,” said Panote Nuchprayoon ’18, a senior divisional House captain in the House of Bolts. “I know a freshman from my mentor group who volunteered with me a few weeks into the school year at an outside organization. We didn’t talk much before, but the House definitely helped me connect with him.”
The opportunity to become a Mentor Teacher is also a professional development opportunity for faculty and staff. “I became a Mentor Teacher because as an alumnus here, I wanted to be a part of this big change for the school,” said Paul Stevens ’08, a library assistant and soccer coach. “I also really wanted to make an impact on the students and help build this House community. It will bring brotherhood not to mention a nice trophy!” He predicted, enthusiastically, that the trophy is most likely going to his own House of Bolts.
Adaptation and Change
While the Brotherhood continues to be an ever-present force at Riordan, in the spirit of adaptation and change, modifications to various traditions provide another touchpoint for House unity. Students now sit by House during liturgies and rallies.
Competition at the Frosh Olympics in September was arranged by House, not homeroom, and presented an opportunity for older Housemates to stay for the event and cheer on younger competitors, while earning participation points. “My favorite House event so far was the Frosh Olympics because we were all united as brothers and everyone had a great time,” said Ryan Quock ’19, a junior House captain for the House of Cana.
Still a central platform for student body leadership, Riordan’s student government was revamped and renamed House Parliament, with even more opportunities for students to assume leadership roles. The number of elected positions has more than tripled with the House System, with each House having a council of 13, plus a school captain. There is also a new role called Ministry Liaison that works with Campus Ministry.
Service Drives, including the Billy Choy ’06 AIDS Penny Drive, saw the highest participation to date with close to $3,720 raised (the House of Cana brought in the most donations). The school also collected over $1,000 in 70 minutes for Colegio San Jose, a Marianist school in Puerto Rico that sustained damage during Hurricane Maria.
The school also developed a proprietary mobile app, Crusader Quest, to track student attendance at designated events, such as football and basketball games, drama and music performances, and other House-positive events. Depending on the type of event, they receive individual or group participation points that count towards the Chaminade Cup.
“I think that with each passing day, with each Mentor Group meeting that takes place, we are going to see a difference in the community with the House system,” said House of Russi Provincial Valerie O’Riordan. “We are communicating with one another on a deeper level.”
The House System is off to an incredible start and the possibilities of this platform continue to grow. One of the hopes of this program is greater accountability for students on multiple levels – behavioral, community building, academics, and faith building.
Said House of Cana Provincial Christopher Fern, “Our goal is to plan Mentor Group and House activities that are exciting and keep our young men present and engaged. If you’re engaged then you’re invested, if you’re invested then you’ll get a positive return you can carry with you in all aspects of your life.”