The Burden of Being R.I.C.H.

“The motto does have its ups and downs, so the question is not whether or not it is effective, but if it is the best method.”

By Sami Thompson

As “RICH Raiders”, we are held to high expectations, but does being “RICH” truly equate to being the best that we can be? We students of AHS have been told time after time the importance of being respectful, having integrity, practicing citizenship, and working hard. We are not only to be prestigious in academics, but in character as well, and our administration has created the RICH Raider brand to help bring that character to life. The program is meant to enforce ideal qualities with positive encouragement. So every day, around every corner, at every open possibility, we are reminded to stay R.I.C.H.

But one definition to the AHS community could be completely different to the definition the outside world might hold. The Alpharetta community is known to be an affluent, luxurious, suburban paradise. The schools here are top in Georgia and rank high nationally as well. The standard of living is definitely one that takes time to achieve financially, and those who live here are often quick to forget that. According to Data USA, the average Alpharetta household income is $87,837, which is over $30,000 more than the average for the United States. We live in a bubble, perfectly isolated from the unfortunate events that occur in the real world, even the poverty that occurs in our own reality, so it is easy to take life here for granted. As a result, a pompous attitude can take root, and telling the entire world that lacks context that we are “RICH” does not help our image either. Citizens of Alpharetta tend to think of themselves as affluent, thriving, and well-established. Others believe them to be cocky, snobby, and unappreciative. No one on the outside world knows that the acronym stands for Respect, Integrity, Citizenship, and Hard Work. All they see is a word that means having a great deal of money or assets. That cannot possibly help build a humble reputation.

“A lot of people don’t know what R.I.C.H. stands for, so they may think that AHS is just trying to live up to the standards of North Fulton,” Megan Tantillo, AHS Junior, said.

Another reality that should be taken seriously is a fact that is actually easy to overlook: we are teenagers. We are in a stage of life where, though unhelpful in every way, we challenge authority at every turn. According to Dr. David Elkind, author of All Grown Up and Nowhere to Go, the adolescent phase in life is so complex because kids not only transition to adulthood physically but intellectually too. The prefrontal cortex in our brains tells us to question everything put in front of us. Our brains are in the midst of creating an identity for ourselves, so whenever authority wants to take part in that process, it is hard to simply sit still and listen. If you add that to the fact that maturity does not develop at an accelerated rate, you have teenagers making fun of anything they do not agree with. It does not matter whether the notion really has value or not. All that matters is the fact that it is not parallel to a teenager’s perspective. Take memes on Twitter such as the infamous Harambe, Donald Trump, or in our case, RICH Raiders. High-schoolers find joy in twisting the meaning of a quality acronym since they see it as a method of control rather than encouragement. Students laugh at the RICH Raider pledge when they write them on quizzes. They ignore the reminders on the announcements. They make fun of it in passerby conversation. Many, students perceive the motto as a command, and it’s a command they simply won’t adhere to, no matter how many RICH Raider tickets they may get in return.

“Some people, when they talk to me about it, they act as if it’s a joke. It feels unnecessary,” Tantillo said.

However, RICH Raider certainly does not have a purposeless existence. It is a well-devised tool to not only encourage kids to behave well, but it also gives the school some outside connotation. There has no doubt been results from the positive encouragement that is the central theme of RICH Raider.

“It’s supposed to be about positive morale. We study the data every month, and in the last year, the discipline referrals have gone down by 50%,” Whitney Decaminada, AHS administrator, said.

The mantra has shown success, but it still doesn’t appeal to the majority. When a teenager willingly feels proud of his community, a whole other level of excitement is revealed. Dedication to sports and clubs, getting everyone involved, is the best way for students to really develop respect for one another and their teachers. They will want to be good spirited and well behaved on their own without constantly being told to, and we won’t sound too obnoxious to the outside world as well. One united Raider Nation instead of thousands of RICH Raiders could make all the difference.

The program enables the administration to establish contact with the kids, and help them grow as people, not just students. The positive reinforcement makes us unique from other schools, giving us a specific identity no one else can achieve.

The motto does have its ups and downs, so the question is not whether or not it is effective, but if it is the best method. As a mantra that’s supposed to encourage a positive feeling in students, should the students not have a say in what will make them feel proud to be a Raider? The type of activities that get students rowdy are sports and club events, pep rallies, dances. The school can encourage different sports teams to cheer on their fellow athletes at different games, such as the football team showing up at a swim meet. Another idea is to get clubs involved with each other. For example, Key Club can work with Black Student Union or Raider Mentors. Students are so heavily involved with their own extracurricular activities already, so promoting school unity through them is most effective.

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