By Megan McGregor ’20 Editor in Chief
On Sunday, October 13, the senior class painted their initials on a pre-painted Mercersburg Academy shield on Sycamore Lane.
The event, known as “Paint the Numbers,” began as a prank by a handful of students but evolved into a way for seniors who have been at Mercersburg Academy since ninth grade to bond and reflect on their time at the school. Traditionally, “Paint the Numbers” has taken place at the intersection of East Seminary Street and Rutledge Road, but last year, the event was returned to its original location, the school’s entrance on Sycamore Lane. This year, another fundamental aspect of the tradition changed: all seniors were invited to paint the numbers.
The shift came as a result of the school’s effort toward increasing equity and inclusion. Jack Kothari, the senior class vice president, said, “[The class council] was in dialogue with the administration about the evolution of the tradition. We knew that it was important to have an event where everyone could participate and feel like they could and should be a part of the tradition.”
The evolution of the tradition was initially controversial, as many four-year seniors felt that it was something promised to them. “[Before the change was made,] I was definitely looking forward to ‘Paint the Numbers’ because it’s the only thing we do as four-year seniors,” said Gary Zheng ‘20. “It was a way to recognize everything that we have been through together and celebrate the accomplishments we have experienced as a group.”
Another aspect of the shift that caused hesitation was how “Paint the Numbers” connected all four-year seniors, whether they graduated long ago or just last year. Annie Klaff ’20, whose two older brothers graduated from Mercersburg Academy in 2016 and 2018, said, “It’s kinda weird that I don’t get to experience the tradition the way my brothers did. It’s crazy because that was only four years ago and so much has changed since then. It’s also sad that some legacy students don’t get to go through the same tradition their parents or grandparents got to go through.”
The night began at 7:30 with a dinner for four-year seniors where students played music, threw frisbees, and joked about memorable moments. Seniors shared stories about their ninth grade prefects, talked about how annoying study hall was, and reflected on advice they wished they knew during their first year. It was a way to reconnect with old friends and remember the tough and fun times they had been through together as a class.
Annaliesse Cantera ’20, said “I really enjoyed talking with other four-year seniors because it felt like we were the most connected we’ve ever been as a class. It was fun to remember what life was like back then and see how much things have changed since.”
After eating pizza and watching the sunset, the seniors shifted to Regents Field where the class united to walk to Davidson Gate. They were greeted by history teacher Dan Walker, the Dean of the Senior Class, who presented the students with three cans of paint and 125 mini paint brushes. Once the paint was put out, the seniors raced to paint their initials on the Class of 2020 shield. Once the initials were painted, the seniors, as is tradition, dipped their hands in paint and splashed each other until each drop was gone.
“It was crazy,” said Zheng. “The paint fight was easily the best part of the night because it was fun for everyone. By the end of it, we were all smiling and covered in blue and white.”
After the initials were painted, the seniors walked to the Barn for an end-of-the-night bonfire. It was another chance to listen to music and reminisce. It was an opportunity for everyone to take photos with the rest of their senior friends and make new memories. By the end of the night, almost every student was glad to have an event where all seniors were included and celebrated.
“Although it was a challenging transition, it was the right thing to do,” said Kothari. “I look forward to seeing how it evolves over the next few years, and I hope the next few classes have as much fun as we did.”