Standing Apart (By Standing Together) 

At Crockett's John Swett High School, adults remain active in the lives of students. Other schools could take a lesson.

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And with that, the latest Zampa, who isn't dressed for the game tonight and sports blue jeans and tennis shoes below his jersey, takes off with his crew toward his bridge.

Cheapskate on a hill/A thrillseeker making deals/Sugar city urchin wasting time/Town of lunatics/Begging for another fix/Turning tricks for speedballs one more night. — "Tight Wad Hill," Green Day.

At least on Homecoming night, the hill dwellers' fierce reputation is belied. Tightwad Hill is a surefire laugh-getter amongst the Crockett cognoscenti but Coach Angell puts a different spin on it after a nearby group mimics pot smoking and whiskey swilling upon hearing the subject introduced. "Those guys up there," Angell says as the giggles stop, "those are our parents and they are our community, and you know what? They're here and they show up for the game and the kids."

Indeed, inside the field after the floats have drifted by, some Harley heads and hippie relics pay their five bucks to mix in the stands. Throughout the entire first half, one biker with a black T-shirt and a blond pony-tail wanders aimlessly along the sidelines, neither molested nor accosted by any authority in attendance.

Tonight the Homecoming Court will be announced. The band is excited that four of the five candidates usually are seated with them. Drum major Katrina Wilson says tonight is a big one for the band, even if the winner is not a band boy. Wilson started playing flute as a sixth-grader at Carquinez Middle School just down the road, motivated even then with the thought of being in the high school ensemble. Chosen by her peers, the effervescent young woman is given considerable authority by band director Ted Foreman, who has led his group to many honors. Foreman demurs. "Really, competition day is the easiest one of them all," he says. "On those days it's all Katrina, and she's up for the challenge."

Principal Bass notes that in all his years in education, he has never seen anything like his current school's band. "What I especially admire is the way they break down barriers. A few weeks ago, they played a show in the auditorium where they had to perform ballads. The rockers, the ravers, the rappers, everyone. They have to play and engage in everybody's music. It was a beautiful thing." Wilson agrees. "We bring spirit to the school and that's why playing at the games is so much fun."

Under a canopy of balloons, the Homecoming Court awaits its fate in the style of a beauty pageant. Runners-up are announced first, while excitement builds among the fans of those still in the running. Despite their four-to-one advantage, the band guys all have to settle for prince. Football player Dominic Lopez is anointed king of the court. His queen is indeed head cheerleader Michelle Bow, who celebrates by taking a victory lap, then picking up her pom-poms again. In 2005, female football player Lizzie Ray (sister of a current football player) was named the queen, resulting in the startling sight of both members of the homecoming court in shoulder pads, plastic crowns, and eye black.

Tonight, John Swett's team is doing what homecoming teams are supposed to do. Having invited the weakest team in the league, they roll toward a 19-14 lead with seconds to go in the first half. The queen is readying her girls for a halftime dance number while the quarterback fades back and hits the king just before the gun.

Ultimately, for a night, all is right with the world, at least this very small part of it. The football team wins easily. The fifty-fifty raffle is won by a band mom who is immediately set upon by her daughter for cash to buy licorice. The Harley head looks like he is going to make it to wherever he is going and the folk on Tightwad Hill just disappear into the night. Kids shout good-byes and adults make plans for their next rendezvous.

John Swett High is the heart of Crockett, a place that doesn't have a movie theater, a restaurant row, a big grocery store, or much other local business. But it does have a hold on the hearts of those who live here, and they've found that if they invest in their school, they can keep a grasp on their past and build ties to their future.

Most adults start shying away from their children by the time they are in high school, believing that's what the teens want. But this community has chosen not to do so, and it's the richer for it. Grownups are everywhere at the school, and not only are the kids not sloughing them off, they seem to be hanging around. At John Swett, the adults have decided that their town is too small for them to walk on the other side of the street. So together with their kids, or at least in packs slightly behind them, they walk together, voices laughing, shouting, or singing.

It's homecoming.

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