Five seniors recently stepped up to take over and lead this year’s Jungle, the student section at sports games.

Graduate Adam Weisman and his many followers revolutionized the student section during their senior year at basketball games, creating rejuvenated sense of school spirit throughout the AHS community. But with their graduation in June of 2013, a blank hole was created in the school.  It was unaware what would happen to the spirit and passion created by last year’s class.  Seniors Jared Goldstein, Ben Hartford, Shannon Taylor, Nick Valeri and Joe Benjamin have stepped up, taking over as the school’s first official Jungle Council.

The creation of the council was a fated accident. Weisman, around the time of the last playoff game for the boys’ varsity basketball team, passed the Jungle down to Goldstein, according to Goldstein. “I’ve always loved my school and I’ve gone to every single basketball game… I’m close friends with Adam Weisman; we go to the same summer camp,” said Goldstein. “He noticed my spirit last year and asked me to continue on the tradition of keeping the fan section alive.”

Not knowing this, Valeri approached Dr. Lord, AHS principal, and Alan Hibino, faculty supervisor of the Jungle, this past fall. Valeri said he told them, “I want to be part of the Jungle, lead it, keep the spirit from last year, build from that and make it better.”

With the OK from Lord and Hibino, Valeri tweeted in celebration, believing the Jungle was under his control. Weisman saw this tweet and reached out to him, letting him know the Jungle had been passed down, according to Valeri. “He told me ‘You have too much heart not to be involved. Talk to them,’” Valeri said.

Benjamin had spoken to Valeri about becoming involved with the Jungle. Valeri was welcome to having Benjamin as a partner, according to both sources.

Goldstein described this accident as “a message from God.” “When I found out I was like ‘this is perfect’ because I was very nervous to be doing it by myself,” said Goldstein.  “So I told Nick and Joe we should just join forces together and become one powerful council. And then Ben wanted in on it and Shannon texted me, and that’s how all five of us got together.”

Taylor approached Goldstein when she heard the news. “For me, I went to every single game last year; just because I’m really into the basketball games I think they’re so much fun,” said Taylor. “So when I heard that Jared was running it I was so interested, just watching Adam last year was kind of an inspiration for me because I’m really spirited and kind of envied his position, and I think it’s cool that he could take control and everything, so I talked to Jared about it.”

The five leaders hope this unique approach will revolutionize the Jungle. Hartford said, “We all have equal roles.”  Taylor agreed: “With five people, it’s five different minds thinking of ideas; it’s a good collaboration.”

“We will be five times more classy, five times more pumped up,” said Benjamin.

This year’s Jungle has a large reputation to live up to. Boys’ varsity basketball coach David Fazio said, “Fortunately or unfortunately, [last year’s class] was as good of a spirited group that I’ve seen in 25 years. I hope [this year’s class] can meet and exceed them… Basketball is a game of energy and emotion. If you can get the crowd behind you, you can get the players performing with an energy source you can’t explain.”

“I talked to the A. D. [athletic director],” said Valeri. “Andover High is getting the reputation of a well-respected high school. The goal is to keep that up. I want Andover to become the most respected community in the MVC and the state… we’re going to be cheering our butts off and building as a community.”

The Jungle Council plans to keep the “Warrior way of life” and values set up by Weisman last year.  “People can refer to the Jungle and then just automatically think of those great things that  it has caused students to become. And we’re hoping for years going forward they’ll keep the name “the Jungle” and through it you can automatically just think of how you’re supposed to act, how you’re supposed to be a Warrior. To be part of the Jungle you have to do the Warrior Way with respect, win with class, and love your school.”

According to all members, the Jungle Council plans to expand this year.  “I want it to be a community thing. Like I want middle schoolers to be there in their Jungle shirts,” said Taylor. “I want the parents to be there, I want the kids who have never seen the basketball team play, I want them to go and feel welcome there. I just want it to be a unified thing.”

By Marisa Dellatto