Drill team hat becomes tradition

Photo by Heather Ellis

Story by Cicely Shannon

Junior Larkin Parks walks into the band hall. She animatedly cracks jokes with the few students present on the last few days of school. In her hands she holds a symbol of what she has worked for in drill team for the past two years.  A representation of authority, but also of accomplishment. The silver sequined officer hat.

“You can tell exactly who’s worn this hat,” Parks said. “Just look at the color of the make-up caked inside.”

There is something just a bit special about the hat that she holds. It’s the “black girl” hat. That’s not a derogatory term; it’s more of a rite of passage.

For Parks, the hat is an extension of what she wanted to achieve in high school.

“I joined drill team because dance is my true passion and I’ve been dancing since I was three, so it was the only logical thing for me to do in high school,” Parks said. “I wanted to be an officer because I thought it would be amazing to lead a team like the Texas Highsteppers.”

Being an officer takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but for Parks it’s exactly what she wanted. After a lot of preparation and intense tryouts, getting the officer hat is the ultimate reward.

“It was an extremely great feeling,” Parks said. “Just seeing the sequins made me realize that this is reality. I take pride in that hat because I’ve worked so hard to get it.”

Besides the excitement of being an officer, the hat also brought with it a new tradition. Parks found out about the “black girl” hat when it was passed down to her from senior Johnari Mullens. Before Parks, there have been three other girls who have gotten to wear the hat.

“Every year the officers write their names inside of their sparkly hat,” Mullens said. “As I was getting ready to hand my hat over to Larkin, I looked on the inside and realized the names Lori, Jessica, and Johnari were written inside. So I was like ‘Hey, this is the black girl hat.’”

For Mullens, passing down the hat was a little emotional, but it was also nice to keep up the new tradition and give it to a friend.

“Passing the hat on was a little tough, but it felt great,” Mullens said. “I knew that Larkin would certainly make me proud in that hat, she’s a beautiful dancer.”

Even though there may come a time when there is more than one person the “black girl” hat could go to, for now it is just an unusual tradition.

“I think this tradition is a really fun one,” Parks said. “When they told me, it made my day. It’s always fun to keep traditions going because the Highsteppers can see that what they did is still going on today. I hope we can keep this going for a long time.”