When a new school opens, its students, staff and greater community celebrate a year of firsts — the first football game, first Homecoming coronation, first everything.
At Horizon High School, which opened last August, a select group of students now is enjoying its first year competing in a lesser-known activity — winter color guard.
The winter guard season starts in November — typically right after the fall marching band season ends — and runs through March. This year, Horizon participates in five competitions in the Florida Federation of Colorguards Circuit.
The team’s first competition was Jan. 22, and the championship is fast approaching. The team earned a first-place finish in its round Saturday, Feb. 10, at Lyman High School. Most recently, the guard earned second place Saturday, Feb. 26, at Freedom High School.
The FFCC also recently featured Horizono’s Valeria Marcial on its YouTube channel.
Horizon High’s color guard will compete against teams from across Florida in the championship March 25 in Daytona Beach.
Currently, the Horizon team includes 19 members. Kassidy Garcia, Horizon’s guard director, said any student at any skill level is able to participate. The guard also has a class offered during the school day called “Eurythmics,” which students are required to take to be a member of the program.
“It’s incredible to see how much growth the program has had in less than a year,” Garcia said.
Horizon High School sophomore Macy McCarthy is in her fourth year in color guard. She started at Bridgewater Middle School when she was in seventh grade.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said.
Junior Ashlyn Nehama started the program as a freshman. After seeing Windermere’s guard program perform at a halftime football game, she said she was blown away.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do that,’” she said.
Having participated in other activities previously —McCarthy in dance and Nehama in swimming — the two said the experience with the guard has been positive.
“The people and the community are my favorite part of this,” McCarthy said. “I have previous dance experience, and competition is always a little bit cutthroat and blood thirsty. Here, everyone encourages and supports you.”
Nehama agreed and said she enjoys the performance aspect of color guard.
“Just being out there and being able to express myself through my performance is really cool,” she added.
SETTING THE STANDARD
Although being the first is exciting for the Horizon color guard, it is also a challenge.
“There are only a few times in your life where you get to be the ‘first,’” Garcia said. “You are setting the standard and traditions for years to come, and that is such a fantastic responsibility. Every member of the team has committed to this responsibility so it is such a great thing to be able to do it with them.”
McCarthy said she is excited to create a name for their team and for them to establish their signatures in performance.
“It’s really exciting, but it’s also nerve-wracking,” she shared.
Nehama said being the first is a weird feeling and that it hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It feels amazing, and I feel so important,” she said. “We get to set the standard. We get to be the ones who create this image of what Horizon is, and I just honestly love that.”
BUILDING A CULTURE
Not only is Garcia the Horizon High School guard director, but also she also serves as the guard director for Bridgewater Middle School and as a civics teacher at Water Spring Middle School.
She was offered the job for the Horizon High guard team in March 2021.
Garcia brings both a special love for the community and years of experience to the team. She attended Bridgewater Middle School and was part of the school’s color guard program.
Although she moved to Pittsburgh in 2010, she continued to pursue color guard throughout high school and eventually moved in 2014 back to Florida, where she was a member of the color guard and winter guard program in college.
After earning her degree in education in 2018, Garcia applied for a teaching position at Bridgewater.
She worked at the school for three years and restarted the guard program.
Garcia said the team presents a multitude of benefits for students.
“I always joke that it’s just flags in a gym, but the benefits go beyond that,” she said. “I can speak from experience that being involved in this has made me more confident and taught me skills like time management and how to be a leader. I have also been volunteering with teams since I was in high school, and it has helped me become a better teacher and listener.”
Garcia said she wants to build a program at Horizon High School that always will work to be the best version of itself.
“Learning from mistakes from years prior and reflecting on it to make progress I think is a pretty good goal,” she said. “I also hope that we will continue to be competitive and as we gain more experience, gain more respect as a respectful, mature and prepared team.”
"WHERE HAS HE GONE?"
As part of Bridgewater Middle School's show, the students are using the Observer's Big Red Box to bring their performance to life.
The show, "Where Has He Gone?" involves the performers acting as Lois Lane and reporting as if Superman has disappeared.
The students use newspapers as props and a floor tarp decorated as a newspaper.
They will perform March 12 at University School and March 26 at Daytona Beach.
HORIZON’S REMAINING SCHEDULE
- March 12 at University High School
- March 25 at Daytona Beach Convention Center
- Date TBD: Friends and Family performance
For more information, click here.