It's a jungle at Egg Harbor Township High School - or at least it was Oct. 10, the night of the EHTHS Renaissance program's Survivor Challenge.
Two tribes, each made up of four students and four faculty members, competed in a series of skill events before one contestant, Heidi Vazquez, was crowned victor by a jury of eliminated competitors.
Renaissance Vice President Chris Flores said before the event he was excited to see it unfold.
"I think it's just a good way to bring staff and students together and just to have a good time," Flores said. "We have a wide variety of different things that we're going to do, like some silly stuff, some serious."
Renaissance is a national program created by education supplier Jostens as a way to help schools recognize students outside of the traditional avenues of academics and interscholastic athletics.
The students in the EHTHS Renaissance Club planned the competition to fit their 2012-13 theme of "One School, One Team, One Goal," through which they will promote the John R. Elliott Foundation's Hero Campaign for Designated Drivers.
Activities at the competition ranged from the traditional, such as dodgeball, to the offbeat, such as one activity in which competitors raced to eat Oreo cookies placed on their foreheads, without using their hands or allowing the cookies to touch the ground. After each challenge, the losing tribe voted off one of its own.
After a short intermission following the eighth challenge, the remaining competitors were united into one tribe, which was whittled down to three before the vote that declared Vazquez the victor.
Renaissance President Chris Jones said the emphasis on working with each other to achieve goals helped to reinforce this year's theme.
"This year's motto is one school, one team, one goal," Jones said. "We're obviously one school, as it is, and we're going to come together as one team to get the one goal, which is to win the game."
While the group's faculty co-advisers oversee the general operations of the club, events such as the Survivor Challenge are entirely student-run. Club members came up with the challenges, put together props, and promoted the event.
In addition to hanging posters and giving out fliers, students used social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to get the word out.
Club secretary Melanie Scarella said ensuring that Renaissance is visible in the school community is vital to helping its members achieve their goals.
"I think this interests a lot of people, and when we succeed in these things we need the school to help us succeed, and when we do it gets bigger and bigger," Scarella said. "Then they want to come and see what we do in the actual club, and they come out, they like it."
The Renaissance program at EHTHS has grown by leaps and bounds since it was introduced four years ago, Scarella said. When she first joined during her sophomore year, the group had just a handful of memories. The following year, its membership was in the low teens, and this year numbers around 50.
As the group's membership has increased, so too has its support, to the point that even non-members wear its shirts. This, co-adviser Michael Martirone said, is a testament to its success.
"Our kids are proud, they're proud to be here, they're proud of this organization," Martirone said. "Today was our dress down day and again, for renaissance you had so many staff members and students wearing our shirts, looking unified as one group, and that's the pride factor."
Contact Braden Campbell: