Eastern High School Gets a Booster Club

Rambler Nation Rising

Junior quarterback Jerome Johnson led Eastern to the DCSAA Class A championship last year.

If you’ve heard a steady low rumble and seen a few more blue hats than usual around Capitol Hill this summer, don’t be alarmed, that’s just Rambler Nation rising.

The brand-new Eastern High School Booster Club, created by Hill residents John Parker and Joe Weedon, aims to build community spirit for the only high school athletic program on the Hill and raise funds for Eastern athletes to be able to compete on a more level playing field. The Booster Club has steadily grown in popularity by introducing local families and businesses to all that Eastern has to offer, beginning with the fun and Friday-night lights of football games, but ultimately extending to helping the school re-launch its athletic legacy after graduating its first class of seniors in four years last year, as well as pursue its goal of becoming the highest-achieving comprehensive high school in the District.

For a $25 donation individuals can become official Eastern High School Athletic Boosters and get the Eastern “Rambler Nation” cap that lets the community know that not only do you back a winning DC sports team (the Ramblers are the defending DCSAA Class A State Champions), but you support our only neighborhood high school, “The Pride of Capitol Hill.” For a $250 donation business owners, corporations, and business professionals can become corporate sponsors. Every penny goes to benefit Eastern student-athletes.

“I’m a native Washingtonian and I remember the day when Eastern was the steamroller in sports across the board,” said John Parker, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and formerly the athletic director at Gallaudet University, who graduated from Coolidge High School in 1965. “The legacy is definitely there.”

“We’re really excited about the idea of making Eastern a hub for families on Friday nights during football season,” said Eastern principal Rachel Skerritt, herself a Hill resident. “We are the high school for Capitol Hill, and we don’t want families to have to wait for their children to be of high school age to experience what we have to offer.”

Parker and Weedon are quick to emphasize that the Booster Club is not about money, but about creating strong links between the school and the local community, be it through football games, seasonal sports festivals, or exhibitions that bring local professional, high school, and youth athletes together.

“My eight-year-old son plays Capitol Hill Little League and soccer,” said Weedon, who is the executive director of the nonprofit Companies for Causes and also the Ward 6 representative on the State Board of Education. “Those kids would love to go to an Eastern game. So how do we start creating these relationships between our kids and Eastern and its athletes, who are fabulous students, to create those peer-to-peer mentor models?”

Weedon points out that although sports is a convenient vehicle to mobilize the Rambler Nation, Eastern does so much more for the community than win championships. “You want to play a sport, you want to be in the youth orchestra, you want to be in the rocket club, the Health & Medical Sciences Academy? Eastern offers that,” said Weedon. “You go to one of the other schools – and you’re going to get a great education at either place – but it’s going to be very focused on their specific program. Eastern offers tremendous opportunities.”

Weedon hopes a successful Booster Club can serve as a model for growing community support for Eastern in other areas, such as to buy books for students, classrooms, or libraries or to support a particular academic program. Even Hill parents who are more concerned with pre-school than high school, like small business owner and lifelong DC sports fan Joshua Chernikoff, are finding multiple reasons to join the Booster Club and be a part of making the Rambler Nation great again. “I will begin to bring my nine-month-old to Eastern football games and basketball games starting now,” Chernikoff affirmed. “Because she needs to be a proud Hill resident and a proud Washingtonian at the same time. We also need to broaden her horizons so that she can start to see some winning!”

Chernikoff himself no longer minds late-season DC professional sports disappointments; he just wants the best for his daughter. “At this point in my life, going to sporting events is about taking a break from work and hanging out with friends,” he remarked.

Football games at Eastern are about family fun for all ages, students getting to see their teachers enjoying a relaxing evening in street clothes, and the best $2 hotdogs on the Hill. Interest in football is encouraged, but by no means required, and you definitely don’t have to know why Eastern’s team is called the Ramblers if their mascot is a Ram. (It’s because they didn’t used to have their own athletic facilities and rambled around the District in a bus, beating teams at their place or that of another team, but never at home.)

There’s still time to be at the vanguard of the rising Rambler Nation. The sooner you join, the sooner your neighbors will know which side you’re on: the side of community, education, and (for the kids) winning. Imagine a neighborhood or a community where everyone is on the same side. “This is a march of the turtles, if you will,” Parker explained. “Right now, it’s one person at a time, but I always keep three or four hats in my car, just in case.”

For more information on the Eastern High School Booster Club or to be a part of the Rambler Nation contact John Parker at 202-413-5377 or jparker@cbmove.com.

Eastern Ramblers Football Upcoming Schedule

  • Oct. 10, 2:00 p.m., vs. Phelps (Homecoming Game)
  • Oct. 16, 6:00 p.m., at Bell, played at Cardozo
  • Oct. 24, 6:00 p.m., vs. McKinley Tech
  • Oct. 30, 6:00 p.m., vs. Roosevelt (Senior Night)
  • Nov. 6, 6:00 p.m., at Cardozo
  • TBA: DCIAA Playoffs

Tickets for home games are $5 each or $3 with DC Public Schools student ID. For more information visit www.ramblernation.org.

With plenty of seating, concessions, and on-field action, Eastern football games offer something for everybody on Friday evenings.
Put your fist in the air and join the official Eastern High School Booster Club.

Paul Rivas is the founder of Smith Rivas Academic Coaching & Consulting and can be reached at paul@smithrivas.comor 202-615-7791.