With music from the school band reverberating off the walls and bleachers, eighth-graders -- clearly the stars of this show -- marched into the packed Ooltewah Middle School gym.
It looked like any other pep rally, with cheerleaders performing stunts and some students inspired to stand and clap with the music. But Monday's pep rally had nothing to do with sports and everything to do with academics.
Ooltewah Middle organized the event, now in its third year, to motivate eighth-grade students for their ACT Explore test, which they'll take today. The exam predicts how well students will do on the ACT, and thus how prepared for college they'll be.
"It's definitely one of the truest measuring sticks that we have in regard to student success," Principal Brent Eller said.
While the pep rally is admittedly a bit hokey, Eller said it has been effective in motivating students.
"We're in so much competition with the outside world for their attention," he said. "Anything we can do that's out of the ordinary to get them excited is great."
The event included performances by middle school cheerleaders, dancers and the band, in addition to cheerleaders from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
UTC men's basketball coach John Shulman offered a pep talk to eighth-graders, noting the importance of making the right choices in life.
"You've got only one chance at this thing called life. What are you going to do with it?" he said. "It starts tomorrow."
It's never to early to start thinking about college and the future, he told the students.
"Have dreams and have goals," he said. "You want to be special? Be special."
Eighth-grader Tamiyah Baker said she was encouraged by the raucous pep rally. And as for the test? No sweat, she said.
"I felt really pumped up about it," 13-year-old Baker said. "I'm ready to go."
Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6249.