Keeping the health and safety guidelines put in place to protect the well-being of its students, East Texas Baptist University refashioned its traditional Homecoming celebration into a “Home on the Hill” week of festivities. Each day of the week-long event included engaging student-life activities that provided on-campus ETBU students with fun ways to safely celebrate what it means to be a Tiger.

The week kicked off on Monday, October 12, with a movie night under the stars in the Quad, where students enjoyed a film and snack bar. On Tuesday, students participated in a relaxing evening of socially distanced pumpkin painting in the Grove. “Wing Wednesday,” meanwhile, saw students gathering together for 1,200 free Wing Stop chicken wings while viewing the Major League Baseball NCLS Game 3 and ACLS Game 4. Each event of the week was planned and hosted by Student Engagement, led by Director of Student Activities Laura Coursey.

“Of course, Homecoming in the middle of a pandemic had its challenges, but it was nothing that our Tiger students couldn’t overcome,” Director of Student Activities Laura Coursey said. “I was so happy to see all of our students out at events wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines. After spending the Spring semester away from classmates and peers, these students deserved to have a fun week! Although this pandemic has brought many challenges, this week has proven that it cannot stop our students’ Tiger Pride.”

The festivities continued on Thursday, October 15, with ETBU Tiger Sports. Both the Women’s and Men’s Basketball teams participated in scrimmages, which were followed by a Post-Game Party in the Dean Healthplex parking lot that included pizza, desserts, and games. More scrimmages were played on Friday between ETBU Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Football, with students enjoying a late-night breakfast in the Dining Hall afterward.

“Despite these weird circumstances, ETBU is making sure that we still have fun and that we can have a ‘normal’ college experience as we celebrate what it means to be a Tiger,” junior Baylie Bradley said. “Being a Christian on and off-campus is what it means to be a Tiger. Anyone can be a college student, but I think ETBU students are different because we have such a Christ-centered atmosphere.”

While ETBU Alumni are traditionally invited back to the Hill for weekend activities, the East Texas Baptist Alumni Relations office found creative ways to include alumni and other members of the University community as everyone celebrated what it means to be part of the Tiger Family. The Virtual Homecoming activities highlighted video tours of newly constructed and remodeled campus facilities, online story time with Toby and Tabby, and making Tiger Treats on social media.

“Although we wish we could welcome our alumni back to campus, we did our best to bring the Hill home to them this fall by sending spirit boxes to our honor classes and providing virtual programming throughout Homecoming week,” Director of Alumni Relations and Advancement Communication Emily Roberson said. “We look forward to gathering together with our graduates during Homecoming 2021, October 29-30, to celebrate with our 2020 and 2021 honor classes, alumni, and friends of ETBU.”

The packed weekend ended with “Celebration Saturday” and a lineup of scrimmages played by ETBU volleyball, baseball, and softball. During the evening, Tigers gathered on Middle Street for the Tiger Revel and Fireworks Show, complete with a 70’s Motown-themed concert and costume contest. During this time, the 2020 Homecoming Court was announced. The court included Freshman Duke and Duchess, Carson Loos and Brooke Kendrick; Sophomore Duke and Duchess, Mark Kunz and Laura Staley; Junior Duke and Duchess, Will Kelley and Abigail Bath; and Senior Duke and Duchess Josh Hartley and Emily Jones. ETBU seniors Mylan Shed and Shelby Nallin were named 2020 ETBU Homecoming King and Queen.

“It’s an honor to be nominated and selected by your peers,” Shed said. “To be recognized on this campus out of thousands of people, not only for who you are, but for who you represent is one of the biggest things for me. That is really humbling for me. I’m definitely realizing that the hard work pays off, but at the same time, it means there is still more work to be done because people are recognizing that I have a purpose, so it propels me forward makes me want to be a better person.”

Both the King and Queen are recognized on campus for being a representation of a Christian leader, scholar, and servant. Mylan Shed, a behavioral science major from Teague, Texas, has remained an active member of the student body through participation in the Black Student Association, Cultural Outreach Ministries, Joyful Praise choir and dance ministry, Vice President of the Student Government Association, Student Foundation, Tiger Camp leader, Thrive mentor, and was recently recognized as a Riley Servant Leadership Award recipient. Nallin is a worship studies major from Bossier City, Louisiana. During her time at ETBU, she has been actively involved around campus in her role as a Titus Bible Study Leader, Ignite Worship Coordinator for the Baptist Student Ministry, Concert Choir, Residence Life, and through her current role as Worship Coordinator for the ETBU Worship Band. She also serves off campus as a Worship Leader at Lifewater Church in Bossier City.

“Being crowned as Homecoming Queen is a reminder of how everyone is viewed in the eyes of the Lord; if you’re a believer in the one true God, then you are royalty in His eyes,” Nallin said. “Participating in Homecoming during a worldwide pandemic is a reminder of how no matter what’s going on in the world, we can be encouraged by how life does carry on in the midst of circumstances like these. Life events still happen, and while some may look different than in years past, it’s still encouraging to have your eyes fixed on what’s ahead.”

East Texas Baptist’s 2021 Homecoming weekend is set for October 29-30, 2021, where both 2020 and 2021 honor classes will be celebrated. For more information on Homecoming, visit www.etbu.edu/homecoming.