Ninjagrams, or How to Ambush Your Crush at Swarthmore

It was mid-February of my sophomore year. I was standing outside the Organic Chemistry lecture with several other Swat students, each of us dressed in black (well, mostly—Matt was wearing pink socks and a unicorn hat). At 10:15 we burst into the lecture hall wielding foam swords and start battling it out at the front of the class. The professor eventually fought us off with a molecule model, but before we left we delivered mysterious red cards to select members of the class.

A glimpse of Ninjas in action (if you can see them, that is).

Most schools have Valentine grams where you get to buy a card for someone, either a friend or someone special, maybe sending a chocolate along the way. Swarthmore is the exact same—okay, almost exactly—except here it’s Ninjagrams. Our grams are delivered by ninjas, students who volunteer their day to run around in costume and deliver cards throughout campus. We deliver to anyone who had a gram bought for them, but we also “sneak” into the administrative and dining offices and hand out truffles as well.

Some off-duty ninjas making cards in preparation for Delivery Day.

When volunteering as a ninja my sophomore year, I realized how much work and thought is invested in this tradition. The “ninjamasters” train all the ninjas to avoid acting in culturally insensitive ways. The cards and truffles are all handmade, and all the ninjas take turns sitting at the entrance of Sharples selling grams to other Swatties (with Venmo, of course—cash free, baby!). Proceeds from Ninjagrams, usually around $1,000, have been donated to such charities as Covenant House NJ and Engineers Without Borders.

Valentine’s Day can be nerve-wracking for a lot of people, particularly if you haven’t had much experience at the whole courtship game. But Ninjagrams brings a levity to the ordeal that I very much appreciate. After all, what is more romantic than ambushing someone in the middle of class?

Your truly, about to ambush the Tolkien and Pullman Literature class. Who says you can’t celebrate Halloween on Valentine’s Day?

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