Annual Ninjagrams Deliver Students Joy

On Friday, Feb. 16, Swarthmore students took part in the annual tradition of Ninjagrams. The tradition allows students to pre-purchase cards and chocolates to be delivered by students acting as ninjas for the day, weaving in and out of buildings to ambush unsuspecting recipients. In many classes, “ninjas” delivered cards to students and faculty, sometimes accompanied by truffles and choreographed battles. 

According to Ninja Master Lindsey Turner ’25, Ninjagrams operated very effectively this year, despite some expected challenges. Fewer students were organizing the event this year than in past years, especially after the pandemic disruption.

“At the beginning, we were a little nervous about recruiting, both on the organizational front as well as the actual execution of the day,” Turner said. “I think we were surprised by how this tradition has gained momentum over the years. All traditions took a hit during the pandemic, but it seemed like we really revived it over these past three years. It worked out really well this year and I can for sure say that I was less stressed this year for Ninjagrams than last year.”

In addition to the day of delivering Ninjagrams all across campus, the ninjas and ninja masters prepare through meetings and events beforehand. These involve making truffles and determining which ninjas would deliver each Ninjagram.

“We had the truffle-making night and then we had the sort of infamous Ninja Eve, which is the Thursday before ninja day, where usually it takes hours because we have all these cards,” Turner explained. “We got through that pretty quickly this year. And then it’s all fun and games on Friday.”

According to Ninja Master Elsa Toland ’25, the organizational structure also ensures coordination and makes sure that the ninjas are not overly disruptive to the classes that they interrupt.

“Before we start tabling, we go through the registrar to send a massive email out to all of the professors on campus, basically saying… this is when we’ll be delivering cards and they can reach out to us if they don’t want us to interrupt classes,” Toland said. “That way we can make sure that, for example, we don’t interrupt a test, which is important.”

In addition to organizing Ninjagrams as a ninja master, Turner also worked as a ninja and delivered several cards. He believes that doing so makes the entire process, including his logistical work, more fulfilling overall.

“It feeds into the rewarding aspect of it,” he said. “If I were to have done all this work, and then just went to class that day, I think it wouldn’t feel as good for me. Whereas I can actually see the fruits of our labor, going and rolling around watching people smile as they receive the cards.”

Unlike Turner, Toland focused more on the logistical aspects of Ninjagrams and did not deliver cards. She has found that taking part in making truffles and organizing the event is highly rewarding as well.

“It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work. We do all of the [Ninjagrams administration], coordinate with the [Office of Student Engagement (OSE)], and organize the legions of sneaky ninjas who table and deliver stuff,” she explained. “My role as ninja master compared to Lindsey is a little more behind-the-scenes because I don’t go into classrooms. Instead, I handle the truffle-making, and I help coordinate things and hold down the fort on ninja day while everyone’s coming in and out and running around.”

Toland also highlighted how the money paid for the Ninjagrams goes entirely to charities, as Ninja Grams supplies are entirely funded by OSE. This year, the two charities selected were Save the Children and the Mazzoni Center.

“In past years, we’ve donated to environmental groups, Doctors Beyond Borders, and COVID Relief Fund in 2020. It’s all going to good places. And I think that part of the importance of the tradition is that you know we spread love on campus and then help other people elsewhere,” Toland said.

According to Maya Yung ’27, who worked as a ninja for the first time this year, Ninjagrams offered her a way to participate in a fun and relaxed activity not related to her academic goals.

“A lot of things that I’ve been involved in have been resume builders or things to explore my academics. Even when it was for an advocacy purpose, it was always something I could put on my application. I think Ninjagrams was just a fun thing, and it’s going to charity, so that’s a plus,” she said.

Like Turner, Yung found it very enjoyable and rewarding to deliver Ninjagrams on Ninja Day to various classes. She highlighted seeing people she knew and acting within a ninja character as two major parts of the ninja experience.

“I did try to pick people I knew. It was really entertaining because some of them recognized me and some of them didn’t, which I was surprised by,” Yung continued. “I think you can get really into character because to entertain people, you [can] try [to] be extra sneaky. Not that you don’t get seen, but you can do rolls on the ground or hide behind a pole but not very well.”

For Toland, a major part of the Ninjagrams process is the effect that it has on the student body. Seeing students take part in the tradition is a very positive experience for her.

“Part of what makes this tradition so happy to be is that it’s just such a good way to spread good vibes and make people happy because we really do reach everyone,” she said. “It’s really just a super sweet way to bring a little bit of cheer to people and I really do love that part. It makes me happy.”

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