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Op-Ed: To the Hall High School Class of 2020

Hall High School Class of 2020 sign. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Rebecca Lewis first met members of the Hall High School Class of 2020 when she began teaching at West Hartford’s King Philip Middle School. She shares this message for the students she has taught and coached, and their classmates.

Dear Seniors,

I met many of you five years ago as 8th graders, ruling the halls of King Philip acting like you knew it all on the outside while in reality feeling insecure and awkward. I realize some of those feelings might be the same right now.

Unsure of your future, your next steps.

Those feelings are all normal and exacerbated by the challenging times we’re in now. One thing I know for sure, you will be OK, you will get through this, and you always have people by your side to lean on.

Over the last five years, I’ve seen you excel in the classroom, play, sing, and dance on stage, and crush it on the court and field. I’ve also seen you struggle. I’ve seen your agony as you face loss, and I’ve seen your heart as you continue to strive. Seniors, I am so proud of you. 

Hall High Seniors of 2020, you are like my first kids. You were the first class I taught at KP, and I was lucky enough to continue to coach many of you and stay connected over the last four years. Thank you for sharing your lives with me.

I know this is not how you imagined senior year ending. To put it simply, it sucks. But, like many things over the last four years, I know you will take it in stride, learn from it, and be better people because of it. The lessons you learn in quarantine will stay with you to make you better people as you venture into the next stage of your life.

So, here’s my last lesson to the Class of 2020. The things I hope you learn from quarantine and this crappy situation.

Valuing Moments and Time

So much has been taken from you over the last month, spring seasons and shows, prom, graduation, and much more. These are moments I know you have looked forward to for months and even years. As these things are taken away, it makes us realize how special these moments can be.

It’s OK to be upset that you don’t get these things. I also want you to realize a few things. Each of you will find a way to celebrate in your own homes or with your own groups through video chats. Just because the physical events have been taken away doesn’t mean you can’t recognize all of the awesomeness that has been the last four years.

Dress up with your friends, put some music on and make a digital prom. Keep in touch with your teammates, make videos. Although these are not the memories you were expecting, they are memories you could end up looking back on fondly.

When we eventually get out of quarantine, remember the moments you didn’t get. Carry it with you as a reminder to cherish all of the future moments you will get.

Recognize When Something is Bigger than Yourself

This is a moment in time when we do not have control. I know many of you, like me, like to have control, which makes this situation even harder.

The more we can accept the fact that this is out of our hands and bigger than any individual, the easier it will be to handle each challenge that comes our way during this time. Staying home is not just for us but for the entire community. Those we know and the many we don’t know.

This is a lesson in sacrifice. At a time in your lives when it is typical and even expected for you to think about yourselves and ending high school with a collection of positive memories, you are being asked to think about the greater good. This is a version of extreme selflessness that can be hard to accept.

There will be more times in the future when you will have the chance to focus on you. Right now, take a step back and embrace being part of something that is bigger than yourself. I hope in your life you can take this lesson and find a cause, job, or hobby that allows you to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself and you have that chance, on your own terms, to do something for the greater good.

Giving Back and Helping Out

Many of you are being asked right now to help out around the house, with siblings, or in some other way during this challenging time. Some of you are also doing a little extra to take care of family members or community members that need it during this time.

Even the simplest of tasks of calling someone who is lonely or picking up groceries is honorable. The good deeds and wellness you are spreading to help others in these tough times is noticed. I hope it sparks something in you to continue to give back to your communities as you enter the next stage of your life.

Making the Most of a Situation

As I’ve said before, this is a crappy situation. What I know about this class, is you take challenges head on, and that is exactly what you need to do here.

Things you looked forward to and were expecting this spring, the many celebrations of your accomplishments, unfortunately will not happen in the way you expected. I challenge you to think about how you can still make it special, how you can make the most of these moments.

Just because we can’t celebrate all of the wonderful things each of you have done together, doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate. Find brightness in the dark. I know you can. 

I am so proud of each and every one of you. Over the last four years you have each had challenges to overcome as well as seen success. More important than the accolades that you’ve received or would have received this year, the people you are each becoming makes my heart melt.

With my 8th graders five years ago we started off the year with a quote activity. One of the quotes was one I try to live by and one many of you are personifying, “A life is not important except for the impact it has on others lives” Jackie Robinson.

You have all had a tremendous impact on my life, and I will always remember the class of 2020. Congratulations.

With love and virtual hugs,

Ms./Coach Lewis

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