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Commentary By: Paige Britt, Senior, Gateway Regional High School, Woodbury Heights, NJ
WOODBURY HEIGHTS, N.J. — When I look back on my senior year, one word comes to mind: Gratitude.
Of course, the class of 2021 isn’t the only graduating class that has missed out on things senior students normally experience, but in the midst of the pandemic, last year felt pretty bleak for us. We were restless, aimless, and had no idea what the rest of our high school career would look like. Watching our peers in the class of 2020 miss out on moments they had looked forward to for years only enhanced our fear of missing these milestones ourselves.
Then, things got a little better. The class of 2020 got their graduation, and students returned to school part time in the fall. Events of the previous year hung over our heads like storm clouds. Spirit week, Gator Day, Homecoming — all compensated for by some virtual counterpart. The effort was always more than appreciated, but simply not the same.
Being fully virtual caused me to become stagnant. I floated from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting, sleepily logging on at the last minute. I continued to try to make the best of it. I participated in extracurriculars, staying as involved as I could, and took advantage of having more time to see my friends. I devoted time to my college applications and internships, focused on the future, and ready to leave the present behind.
Before I knew it, it was the fourth marking period, and Gateway had announced we’d go back to in-person instruction four days a week. The first glimpse of normalcy! I had become so used to lazily joining class, doing assignments the night they were due, staying in pajamas for the majority of the day. Rays of sun began to poke through the rain clouds that followed us all year. There was hope. Excitement. These were things I hadn’t felt about school in over a year. Being back at school with my best friends was exactly what I needed. Stressing about AP exams together, debating how we should get our nails done for prom, planning outfits for graduation, filling classrooms with laughter.
I had taken for granted the things I used to complain about so easily; humid hallways and having to trek across the school to get to the bathrooms. It’s so easy to bash your high school. To say you hate it and it sucks and dread going. While those are completely valid feelings to have, high school is what you make of it.
I can wholeheartedly say that I embraced Gateway with open arms. Gateway provided me with so many opportunities, an education, and a college acceptance. Every event, club, and performance I could be a part of I was. My classmates did the same, and before I knew it they became my best friends. For that, I am forever grateful.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
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