In light of the current pandemic and North’s distance learning plan, many students have been at home looking for an enjoyable leisure activity. After trying a sizable amount of new…
English teacher Colleen Moore said the separation of work and home life has ceased to exist now that distance learning is in place. “There hasn’t been much of a line between the two, whereas before, you’re physically at North, then physically at home, so they felt more separated,” she said. In her free time Moore enjoys sidewalk chalk art with her children.
She added, “School is always sitting there on my computer staring at me and saying, ‘there’s more you should be doing.’ The hardest part is finding that balance of not overworking or underworking.”
According to Moore, distance learning simply can’t mimic in-person class discussions. Throughout the school year, she said, students have worked face-to-face and have created a routine, but now with online learning, “It’s just not the same. You can barely see everybody.”
She added that students feel less comfortable speaking in Zoom check-ins. “I think students are quieter during class interactions,” she said. “It’s hard for students, because when you talk on zoom, and you’re the one speaking, you almost feel like you’re on the stage.”
Distance learning requires more prepping than in-person school, according to Moore. “There’s always work that teachers are creating no matter whether they’re in person or online, but because I’m not there to answer questions or have a class discussion when we first review materials, it’s been hard enough to try to anticipate every question imaginable and try to answer it before it comes up,” she said. “There’s been more prep work just because I’m not physically present with students when it’s time to talk about an assignment or new texts.”
Math teacher Adam Peloquin said he thinks restructuring the work day is the hardest change for teachers during quarantine. “It’s easy to be doing work earlier than I normally would or doing work later than I normally would now,” he said.
According to Peloquin, the distance learning plan is “not really teaching anymore.” He added that it’s difficult to have less face-to-face time with students, and students seem bored without in-person social interactions.
Though Peloquin started teaching for the unpredictable moments that occur inside the classroom, such as verbal mistakes and accidentally making people laugh, he finds that “that sadly doesn’t exist anymore.” To keep himself busy, Peloquin has been building miniature cars in his free time.
English teacher Katherine Mannelly said her routine is “turned upside down in some ways.” From teaching at a new angle to restructuring her schedule, quarantine has been an exciting challenge and a good opportunity to push the boundaries of teaching, she added.
Mannelly said she feels like her time is spent in “back-to-back Zoom meetings.” She added, “Outside time is something that my soul is definitely craving. Make sure you go for walks and get outside!” She has also spent time baking and making puzzles.
Mannelly said that though the new schooling platform may prove difficult to students, it also comes as a unique opportunity to find the best way to teach. “A lot of the stuff we’re creating, a lot of the new materials we’re coming up with, are things that we would like to integrate into the curriculum,” she added. Recently, underclassmen and juniors filled out a google form for classes discussing the possibility of carrying over some ideas from distance learning for the 2020-21 school year.
The lost opportunity to embrace the spring sport season and “missing the chance to see these seniors have their Senior Spring has been really heartbreaking,” said Mannelly, who is also the girls’ tennis coach.
With new guidelines for schools in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and more school regulations on the way, Newton Public Schools (NPS) is planning for how reopening in the fall will look.
According to guidelines published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, reopening schools in the fall will require wearing masks, maintaining a distance of six feet, and a maximum of 10 students in each classroom.
“We have to figure out how much content can be covered in classes if we’re on a different schedule,” said superintendent David Fleishman. “I expect some distance learning, but what will distance learning look like if schools are partially distance learning and partially in-person? Those will be the kind of things we will have to figure out.”
He added that once the state specifies issues around these regulations, the school district will create a new schedule.
Principal Henry Turner said that while changes to school are likely for next fall, specific details are still up in the air.
“We should anticipate that it’s going to be different,” said Turner. “We are working on some ideas, but nothing official yet.”
Fleishman added that the year is still quite unclear because the finer details of the plan will be clarified by the state government later this summer.
“The state guidance will tell us, for example, what percent of students will be in a building at once. The state guidance will recommend how much movement there should be in schools, whether there should be sports or after-school activities or certain electives,” said Fleishman. “We will have some flexibility about what our schedule looks like.”
Junior David Genis, like many other returning students, said he wants school to be in-person in the fall.
“I do think we will have school in-person in the fall because the state is already starting to open up,” said Genis. “I would feel disappointed about it if we did not because there is a lot I’m looking forward to, like meeting with friends and club things.”
He added that missing even more school would harm students’ learning, as distant learning doesn’t compare to in-person classes.
“Since we already missed a large chunk of this year, I just do not think we can afford to miss anymore school,” Genis said.
Freshman Luke Andrews added that social distancing has not only had a poor effect on his social life, but also on his learning. “I like going to school to see people and have fun,” said Andrews. “However, it is harder to get work done at home, as I like being able to actually talk to the teacher in-person.”
Dear Newton North High School Graduates,
Our great nation awaits you as you enter the next phase of your life. Over these last three months we have learned so much as a society. Many of you will enter science fields – with some pre-training in infectious diseases and public health policy, courtesy of COVID-19. Others will enter government, having learned about our federalist system and the power diffusion with the United States to all levels of government. Some of you will become lawyers, fighting for our United States Constitution and the protection of our liberties. We see peaceful protesters being protected by the First Amendment, and at the same time see the fall of Hong Kong, a wonderful city brought to its knees for lack of the same protections. This level of national and global tumult has not been seen in some decades. You have a front row seat and are in fact actively living this historical moment.
Student leaders at Newton North have come forward in many ways. Most striking is the student leadership who worked to ensure building and lawn signs to recognize graduating seniors, as well as the parade around the school. We cannot be prouder of your accomplishments as you move forward into early adulthood. While this has not been an easy end to high school, it has been one of the most fascinating times in our country’s recent history, and creates conditions for your class to emerge as national and global leaders.
Congratulations and carry on!
From the moment of entering their fourth year at North, seniors often look to the enjoyable and relaxed Senior Spring that is to come. With COVID-19 canceling school for the final three months, as well as all large gatherings, seniors reflected on their anything-but traditional last month at North.
Senior class president Anabel Marré praised the attitude of the seniors during this time. “The student body is just so inspiring in all the ways that they have had ideas to stay connected to each other,” she said. “That Tiger Pride in the Newton community is so strong that I know our community will persevere far past this.”
The senior class officers, with help from the PTSO, created and lined up lawn signs on Commonwealth Avenue for each of the 530 seniors to congratulate them on finishing high school. Marré added that the class officers also organized additional bonding events, including an online senior game night Sunday, May 3.
Senior Jacob Teszler said although the cancelation of school was fun for the first few weeks, the situation really hit not soon after.
“For three and a half years, everything was building up to those last few months of senior year, and then at the drop of a hat, all of it was taken away,” he said. “In the end, I think it turned out obviously not how I planned, but Celebration Lane and the other small things are all really good ideas on the school’s behalf.”
Senior Sara Manning agreed that North is truly trying to make this Senior Spring one for the record books.
“It is definitely not ideal to not have a traditional ceremony, but at the same time, the administration is doing so much to make it special for us,” said senior Sara Manning.
She added that she still appreciates the effort of North’s administration to support the graduating class, and that “the people in it are truly doing their best to make sure that we still have a ceremony that will be memorable.”
Senior Andrea Bonilla agreed, saying that although it’s hard to connect with friends during quarantine, the administration worked hard to take advantage of every opportunity to celebrate.
“The celebration parade was really cute. The only thing was that we couldn’t all be there together at the same time,” she said. “But it was a good alternative. We didn’t have many options.”
Senior Lasya Thavanati said even though the end of the year was overwhelming, she still enjoyed the efforts of the school to make a memorable end. “Even though it was not super clear what was going to happen, the administration’s still doing the best that we can get,” she said.
Despite some of the uncertainties surrounding graduation, Turner said that the sense of Tiger Pride will stay with these seniors for a long time.
Principal Henry Turner said that the administration wants to give seniors the chance to walk up in an in-person ceremony to receive their diplomas July 19 and 20, when the state plans to allow for larger gatherings.
“When you’re sitting next to people, and when you see thousands of people in that football stadium, it has a real sense of community,” said principal Henry Turner. “It’s a little harder to do that virtually.”
Turner added that he hopes the seniors will remember their time at North aside from COVID-19.
“For four years, they have been great leaders helping to make our school better in many different ways,” said Turner. “I hope we can have a great send off for them that will make them know how much we care about them.”
The Class of 2020 concluded its senior year in a virtual graduation ceremony Wednesday, June 10, becoming the 160th class to graduate from North.
The ceremony was pre-recorded, and principal Henry Turner began the ceremony by welcoming the friends and families of seniors.
Senior Lasya Thavanati then sang the national anthem, followed by superintendent David Fleishman’s remarks to the Class of 2020.
Next, Hallie Zenga-Josephson took to the screen and spoke on behalf of the seniors, and history teacher Peter Turner and chemistry teacher Peter Hamel spoke for the faculty.
Senior class president Anabel Marré then talked to her classmates, congratulating them on the end of their long journey and the beginning of a new one.
English teacher Michele Leong, the Dover Legacy Scholars director, METCO Engagement Specialist Elvin Cardona, and Adams house dean David Turcotte then presented student awards. First, Daniela Divo received the Margaret South Award, an engraved bowl, for her courtesy, courage, enthusiasm, and unselfish service to North.
The Senior Cups were awarded to Marré and Vandrey Sisson. The Senior Cups are awarded for character, scholarship, involvement in the school community, and personality.
Cardona, Leong, and Turcotte then gave the Lenny Zakim/PTSO Human Rights Award to Leyla David and Jenny Huang for pursuing a greater understanding and appreciation of human differences.
Finally, as seniors’ names were called in the final procession, they had the option to have a five-second video screen in the background, marking the end of their time here at North.
Caps and gowns were distributed the week of June 8 for the online ceremony. According to vice principal Amy Winston, diplomas are to be given out July 19 and 20, when the state plans to allow for larger gatherings.
Seniors and their families celebrated the end of their time at North with a socially-distanced, parade-like Celebration Lane Sunday, June 7.
Between 3:00 and 4:30 p.m., seniors drove, biked, or walked down Lowell Avenue,taking a right on Elm Road, and passing the Theatre Entrance, enjoying their final moments in high school. North’s faculty and staff stood lined up along the route, waving signs, blowing whistles, and ringing cowbells to honor the graduating class.
English teacher Katherine Mannelly, who helped organize the event, said she was glad to provide the seniors with an opportunity for a final farewell, while bringing the energy to the parade with a megaphone and speakers.
“We were trying to make it a memorable experience,” she said. “You get energy when you see the kids coming around. You want to make sure that every single student feels seen, loved, celebrated. I think we were all craving some in-person type of celebration.”
Senior Doug Williams said the celebration helped to ease the disappointment of not having a traditional graduation and countdown ceremony.
“The energy was palpable,” he said. “We didn’t get to really revel in our accomplishment this year, so seeing our friends, teachers, and mentors out showing their support made it sink in that we’ve made it.”
Physical education teacher Lauren Baugher, who showed up with her kids, said that this year’s senior celebration was unique and will create great memories for everyone.
“It wasn’t obviously a traditional way to have graduation,” she said. “I think that seeing them one last time in this way was actually really cool. I felt like it was really student-centered and we were able to give the kids the attention that they deserve under these circumstances.”
Vice principal Amy Winston added, “I’m glad they had an opportunity to see all of their teachers, faculty, and staff one last time and say goodbye. Everyone was in a happy and joyous state which was exactly what we wanted.”
Dear Class of 2020,
I want to begin by acknowledging what a truly unprecedented time in which you, our 2020 graduates, are finishing your education in the Newton Public Schools. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of schools and the cancellation of many special events and rites of passage. Now, in the past few weeks, we are witnessing a call to action – perhaps the birth of a new movement – to end systemic racism in this country. This is a moment in the history of our country that we will never forget. What we—what you—do next, matters more than ever.
While it is easy to focus our attention on issues of race, class, and inequity given the demonstrations and civil action happening across the country right now, it will be all too easy to move on when the current crisis is behind us. However, systemic injustice and racism in our various institutions and systems will still be with us and it is critical that we seize this moment and this energy to be engaged and committed to taking action to achieve true equity and justice for all.
Over the past four years, I have been deeply impressed with the wide variety of ways in which the Class of 2020 has stepped up to act and to serve, both in the school and in the larger community. Regardless of what you are doing next year or where you are located, there has never been a greater need for you to take action against racism and to contribute to building communities that are explicitly anti-racist. Given the passion and commitment this class has already shown to make this world a more just and more equitable place, I have no doubt you are well prepared to make a major difference. Thank you for the work you have already done and I look forward to your next chapter.
Due to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (MIAA) cancelation of the 2020 spring sports season, many seniors and other spring athletes were unable to experience their time on the track, field, or court.
Instead of the Newtonite’s typical wrap up of the spring season, many athletes and coaches from various teams submitted statements reflecting on the positives of this bad situation.
Prior to the cancelation, athletic director Tom Giusti had already rearranged the spring schedule twice. “I was always trying to maintain some sense of hope,” he said.
This year has been wild to say the least. Nothing went according to plan and we lost our senior spring. But we adapted, we found a way. Graduation on my couch and classes in my bed really shook things up but it had to be done. Nothing will replace what we lost but we sure can come close.
This season was bound to be a fun one. The loss of pure talent from last year’s graduating class would have been hard to replace, but what we built last year, cohesion wise, would still ring strong. The daily practices after school and especially the saturday morning ones are what made each and every one of us stronger individuals and teammates. We had something going.
A majority of the guys were training over the winter in preparation for the season. And I think that is where it stings. To have the opportunity to go out and show everyone what we’ve trained and practiced, just stripped from our fingertips hurts the most. To not be able to end our high school career with the boys we’ve been playing with or against coming up through middle and high school. I think we all saw it coming and we know it was the right decision to cut it off, but it didn’t really set in for us until much later. We didn’t realize how much it meant to close out senior year with it.
But I can tell you with certainty that all of the boys next year will come back with that extra fuel. That desire to earn back what was taken. The talent will be there. The one and only Coach Siciliano will be there. But that fuel will be what will take them over the top.
Personally it hasn’t set in yet. It hasn’t hit me that I will be done with North and onto the next four. It hasn’t hit me that I will not be seeing a majority of my classmates and teachers again. But I do know that when it does, and when I have moved onto my next chapter, I will look back on these years with a big smile. What it has done for me has been monumental and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Go Tigers!
After going through weeks of quarantine due to COVID-19, then watching the racial disturbances, I feel we all have a responsibility as sportsmen to bring change in our attitudes and biases. I believe it is necessary to step outside our comfort zones, understand our responsibilities, make decisions, and take action on our beliefs. COVID-19 and now the Black Lives Matter Movement have brought many new challenges to those of us committed to sports. It has made us think beyond ourselves, our meets, and our practices, and has helped us understand that we have a bigger and better purpose to serve. We must dare to strike our own path forward and be fearless. Let us be the energy we wish to create. While I will reflect on my memories of Track at Newton North, I want to acknowledge the political turmoil that our country is going through, and express my gratitude to those standing for what they believe in.
I have always loved to run. Ever since my days in kindergarten, I have had a fascination for speed. My hero growing up was Lightning McQueen, and his mantra before a race, “I am speed,” has been an all time favorite of mine. It was in 8th grade when I first discovered track and field. As my rookie season progressed, track turned into my religion as I was burning up the track and consistently winning races.
As an incoming freshman at Newton North in 2016, I naturally looked forward to being an athlete on the Track and Field team. While I was not sure of what exactly to expect, I had heard many stories about the grueling workouts. Upon joining, I was made aware that the team had a 19 year winning streak in the Bay State Conference under Coach Blackburn. My desire was to find myself a spot on the team by continually achieving new personal records. Over the past four years, I have had the honor and privilege of being an integral member of the Newton North Track and Field team. I would not be here today without Coach Wallace, who replaced Coach Blackburn during my sophomore year. Wallace took over right where Blackburn left off and continued to help me grow and shape me into the athlete I am today. The Newton North Track team has been my extended family in the true sense of the word.
Each year, the team is tasked with going through an indoor season undefeated. When I was an underclassman, the pressure never landed directly on me to maintain the streak. This year however, as a senior captain, I felt it was my responsibility to accomplish this task. Unlike past years, we entered this past season as underdogs. After graduating a few of our varsity runners last year, we had our doubts about defeating other top schools in our conference. While I understood we had a long road ahead, I was confident that we would band together and achieve our season goals.
With Coach Wallace leading the way, our goals started to become a reality. As the indoor season progressed, each week’s victory was sweeter than the last. Highlighted by our 51-49 victory against Wellesley, this year marked the 23rd consecutive undefeated season in the Bay State Conference for Boys Indoor Track and Field.
My experience as a senior captain was totally different than any of my previous years as a younger member on the team. Unlike in past years, it was my responsibility to be the leader that underclassmen looked up to for direction. While this new position as captain was unfamiliar to me, I was able to reach out to old alumni for help when conflict arose. These people served as a great support system to me, but I knew it was ultimately up to me to create a winning environment. I felt as if I needed to be the rock for the team, and a lot of pressure fell on me to perform at my best in each race.
One day, I was feeling down after a meet in which I didn’t perform up to my own standard. On the bus ride home, a friend of mine noticed I wasn’t my typical upbeat self, so he came over to chat. During the conversation that ensued, he reminded me that my role as a captain is to lead, motivate, and direct the team to perform as one. He noted that my performance is reflected in the team’s success, and my teammates are by my side and are with me through thick and thin.
People look up to leaders because they are inspired by them, and want to mirror some of the qualities that the leader may prove to have. This brief conversation brought to the surface an idea that was always dormant within me: the idea of looking beyond myself and seeing the world as bigger than what’s in our immediate view. The impact we make is sometimes greater than what we perceive, and as a leader, it’s most important to understand the shadow we cast and to think beyond ourselves, so we can be the change that we are looking for.
Very often, you do not appreciate what something means to you until it’s taken away. Since I’ve attended North, playing tennis during the spring season has always been a given. All we’ve ever had to worry about was the erratic New England weather, which often made playing tennis outdoors difficult. But not once did we ever imagine a spring without tennis. When school was canceled, the entire team and I all knew there was a possibility that we would not get to play this year, but of course, we still hoped for the chance. With an announcement from the MIAA and a few words from our coach, our season had come to an abrupt and unceremonious end due to the pandemic.
With the departure of over half of our varsity team last year, the tradition of graduated players returning during the latter half of the season to support the team rested firmly in the back of our minds, giving us fun matches and even nostalgic feelings to look forward to. This, however, has left a younger and less experienced group of guys who have been forced to step up. Our great group of returning players were more than able to make an impact on the court, with an ability to strengthen relationships between team members, creating a brotherhood off the courts. We also had a talented young group of freshmen trying out this year, who, as captain’s practices progressed throughout the winter, Ben and I got to know better and better.
As anticipation and excitement for the season mounted during the preseason, so did thoughts of winning the sectional championship, something we have come so close to the past three years. With strong leadership and a young and exciting team, I have a fervent belief we would’ve made a deep playoff run. Of course, it is truly heartbreaking to see that we won’t have a chance to prove it with the opportunity vanquished, but the future of the boy’s tennis team at North has never looked brighter. I have strong faith that next year and beyond, we will find success not only on the court, but also in creating a close-knit and fraternal culture within the team. With senior captain Ben Reider leaving this year, we lose a leader and a strong player, but most of the team remains intact—ready to bounce back next season. Go Tigers!
When NNHS Ultimate Frisbee started planning for this season at the end of Spring 2019, we could never have imagined it would go this way. After a hard-fought season where we graduated no seniors, we were looking at a fantastic season this spring. With an incredibly experienced team of juniors and seniors, we were planning on flying to an out of state tournament and possibly attending High School Nationals in Illinois. We’d been training and fundraising throughout the fall and winter, selling candy and raking leaves all around Newton. As the spring season came closer, there was excitement in the air. We were training and recruiting.
And then, of course, we weren’t. After the initial cancelation, we watched the possibility of our season dwindle, until the final cancelation came and we knew there would be no season at all.
For me, at least, the loss hit slowly. It didn’t feel entirely real to be out of school for so many months. But as it slowly set in, I realized there would be no relaxing in the sun during a bye round, no sleeping over at “the farm” during states, and no rushing the field when one of our players catches the disk feet over the head of some kid from Lexington. A million moments of camaraderie and connection lost.
In the ashes of our season, we’ve continued to connect in a limited capacity. Some of us have gotten together for socially-distanced birthday gatherings. Some of us continue to connect over discord. In the end, nothing can replace the connection born of those million moments during a season, but we’ve continued to check in on each other and maintain our sense of community as best we can.
As sad as our loss is, it pales in comparison to the magnitude of the moment. As I write this on the first of June, our country is roiled by dual crises; the pandemic that has cost so many jobs, dollars, and lives, and massive protests over the cruel murder of George Floyd and so many more. To dwell on the loss of a high school sports season feels shallow and insensitive to the suffering experienced by so many.
In light of the extraordinary year we have had so far, it seems like the best solution for our loss of a season—our loss of human connection—is to connect in ways we never would have. As a team, we can lean in, deepen our connection, and continue to see and hear each other. As individuals, we can reach out, and connect with a local hospital, charity, or activism group. We can go out into the streets and connect (safely, with a mask) with people from walks of life different from our own, and begin to experience this moment of national anger and mourning through the eyes of another.
Maybe the experiences and connections we would have gained during 10 weeks of spring sports are gone forever. But we can transform this tragic, historic moment into something better, if only we can reach out and form connections, enriching our perspective and the world around us.
Clank! Clank! Clank! The incredible noise we create with our sticks after scoring a goal. The sound will forever be in my memory, representing our tiger pride and teamwork. No goal was individual, the entire team played a part in every goal that was scored. Whether it was training in practice to throw the perfect assist, or executing a play we had been practicing for weeks, everyone contributed.
Some of my fondest memories from the girls lacrosse program were the scrumptious team dinners, fundraising activities, and most importantly, the unbreakable bonds with my teammates. This team is my family, they make my world go round. I remember carbo loading plenty of yummy food and being able to laugh with all of my teammates the night before a big game. I will always remember the passion and connection everyone shared going into a game. Everyone passed each other in the halls smiling from cheek to cheek completely decked out in spirit, getting pumped up for the game that afternoon. But when it was finally game time, our focus turned on and we were ready to step on that field.
Every year I looked forward to participating in the team olympics. Each player is put into a team where they pick a theme to dress up as. Each group gets points depending on how well they dress or how well they perform in each activity. There are little games to test teamwork skills instead of lacrosse skills. This is the time when everyone can have fun with the team in a different environment than the lacrosse field. This was easily one of my favorite activities throughout the year because of all the laughs we shared.
Going into the season we played in our first indoor lacrosse league which would have evidently helped us this season. We played against teams that were tougher opponents which really helped us develop new skills each week. I watched every player improve in their skills each weekend. Words cannot express the excitement I had for my last season as a Tiger, to play this last season with grit and heart, with my teammates and coaches by my side. I knew that this season was going to be special because of how dedicated the players were that early in the season. After seeing all the hard work my coaches and teammates put into this team, I am certain the program will continue to excel and have success in the future. I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things the Newton North girls lacrosse program accomplishes, and I am so grateful to have been a part of such an incredible program.
Believe me, this season was one for the ages. First, a tribute to my fellow captains: Tessa Bostwick smashed her personal best, clearing 6’ 5’’ in the high jump and running 8.05 seconds in the 100m dash at MIAA Division I states, culminating an impressive career. Adriana Reilly crushed the pentathlon, setting a meet record in the 400 hurdles with a time of 40.3 seconds, and jumping 46.8 feet in the triple jump at the Twilight Meet.
The rest of the seniors, Helena, Andrea, Kat, Livie, Viviana, Caroline, Kate, Stephanie, Tiffany, Emily, Izzy, Mariana, Rebecca, Sage, and Ali, all had incredible seasons, catapulting the team to a shut-out win in every event against Andover at State Relays, D1s, and All-States! Each senior had outstanding meet records, olympic-level times, and some results that defy human ability at this time in evolution.
Welp. As the poster on the 4th floor by the F stair says, “You Have to Dream it to Believe it.”
The silver lining of a canceled season is the liberty we can take with our imaginations. In my mind, this season we all had unprecedented results, because in the end, your time, measurement, or score doesn’t matter. The most important aspect of the season was not canceled—our team. During these tough times, we came together. We leaned on each other for support, the same way we would have done after a difficult meet. I am so proud to have been a part of this stellar team for four years. You are all so inspiring. I know you are all going places, sprinting, jumping, hurtling, and spinning into your shining futures.
To the class of 2021 and beyond: like proud parents, we will live vicariously through you, cheering you on as you have an amazing season next year (although probably not as record-breaking as ours hehe). Dream big. Don’t let dropping the baton in the relay prevent you from completing the race. If you foul, get back in the ring. You’ve got this! To the incredible coaches, JT, Rohan, Mo, and of course, Bower: thank you all SO MUCH for everything you have done. Mr. Bower, thank you especially for introducing me to discus, a sport I now love, and for every sound-effect, positive reinforcement, and instructional video you have sent my way. I will miss being a boss of the toss, but I’ll be back to visit. Go Tigers!
To my 2020 Tennis Seniors:
Congratulations! I am immensely proud of each of you, and I can’t believe this day has come. I can vividly remember March of 2017 when you entered the team as timid freshmen and I as a new coach—I’m not sure who was more nervous! I have loved watching you all blossom into the confident, young women that you are today. The energy you brought to practice every day was unparalleled, and there was never a shortage of laughter when you were around. You loved the game as much as you loved each other, and I can’t express to you just how much I’m going to miss you all next year. Your legacy of prioritizing relationships and working hard every day is one that will continue to shape the tennis program for years to come. Please know that your tennis family will always be cheering you on. Let the countdown begin for the most incredible alumni weekend North’s tennis program has ever seen!
I know this spring did not look like the one we had planned, and I hate that you were robbed of your senior season. Trust me, I would give anything to change what happened. Despite this unexpected curveball, I know that you will find a way to make the best of it because your positivity has always been infectious. I encourage you to spend this time reflecting on what your time at North has taught you because you’ll use those lessons to blaze your trail in this world. After witnessing the dedication and leadership you all have demonstrated these past years, both on the team and within the school community, I know that you are going to do even more remarkable things in the years to come.
As someone who has been blessed to know you and love you these last few years, I want to sincerely thank you for all the ways you’ve enriched my life. Sunny spring afternoons on the courts with you girls have been a true gift. I also want to give you some advice as you embark on this next adventure that will jumpstart very formative years of your life. There is a poem I stumbled upon while in college that has always been a driving force in my life, and I hope you can make your own meaning out of the final lines of the poem. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ says, “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” My hope for you all is that in this next chapter you discover what it is you’ll fall in love with in a very permanent way because it will determine what continuously fuels your passion, challenges you, excites you, and drives you to ask questions and seek out answers. Your understanding of this world will continue to expand with every new experience and new encounter, and I encourage you to stay open to each new opportunity as you navigate your way through this world that you’ll find to be both cruel and beautiful. Keep your mind open and lean into whatever it is that captures your heart then pursue it deliberately, without fear or hesitation. Now more than ever, we’re seeing that the world needs passionate, intentional leaders who know what they stand for, are unwavering in pursuit of their goals, and remain open to learning from others along the way. You are an inspiring group of women, and I can’t wait to discover what it is that inspires each of you in this life. I love you all. I’m always in your corner.
After coming off of a season where we became a nationally ranked team and an official varsity sport at North, I definitely had big hopes for this season. We not only got recognition from the Boston Globe last year for getting invited to nationals, but we proved how great a team and sport ultimate frisbee is by getting fourth at Nationals. Last year was a dream come true. Coming into this year a big chunk of our team had graduated – nine seniors – but that did not dampen our spirits. As a varsity sport, we had the resources from our school to succeed even more. Throughout the fall season, we worked with the boys team to keep improving both of our teams. I saw many returners there, and again during captains practices in the spring. Before coronavirus cancelled our spring tryouts, we had a solid team of 17 girls with various skills to rebuild the future of our team. Of course, we couldn’t expect to go to nationals for a second year in a row but I did expect our team would still be competitive throughout the season and even at state tournaments. While we had a lot of new players, they were all excited to play and learn more about the sport. This was an opportunity to rebuild the team, and I was excited to see what this season would bring as we focused on building a strong, cohesive, spirited team. I was excited to be the captain in this time of transition. As my second year as captain and fourth year playing ultimate frisbee at North, I felt confident that I could contribute to the team. We have so many talented players on the team who would have contributed on and off the field to our success, and together is how we would have continued to make that happen. My fellow seniors would have helped me lead this team to an enjoyable season. With the positivity, determination, and grit of Jo Graham, Lillian Yang-Schmit, and Julia Bosco (my fellow seniors), along with Jocelyn Sun, and Anna Schafer (juniors and the future leaders of this team) I had a lot of hope and confidence that we would have had an amazing season. I’m obviously devastated that my senior season was cancelled, but I know that NNHS girls ultimate will be here in the future and it will continue to be a strong program on the state, and hopefully national, stage. I have made many friends through ultimate – at NNHS and on other teams. I think that one of the unique parts of the sport is that we are self-officiated so you learn how to have civil conversations and communicate effectively before, during, and after the game – what we call “spirit of the game”. This becomes harder – but even more important – as the stakes get higher. I encourage players from any sport to try out frisbee because it is simply just so much fun to play. There is so much that this sport has to offer that people just aren’t aware of. This sport has been such a big part of my high school experience and all I wish is that people continue to be passionate about it, so that our new varsity program can flourish in the future. I know it’s cheesy, but if you love something that you do and work hard, you can accomplish incredible things.
Dear 2020 Softball Seniors,
What an incredible four years it has been getting to know all of you. Michela, Cati, Liv, Ciara, Halley, Lauren, Madi, and Rachel—I cannot wait to see the amazing things you do in your life. You are strong, hardworking, caring, and passionate young women who are already making this world a better place! When you look back at your experiences as a Newton North Tiger, I hope the memories bring big smiles on your faces. Over your three seasons, you have helped win two D1 North Championships and have been Bay State Champs every year. Unfortunately, this year, we didn’t get a chance to represent Newton North on the softball field. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we were going to accomplish big things both on and off the field as a team. Thank you for all the wonderful memories, I will cherish them forever. You are a special group of women…and never forget…Once A Tiger, Always A Tiger!
Looking back at my time spent at Newton North, I would say the most important takeaway from the past four years would be to really enjoy high school in any way you can. These four years go by incredibly fast. So, while you are at North, use that time to try new things and take advantage of all the opportunities that North has to offer. For some that could mean joining a sports team or a club and others that could mean going on school trips or using the tools provided by North to better their education. Whatever it is that interests you, go out and try it now while you can still make mistakes and change your mind. Take advantage of your four years at North because by the time your senior year rolls around, you want to be able to look back without regrets and look forward to whatever lies ahead of you.
For me at North, my senior year did not end the way I expected it to. Having lost my senior spring due to an unforeseen worldwide pandemic, I have a newfound perspective on living life to the fullest because anything unexpected can happen. Your senior year could be your last year playing sports or taking part in other extracurricular activities, and you should use that time to enjoy what you’re doing and make it the best last season ever. I was fortunate enough to complete my senior year of basketball, and even without knowing that there would be a pandemic ahead, I made sure that it was the best ending to my high school career. I am happy to say that having played basketball for North over my four years, I was also able to make amazing bonds with people on my team. Even to this day, I still stay connected to girls that have graduated before me, as a result of participating in a sport throughout highschool.
Although you might not be a Tiger forever, North really is a great school for taking risks and accessing opportunities that many students never get at other schools. There are so many ways to get involved in the Newton North community and I guarantee that there is something out there for each of you. As corny as this sounds, it really is the time to just have fun. I hope that there are no more pandemics that slow down your time in the North, but having lived through this one, remember to seize any opportunity while you can, don’t hesitate. These years really do go by fast, and it is important that you use any resource you can to make it the best time for you.
As Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” While this old adage isn’t particularly revolutionary or mind boggling, this idea of reflection was at the forefront of my mind following my final virtual high school class. As I closed my computer for the last time, a feeling of sadness swept over me as the realization that I would never be able to walk the halls of Newton North as a senior ever again hit me.
I had never been the biggest fan of school, so I was a little surprised by the instant sorrow within me. With this grief came an overarching feeling of regret. It was not one distinct opportunity that I felt I missed out on, but more a barrage of overall themes from the past four years of my life. I regretted shying away from talking to someone because of how I thought I would be perceived; I regretted missing hangouts with my friends who are bound to be a smaller part of my life once I make my way to college. But most of all, I regretted every time I walked through the front doors of Newton North sporting a frown and a negative attitude.
As we all know, our lives are not perfect. It is unreasonable for me or any other person to expect that everything must go smoothly for them to be satisfied. While this should be obvious, I still found myself miffed by homework assignments, early wakeups, lectures and the many other aspects of our high school lifestyle. Annoyances such as these along with the long and often painful college process is why nearly half of high school students report being stressed according to a NYU study. It is totally valid to be discontent at times, especially with a grueling schedule that many students put themselves through. With that being said, I believe it is important to look at our situations more broadly and focus on all the wonderful facets of daily lives. For a lot of my high school experience, I too fell into this trap of focusing on the negative parts of my days rather than the thrills that come with being in the peak time of our lives.
Instead of complaining about the workload in my classes, I would have been better served if I had simply appreciated receiving an education from one of the top public schools in the country. Rather than whining about my horrid sleep schedule, I should have been happy for the opportunity to go and see my best friends every school day. It is human nature to complain, and I most certainly can relate. Our lives often do not go as planned, but it remains our job to search for the wave of positivity present within each day for our own pleasure and health. My failure to recognize all the benefits that come with being at Newton North was my biggest downfall, and I hope to inspire others to look for a reason to smile each and every day. Within every challenge is an opportunity, so go out there and live life joyfully!
You imagined an elaborate senior prank that would live in infamy. You imagined senior skip day filled with the reckless abandon of doing something “wrong” but knowing you won’t get in trouble for it. You imagined prom, dancing wildly among the kids you’ve known since kindergarten. And you imagined graduation, walking proudly across the stage as the friends, family and teachers who love you scream unabashedly on your behalf. You don’t have any of these things. There’s no sugar coating it. I respect you too much to presume that I could convince you otherwise. But, here are three things you do have:
You have deep reserves of resilience. There have been emotions we’ve all had—grief, anger, sadness. You’ve looked to the adults around you for answers when we do not have any. We’ve never done this before. (In fact, that’s what a lot of adulting feels like.) And yet, you’ve found moments of laughter, moments of connection to each other, and moments of beauty in nature that continues to grow and thrive around you, just like it always does.
You have strength that has carried you through this time period despite not knowing what the future holds. There have been days when you didn’t want to get out of bed, when you didn’t want to talk to anyone, when you didn’t want to look at one more template. And yet, here you are. You made it.
You have the last four years, filled with all of the wonderful highs and lows that come along with learning, growing, and finding your place in this world. The heartbreak of the last three months can neither erase nor diminish the years that led you to this moment.
These are not small things. These are the things that last beyond one night, one day, or the last months of your senior year. These are the attributes that you will be able to draw upon when life challenges you time and time again. You will use these traits to stand up for what you believe in and to fight for what you know deep within you to be true. Your hopes and dreams will be that much sweeter as you accomplish them because you, more than any other class I’ve ever known, will appreciate opportunities as they unfold in front of you.
And one day, you will have the chance to look back and marvel at what you accomplished, despite what the world threw at you. You spent the last four years becoming the type of person that can take a blow like this and persevere.
I think back to five years ago, when I told the eighth graders on the Shamrock team at F.A. Day Middle School that I loved them so much I would be following them to Newton North. Entering this school with the ninth grade four years ago, myself feeling like a scared freshman on the brink of the unknown, I felt comforted by your familiar faces in the hallways and eager with the anticipation of getting to see the class of 2020 from your first day to your last. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of this is that I’m a hugger in a time in which hugs are impossible from six feet away. I followed your class to Newton North; I hope you come back one day to hug me goodbye.
“My first impression of Mrs. Stassen was that she was a warm, caring professional. She was personable, approachable and a wealth of information,” said inclusion facilitator Erin Haggerty. “Her calm demeanor and friendly disposition help her students feel at ease and comfortable in class with her.”
After 14 years of work at North, teaching assistant Margaret Stassen is retiring. When looking back at the students she helped to succeed, Stassen said that she still sees each year worked and each student she helped at North to be individual and special.
Stassen’s specific role in the North community allowed her to “remember a lot of kids over time. It was a different learning experience for me, working with students with various disabilities, especially some with learning challenges.”
In regards to how she works with students, Stassen said there is not one correct way to teach with all students because each one is different.
She added, “I think you have to start with where the student is. I feel that the first few weeks are not about teaching, it’s about learning who the student is, what is the student like? What is their sense of humor? How can I connect with that student? It’s only once you develop a relationship with someone then you can move on to the content of what they are learning.”
Because she views each student as an individual, Stassen found that she has worked with students with many different personalities.“I’ve seen growth in many different kinds of students, and that brings a great deal of satisfaction,”she said. “With working with a variety of students, a benefit of my job is seeing each student’s strengths.”
Stassen herself grew up with a unique life prior to coming to North, having lived in many different parts of the world. She lived in places like Poland and Israel, before continuing her education at Barnard and University of Michigan, earning her undergraduate degree in 1975. She then attended Boston University and Harvard to earn her MBA and doctorate, respectively. After, Stassen started her career in health policy as a health policy analyst at The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.
Ever since she started at North, Stassen has not had the same schedule year to year. Her schedule followed the blocks, and she went to each class like a student.
“I’ve been in just about every class in the building, and that also makes it wonderful in terms of getting to know so many different teachers who are passionate about their subjects and their teaching,” she said.
Science teacher Barbara Gibson, who works with Stassen, said Stassen never gives up on her students. “Her patience is enviable and her investment in creating a positive and growth environment for students is a gift and a talent that few possess.”
Gibson noticed the effort put into each student Stassen helped in her class and how Stassen changed their lives.
“Ms. Stassen worked with one of our visually impaired students who has gone on to have a stellar career including several TED talks,” said Gibson. “Ms. Stassen saw their potential and made a big difference in their academic success.”
Stassen has been able to acquaint herself with many people because she is often located on the third floor and she is able to say hello to everyone on the way up.
“I found that as soon as I hit the third floor in the morning, I was smiling,” said Stassen. “I think it’s more the interpersonal relationships that you develop with other staff and faculty and also some students. By now I’ve been there long enough that I know students that I can say hi to in the hallway and catch up on how they’re doing.”
Stassen’s compassion with students, as well as her experience and wisdom from working at the school, has rubbed off on many teachers she works with. According to inclusion facilitator Erin Haggerty, Stassen is dedicated to supporting her students, especially communicating with their teachers and families to ensure success.
“Her years of experience have proved invaluable many times when I went to her for advice. I have always been able to go to Mrs. Stassen whenever I have needed help,” said Haggerty. “Mrs. Stassen has always been available for her students, most days staying after school to help students with their work or to help organize the classroom.”
Haggerty added that she admired Stassen’s work ethic and how she is able to work with “any student in any classroom with ease.” When Haggerty arrived at North, she found that Stassen was a “warm, caring professional.” She added, “She was personable, approachable, and a wealth of information.”
After retirement, Stassen hopes that she can visit her three daughters in Alaska, Arkansas, and Colorado rather than having to limit visits to school vacations and summer. Since she cannot travel at the moment, Stassen hopes to have more time on hobbies like exercising, writing, and reading.
“I’m not looking for another job. If I wanted to have the constraints of a job, I would stay with what I’m doing because I really enjoy what I’m doing,” said Stassen. “I think one of the joys of retirement is having the opportunity to explore other avenues and that’s part of the adventures.”
After school, Audrey Prager could often be found bouncing around the classroom, graphing out functions, defining terms, and outlining mathematical concepts for each student who came to her for extra math help. As she read over work, she would find herself satisfied in having bonded with students of all different skill levels while having helped improve their understanding of the topic she loved to teach.
Ever since she began teaching, Audrey Prager said she found joy in “getting kids who think they can’t do math to realize that they can” and valued bringing the whole class along, regardless of skill.
After teaching math at North for 22 years, Prager is retiring. For Prager, the welcoming North community was what struck her the most. As a result, Prager strived to embrace and bring this sense of community to the rest of the school. She said that she was “trying to meet kids where they’re at, trying to let them have successes, trying to have a community feeling in the classroom.”
Junior Amir Zand, a student of Prager’s, said “she’s really friendly and she wants to help everybody no matter what their background is, and I think she puts in more time than many other teachers.”
Zand, who immigrated from Iran in the middle of the school year, said, “she truly helped me through all the difficulties I had. Not everybody did that, so she is special in that way, and I will miss her very much.”
Not only was Prager never hesitant in aiding her students, she was also “always seeking to address the uniqueness of students through her teaching style,” noted math department head Jennifer Letoureau, who joined the department in 2013. Prager loved experimenting with ideas such as setting up the classroom as a murder investigation or allowing students to design their own projects.
“In terms of my moments of joy with students, the classroom activities that really engage and the socially responsible civic stuff I do with kids have been amongst the most meaningful,” Prager said.
Letourneau said Prager “was very thoughtful in terms of thinking about the big picture, and where students are going after high school,” making her “never afraid to take a lesson a little bit further, or to experiment with something new.”
To further help bond with students, while also promoting community awareness, Prager helped organize events such as Newton Serves and Christmas in the City, which she hopes other math teachers will continue. She also helped organize a Red Sox game that the math department attends annually and was a Newton Teachers Association (NTA) representative for 16 years.
President of the NTA Michael Zilles said, “Even though Ms. Prager is a soft-spoken person, she’s also a fierce advocate for anyone who needs support from her… just an amazing spokesperson for the educators of Newton.”
Math teacher Colleen Crowley added that Prager “always brings 110% energy to the classroom and excites her students to learn. You can hear her get excited about math and teaching and it always makes me smile.”
Crowley added that Prager seems to always want to keep learning and growing. “I think distance learning has brought challenges for every teacher in different ways, and Ms. Prager, no matter what the challenge is, is willing to learn and to adapt for the better of her students.”
Prager grew up in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from James Madison High School in 1966. She attended Barnard University, where she majored in math and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1970. She then went on to receive a master’s degree in urban policy from Harvard University.
After finishing college, Prager moved from job to job until she opted to run her own business. This became difficult, she said, as she “couldn’t drag my kids around as I went to see clients. It just wasn’t workable.”
Soon after, Prager landed a job at the Stanley Kaplan SAT prep office when she, “on a spur of the moment,” entered the office. She then began teaching as an SAT prep teacher for English and math and eventually moved to Newton South in 1996 as a math substitute.
Prager made the transition to Newton North in 1997 in order to fill a sudden vacancy in the math department.
While Prager felt like she had “just landed on Mars” her first day at North, she said that “it was because of my fellow math teachers that I managed to get through the year.”
According to Crowley, Prager “has a way of welcoming in anyone.”
Letourneau reinforced this point, saying, “she always takes the time to really listen to what I have to say. She made me feel more welcome because she always remembers the details about the little things that are going on in my life. She does this with all her colleagues and students.”
Prager was also an avid member of the Newton North community, and consistently so, said Letourneau. Letourneau added that Prager “treated her last year with the same intensity and creativity and thoughtfulness that she had when she came in. For her, this was truly work that she was passionate about, and she really cares about her students and she really cares about her colleagues.”
According to Prager, the math department is like a family, and Crowley and Letourneau said they expect to have some contact with Prager after her retirement.
After her retirement, Prager hopes to take up pottery and become more politically active, as well as hopefully continuing to do some form of private tutoring or teaching. Prager also hopes to travel, describing it as “food for the soul.” Prager also plans to continue participating in Newton Serves and Christmas in the City.
“I’m going to miss my colleagues, and of course I’m going to miss the students,” Prager said. “I’ve had some incredible students.”
For Prager, aiding students in their difficulties was a significant aspect to her teaching, and in particular, “bringing everybody along, not just advanced students, but reaching students that have a lot more strikes against them, that’s an important value.”
Late after school has ended, chemistry teacher Tatyana Osipenko could be found distributing food and explaining difficult chemistry-related concepts as she hosted her “famous After School Club.” Aside from creating a communal experience for her students, it was a constant reminder that she was there to support them.
Osipenko’s students and colleagues noted that the effort and hard work she displayed for her students was unparalleled and consistent throughout her years as a teacher.
After teaching chemistry at North for 25 years, Osipenko will retire. She taught at both the honors and ACP levels, and was also advisor of Science Olympiad, Russian Culture Club, and, previously, Jewish Culture Club.
“One of the big things is that she never gives up on helping you,” said sophomore Rachel Kurlandsky, a student in Osipenko’s honors chemistry class. “Sometimes you have teachers who kind of pass you on to somebody else because they are not sure how to help anymore, but she always sticks around to make sure that you really understand what she is teaching.”
Chemistry teacher Brian Gagne said that Osipenko’s dedication to her students is especially evident in the buzzing activity inside her classroom everyday after school, which often included Osipenko “working with students, or donating her space and time to the science team.”
On top of “staying after school until any students that need help get help,” Kurlandsky added that Osipenko encouraged and instilled confidence in her students. “Chemistry is definitely one of my hardest subjects, but I never feel when I get into her class that I’m not going to understand the material or be able to succeed.”
According to Osipenko, she always stressed the importance of helping her students because “chemistry here is compressed into one year and it’s really, really hard. I had students who struggled so much with chemistry. And I insisted that they have to come for help.”
Science department head Heather Haines said that Osipenko often holds high expectations for her students, which may initially paint her as intimidating. “She is definitely intense. But once you get to know her, you realize that all of that intensity comes from a place of love and care.” Gagne echoed Haines’ description of Osipenko’s teaching style, calling it her “let’s get down to business” outlook on teaching.
Osipenko often encouraged students to ask questions and seek to better understand material, which exemplifies her caring nature.
“My main goal was that students shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions,” said Osipenko. “If I see that their face doesn’t reflect understanding, I make them come after school to ask questions.”
For Osipenko, motivating students in their learning came from “sharing this excitement that I have for chemistry” and creating an engaging classroom environment.
Kurlandsky added, “She also just makes the class really interesting with her experiments and the material she shows us. She always relates it back to real life, which makes it a lot more fun when you can actually make a connection instead of some abstract concept.”
Haines noted that Osipenko’s own “passion for her subject was so evident and something definitely to be admired.”
According to Osipenko, fostering an environment where students are excited about chemistry stemmed from her love for teaching. However, growing up, Osipenko said that she never aspired to become a teacher.
“I dreamt to become a sculptor, and I was too preoccupied with the arts, drawing, and sculpting.” In fact, Osipenko said that her favorite subject was math, not chemistry.
Osipenko was born in the Kirovogradskaya region of Ukraine, in a small village called Golovanevsk. While chemistry was not her favorite subject growing up, she eventually majored in chemistry, specializing in organic chemistry, at Odessa State University in Ukraine, where she graduated from before moving to the United States.
She first settled in Chicago, where she married and worked as a laboratory technician at Gabriel Laboratories. Eventually she moved to Newton, where Osipenko became a teaching aide at North. After receiving her master’s degree from Framingham State University in 2000, she began teaching full-time.
Osipenko’s job at North was not her first teaching experience, as she had previously taught high school chemistry in Ukraine. However, Osipenko said that she struggled her first year, facing a multitude of new challenges, one of which was a bit of a language barrier.
“One of my struggles was that some teachers would not speak very clearly, and it was hard for me to tell what they were asking me to do,” said Osipenko. Osipenko added that “I couldn’t understand what the students were saying because sometimes they would mumble.”
According to Osipenko, it was support from other teachers and staff that allowed her to improve her English and fit into the North community. Specifically, “the retired chemistry teacher Ms. Thompson, really helped me out,” said Osipenko. “She introduced me to her chemistry students and told them that if they had any questions they could feel free to direct them at me.”
Osipenko added that teachers helped her practice her English by inviting her to their classes, which allowed her to improve her communication with students and staff. According to Osipenko, overcoming this language barrier allowed her to gain confidence in her teaching.
Osipenko said that she will dearly miss this supportive and genial atmosphere created by the North community. “Newton North is amazing because of the relationships between people and the fact that everyone was always so willing to help you. North makes everyone feel welcomed no matter how different we are, so I am going to miss this atmosphere.”
While other teachers supported Osipenko in becoming a better English speaker, Osipenko helped teachers in the science department by sharing her complex knowledge of chemistry, said Haines.
“She is the go to person if you’ve got questions about chemistry content, or a reaction, or why something happened in the lab that was unexpected,” said Haines. “She knows so much about chemistry that she’s absolutely the resource for all of us.”
Haines said that teachers would always be laughing if Osipenko was at the lunchroom table because she loved to learn new intriguing ideas and share them with others. Haines added, Osipenko’s “bubbly, warm, and full of energy” personality also never fails to enliven her colleagues.
Kurlandsky said that she will miss Osipenko’s love of teaching and commitment to students. “She was always really involved with me and always wanted to know how I was doing and if I understood it. I am definitely going to miss that kind of relationship where she was just really invested in my success and cared about how I was doing.”
Haines similarly expressed admiration for Osipenko’s never-wavering commitment to her students, who “are always the center of her work.”
While she is retiring, Osipenko said she has, “a million hobbies, and I feel like I’m not going to be bored or completely lost.” In particular, she hopes to spend a lot of time with her three grandchildren, helping them with their schooling. Osipenko also loves classical music and singing, and hopes to attend more musical performances with her husband.
For Osipenko, leaving North is like leaving “another family. I loved teaching a lot. But I’m also going to miss my colleagues and my students. I spent so much time at school, sitting there for late hours helping students, and I felt like I lived my life there.”
“Leslie is somebody that is really hard working. She is incredibly intelligent. She really is a strong mathematician,” said math department head Jennifer Letourneau. “She is somebody who brings a lot to every team she is on because of the strength of her knowledge and skills.”
Math teacher Leslie Meyer is retiring this year after 23 years of working at North. Throughout Meyer’s time at North, she taught regular math courses, and starting in 2007, she taught AP Statistics for 13 years.
Throughout Meyer’s time teaching, she prioritized making sure students clearly understood what she was teaching. “She’s someone who really embraces the growth mindset,” said Letourneau. “She really wants her students to learn the material. She wants to foster in them the skill sets to help them learn. It’s not just about their grades.”
Meyer’s philosophy of focusing on a student’s understanding of concepts developed during her time at North. “When I started out it was all about the numbers. It was all about grading and numbers and points,” she said. “Each year, I became more holistic about my grading. It just made it more real to me.”
According to junior Amy Baumel, a student in Meyer’s AP Statistics class, Meyer was not afraid to go over concepts and problems when her students had difficulty understanding them.
Baumel added that Meyer takes the time to make her students feel comfortable being heard in the classroom. “She listens to her students a lot. Her class involves student input. It’s almost a different course based on which students are in the class,” Baumel said.
One of Meyer’s teaching philosophies is giving her students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and grow as mathematicians. “I’ve offered corrections since I started, and a lot of students don’t take it seriously; they don’t put a lot of time into it. But I see some students learning from their mistakes and it’s huge.”
Meyer’s own schooling involved a lot of life changes due to frequently moving schools and traveling with her family. By the time she entered middle school in Belmont, Meyer had attended schools in Concord, London, and even Rome. She eventually graduated high school from Hopkins School in Newhaven, Connecticut in 1971.
Meyer only attended college for three years because she was able to gain a lot of course credit from taking tests. After graduating from the University of Chicago at the age of 22 with both a bachelor’s degree and Master of Business Administration degree in economics in 1975, Meyer became a consultant, working in various firms concerning transportation.
According to Meyer, it wasn’t until later in life when she started a family that she began considering switching to teaching. “It also made sense because I grew up with my father as a teacher and all my father’s family were teachers,” said Meyer.
When she first began teaching at North, the number of people and the size of the building were “incredibly overwhelming,” as she had only attended private schools herself. “If it weren’t for my colleagues, I wouldn’t have survived,” she said. “Being confused and overwhelmed were feelings I was not unaware of.”
Colleagues and students who have interacted with Meyer noted that she is a welcoming presence for everyone. Math teacher Dennis Klem said, “I came on the AP stats team long after her, but she was always very helpful with sharing materials and resources with me. She’s been very encouraging since the beginning.”
Meyer and her husband would host annual holiday parties with colleagues from the math department, which exemplified her gracious nature, added Klem.
During her time at North, Meyer was also frequently described by her colleagues as a “Renaissance woman.” According to Letourneau, “She really has a way about knowing a lot about everything and being able to talk about anything to anyone.”
Klem added that Meyers is very encouraging of teachers teaching class in new and unique ways. “As the education system seemingly wants us to be more uniform in our teaching, she really values using the strength of the individual and bringing them into her classroom,” he said. “So when someone like her leaves, the individuality and the force gets weakened.”
Letourneau also said that Meyers will be greatly missed, as she was a dynamic teacher and person who wasn’t afraid to advocate for herself.
“She was a powerhouse in terms of teaching statistics and had a really strong voice,” said Letourneau. “In terms of her worldliness and the fun things she shared with us—from a teaching perspective—her wealth of knowledge and her experience is really going to be missed.”
In the 2013-14 school year, Meyer took a sabbatical to travel the world with her husband. “When she came back, she just told the department about this amazing trip she had done, so I was introduced to her as a really worldly person,” said Letourneau.
After her retirement, Meyer hopes to continue traveling. “My traveling has always been a part of me ever since I was a little kid and with my parents—we just traveled all the time,” said Meyer.
Although traveling may be “on hold” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she hopes to spend her retirement reading, cooking, and “reacquainting myself with my flute.”
Meyer reflected similarly on leaving her colleagues, saying that “North is about the people. I’ve felt support and kindness from my colleagues from the very beginning.” She added,“I will miss my colleagues, and most importantly, I’ll miss the dynamic of the classroom.”
Occasionally, special education counselor Jane Kenslea could be seen walking happily to Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning to pick up a treat for her students. Whether it was a box of donuts or snacks in her office, Kenslea always went the extra mile to lighten her students’ day.
“We all aspire to do what is in the best interest of our students no matter what, just like she did,” said prevention-intervention social worker Ali Malkin.
In December 2019, students and teachers said goodbye to Kenslea’s friendly face when she retired after 20 years at North.
While most students knew Kenslea as a school adjustment counselor in Academic Support, her office door was always open to anyone. “A school counselor might ask me to meet one of their students who was really struggling,” said Kenslea. “A teacher would say that there is a student in their class that wasn’t engaged. A coach would say a student wasn’t showing up for practice and was losing weight.”
According to Kenslea, she had a difficult high school experience herself, so she wanted to do anything she could to better serve students with complicated lives.
Kenslea grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts. She graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1977, where she majored in nursing, minored in psychology, and received a Bachelor’s of Science and Nursing. She attended graduate school at Columbia University, where she received a Master’s of Science Nursing in Midwifery after graduating in 1982.
After graduate school, Kenslea worked as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, and then worked as a nurse midwife at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
After taking some time to raise her children, Kenslea began her career at North. “I came to North terrified,” said Kenslea. “I had a lot of anxiety about whether my role as an aid would work, whether or not I would be helpful, and whether or not the students would like me in the role that I was in. There was a lot to question.”
At North, she began counseling in 2001, starting off as an aid in the Pilot Program. In this role, Kenslea supported her students throughout the day and prepared them to graduate high school.
According to Kenslea, she especially valued her time as an aide. “Fifteen years later when I was a professional, it was the aides that were the most helpful,” she said. “When I was an aide, my role was learning how to work with students with complicated social-emotional needs. The learning that I did my first year as an aide continued all the way to the end.”
From 2009 to 2016, Kenslea worked at North as a ninth grade liaison. She visited Newton middle schools and gathered information about students who might struggle in high school. She then told North’s guidance counselor’s about certain students who might need help forming a connection with friends or activities in the school.
While working as a liaison at North, Kenslea went back to school at Cambridge College in 2009, where she received a Certificate of Graduate Study Counseling Psychology in 2013. She decided to spend her last few years at North as a school adjustment counselor in a special education program called Academic Support.
According to Malkin, Kenslea was successful in all of the roles she took on at North. “She is someone who never said no. If something had to be done at the last minute, or if something happened, Jane would be there,” said Malkin. “She was a force of nature. She gives her all to whatever she is doing. Most importantly, she always wanted to keep learning.”
Although her career took a complete turn from nursing to working in a school, Kenslea said that her nursing career and counseling career were surprisingly intertwined. “I would see students at North whose names I recognized, and I would later find out that I delivered them as a baby years earlier!” she said.
School adjustment counselor Beth O’Brien added that Kenslea’s nurse and counseling careers allowed her to connect with many people at North. “She was a midwife for many years, so if anyone had any questions about health, she was a go-to nurse as well. Students really loved talking to her, even if it was just to swing by and say hello,” O’Brien said.
Looking back on her two careers, Kenslea said she is glad that she made the decisions she did. “I have been very lucky to have everything I do form the next step in my career. If I were to change something, I would work at North for another 10 or 15 years.”
Kenslea added that she left North with an understanding that in order to connect with a student, it is important to go above and beyond.
Malkin said, “She would work late into the night at North trying to help students and families in the community. In fact, there were many times I told her she needed to go home.”
According to O’Brien, Kenslea helped a student who had a tough family situation and did not have enough money to buy a prom dress. “Ms. Kenslea found a way to get the student the prom dress that she really wanted,” said O’Brien.
Academic Support Program Manager Brian Rooney said that there was one student in particular that Kenslea believed would benefit from journal writing. “Rather than just suggesting journal writing, Jane went out of her way to actually buy a journal for this student,” said Rooney. “To that student, Jane’s action was so meaningful, and the student looked so excited when she came to class with the journal.”
O’Brien added that Kenslea’s generosity and kindness especially helped her become closer with her students. “Her office door was always open and people would always be coming out or going in,” O’Brien said. “She was also known for having delicious food in her office. Even if she was just eating her own lunch, she would always offer some to everyone. She would bake really amazing things and bring them in for the students as well.”
According to Kenslea, going the extra mile for the students is well worth it. “If doing these things can get students to connect with me, it is important that I continue to do them,” said Kenslea. “Helping my students and growing as a person is one of the greatest gifts I could ever ask for.”
Her devotion to helping students partly stems from “more stress, more anxiety, and more depression” in students’ lives through the years. However, she is optimistic because “there is luckily more treatment for these things now.”
Kenslea said that the students who struggled the most had a lasting impact on her, especially because of their perseverance. “For many students, high school was their front line in the mental health epidemic,” she added.
The challenges students faced every day were able to be met given the close-knit community that North is, according to Kenslea. “The teachers, the counselors, the school nurses, and everyone else became a team that did everything it could to support the students,” she said. “There was nothing that we couldn’t overcome.”
Despite all of the challenges her students faced, Kenslea will always look back on the moments that best define her role at North. “Graduations for me are particularly meaningful,” she said. “I see students who experience trouble daily cross the same stage as the students who might have had more support as well as better access to technology.”
Kenslea also enjoyed meeting students in ninth grade and watching them go through their years at North and master the skills that they’ve struggled with, making her job “an incredibly hopeful job,” she said.
Since retirement, Kenslea has updated her nursing license and hopes to somehow help with the pandemic remotely. She also enjoys photography.
“Jane lived in the community, and her children even went through North, so she has institutional community knowledge,” said Malkin. “I miss her popping into my office to talk about a student. I also miss problem solving together. She brought a special Jane-ness to the role, which was very special.”
According to Rooney, he, as well as other staff members, are inspired by Kenslea’s mentality of constantly giving. “Jane basically bled orange and black. She was so committed to North,” he said. “Her work ethic and willingness to support students all the time was contagious. Jane was an example of everything that we now try to carry forward.”
Whether in a classroom, hallway, or class field trip, nurse Judith Kelleher could often be seen helping others or asking someone how she could help them. As a result of her compassionate nature, almost everyone she ever interacted with grew fond of her kind and caring personality. “I always hear people praising her for how impressed they are for the care she provides for her student and the respect she has for all kids with learning disabilities and special needs,” added nurse Maureen Pursley.
Many other teachers and staff at North who worked with nurse Judith Kelleher echoed Pursley, saying that Kelleher is someone who many people admired. After working as a one-to-one nurse in the Newton Public Schools (NPS) system for 24 years, Kelleher is retiring.
Kelleher’s general likeability is due to her “heart of gold,” according to behavioral therapist Melissa Merullo.
“Judi is the sweetest, kindest, and most welcoming person you will ever meet,” said Merullo. “She’s always looking out for everybody, and this impression only grew to be more and more true throughout my time working with her.”
For Kelleher, she always strove to “help everyone and care for anyone who needs it. I just love to take care of other people, and I always will. It’s one of the reasons why I always wanted to go into nursing,” said Kelleher.
Kelleher’s caring nature was especially evident during her time working as a one-to-one nurse for senior Chandrima Mallick, who she worked with for 14 years. As a one-to-one nurse, Kelleher oversaw all of Chandrima’s medical care, aiding her from before the start of the school day until after she had returned safely back home.
According to Nandini Mallick, the mother of Chandrima, Kelleher was not only caring, but incredibly knowledgeable as a nurse. “She always knew exactly what she needed to do to take care of Chandrima’s physical needs.”
However, Mallick added that what set Kelleher apart from her daughter’s other nurses was how “she always looked at her job as more than just taking care of the physical needs, but also taking care of the overall person. Judi was not just Chandrima’s nurse, but also her advocate, her friend, her interpreter, and so much more, so she never just did the physical duties and then just sat in the background.”
In particular, Mallick said that an important aspect of Kelleher’s work with her daughter was how Kelleher made it “easier for others to interact with Chandrima. Chandrima does not talk or walk, and Judi has been her voice in many ways, especially when she was meeting with new people, and making sure that people knew how to interact with her.”
Due to how involved Kelleher became in not only her student’s medical care, but also daily life, “she definitely has become part of the family,” said Mallick.
According to Kelleher, her passion for helping and taking care of others stemmed from when she “saw people take care of my grandparents when I was younger and just decided it was something I really wanted to do.”
Kelleher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, but eventually grew up in South Attleboro. After graduating from Attleboro High School in 1968, she attended Our Lady of Fatima School of Nursing in North Providence, RI, and graduated in 1970. Following her schooling, she worked in the intensive care units (ICUs) of three different hospitals, before switching to working in pediatric health care in 1990. She eventually entered NPS as a one-to-one nurse in 1996 for a student who graduated from South. While Kelleher has worked in Newton for 24 years, she only came to North four years ago when Chandrima entered as a freshman.
According to Kelleher, the North community was incredibly welcoming, as “everyone was so kind and open, and if you had issues, they would be addressed. North is in general a very caring environment to work in, and I am going to miss this daily routine of working with students and staff, and the people at this school.” For her, the way students at North were all “wonderful, holding the door open, coming up to Chandrima to say hi” exemplified the loving and warm environment for all Newton schools in general.
Despite her short time at North, Kelleher’s extensive care for Chandrima was also mirrored in how she aided other students in the North community. “Judi was extremely social and friendly, with an overall great personality,” said Mallick.
According to Merullo, Kelleher never limited herself to only aiding the students she was assigned to look after. “If she saw any other student who needed medical care she would be the first one to jump in and help out,” said Merullo. “She just always wanted any student to be well and be taken care of.”
On top of interacting and helping other students, Kelleher also built many connections with other North staff. “She loved chatting with you, she would always try and find something in common,” said Merullo. “She’s always wondering about your family and how you are doing personally as well as on the job.”
Kelleher not only enjoyed talking with other North staff, but presented herself as someone who could act as a support system to others, added Merullo. “I’ll miss the companionship that Judi brought: it was just great to have someone to bounce ideas off professionally all the time,” said Merullo. “Even if I were to come in after not a great day at home or just having stress on me, it was comforting to know that there would be someone to lift my spirits at work.”
While Kelleher is officially retiring after working as a nurse for over 50 years, she said she still wants to care for others even after retirement. She hopes to continue volunteering, and looks forward to spending time with her seven grandchildren. She also enjoys art and will be painting often.
For Kelleher, her life philosophy has always remained the same, and one she hopes to leave the North community with. “Treat people like they are family,” said Kelleher. “You have to be respectful of everyone, all the time, and anticipate what their needs may be.”
“I think the positive energy that Ms. Ghitelman creates in her classroom is so amazing and beautiful, and it really made the class more enjoyable,” said senior Serena Jampel, a student in math teacher Elisse Ghitelman’s AP Calculus BC class.
After teaching at North for 28 years, Ghitelman will retire this year. She taught a variety of classes ranging from AP Calculus BC to math classes in the English Language Learners program, as well as coached the math team.
She won the Dana Meserve Teacher award in 1998, which is awarded to teachers that excel in and out of the classroom and given to a teacher who was nominated by a corresponding student recipient. She also won the Paul E. Elicker award in 2016, which is awarded to a teacher who demonstrates commitment and dedication to teaching.
“Sometimes mathematicians get a reputation of being more dialed out or colder, and I just think that she defies that stereotype in so many ways,” said math department head Jennifer Letourneau. “She’s just an amazingly smart and bright and talented teacher. And yet with that she has the side of her with tremendous care and compassion.”
Letourneau added that “every moment of the day” Ghitelman brought that caring nature with her, and “that’s just who she is.”
Math teacher Samuel Shoutis said that Ghitelman is “welcoming and willing to think through whatever questions you have about what’s going on.” He added that she cares about the students themselves in addition to their learning of the content.
According to Ghitelman, she works to be kind in the North community due to her own high school experiences.
“I struggled personally in high school. I was a good student, but I had a lot of personal issues, and I felt like I wasn’t helped by the people in my high school,” said Ghitelman. “I sort of take a commitment to trying to be helpful to students in more than just teaching and that was important to me.”
Ghitelman grew up in Plainview, New York, where she attended Plainview Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School. After graduating, she went on to receive her bachelor’s degree from Bennington College and later her master’s degree from the University of Chicago.
Ghitelman went on to teach at three different private schools for ten years, before getting her teacher certification which allowed her to teach at a public school. She began her career at North, after a friend “invited me to observe her, and a job opened up while I was student teaching,” said Ghitelman. Ghitelman became a part-time teacher that same year in 1992.
According to Ghitelmen, “since becoming a teacher at North, I would say that I’ve learned to try and meet every student where they are and what they need.”
Shoutis said that what set Ghitelman apart from many other teachers was “the breadth of skill that she has for working with all different types of students. On top of the depth of content, knowledge, and understanding she has for math, she is able to support students who may be struggling with English as well as students that are struggling socially or emotionally.”
According to Jampel, the supportive environment Ghitelman fostered in her classroom is evident in how “every single week, every long block, Ms. Ghitelman had us do mindfulness exercises, which is pretty unique since I haven’t done that in any of my other classes.”
Ghitelman’s implementation of mindfulness exercises exemplified the way she “really cares about the social and emotional well being of her students, as well as the actual content of the class,” said Jampel.
Outside of the classroom, Ghitelman further demonstrated the importance of student needs to her, as she often acted as “the voice of our struggling students,” said Shoutis. “It’s not uncommon to hear her advocate and give voice to student perspectives that we might not have otherwise heard, and she often thinks about what students are going through.”
Not only will students miss the effort Ghitelman put in for them, but Letourneau said the math department will also face a great loss with her departure.
“She is somebody that cannot be replaced, and her loss will be felt for a very, very long time. She has made an amazing impression on our department,” said Letourneau. “And I think that she leaves a legacy of kindness and caring, and mindfulness to our school, that I think has changed us as people and changed us as teachers.”
Even after retiring, Ghitelman hopes to continue to be an advocate in her community by engaging politically as well as supporting and aiding the climate movement.
When she looks back on her career, Ghitelman said that the students and teachers in the school impacted her time at North the most.
“I’m going to miss the opportunity to be with so many people who really care about working with kids. And so many students who bring such a wide variety of experiences and thoughts and ideas. Just the whole range of people who really work together there to help each other,” said Ghitelman.
On any given school day, science teacher Anndy Dannenberg would sit in her classroom teaching multiple classes and students science with the intention of making them love science just as much as she did.
Dannenberg taught at North for 19 years, during which she instructed a variety of science classes ranging from Biology to Environmental Field Studies, as well as helped to direct the Capstone senior project and advised Envirothon.
“What I’m happy about is that I had the opportunity to teach so many different kinds of classes, and that reflects my values. Sort of ‘learning sustains the human spirit.’ People should be lifelong learners,” she said.
She said she loved to engage her students in the learning process because it made it more enjoyable for them all. She added that she loved teaching freshmen and upperclassmen because she got to see their progress as students, where she could “observe their growth and their increased maturity and this sort of solidification of their personalities,” Dannenberg added.
She worked hard to foster this love of learning in her students. To provide an appealing fourth year science course for students, Dannenberg collaborated with science teacher Barbara Gibson to develop and implement the Forensic Science class at North. “They worked hard to design an engaging course that would be accessible to all students,” said vice-principal Amy Winston.
Dannenberg’s enthusiasm for science is evident through the extensive work she puts in for Envirothon. Senior Abby Lau, an Envirothon captain and student of Dannenberg’s said, “Being the coach of Envirothon, she contributes a lot. In addition to having to deal with busy x-block stuff, she always finds times to discuss any Envirothon related things and always tries to make time for us and is super involved,” said Lau. “Envirothon wouldn’t exist without her.”
Dannenberg’s dedication to learning was evident not only in her many contributions at North, but also throughout her own life. Dannenberg grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls and after two years became involved in alternate programs such as the Parkway Program and a National Science Foundation funded program at Hahnemann Medical College for unconventional, science-oriented high school students. She attended Swarthmore College and graduated in 1977 with a degree in Biology.
While working as a research assistant at MIT in 1978, she worked with school groups as an informal science educator at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, and where she also started an afterschool and weekend series of science classes. Also while at MIT, she took graduate courses in virology.
She later moved to Connecticut, and worked as the Assistant Director of Education at the Connecticut Science Center. She also worked toward a Master’s Degree in Genetics at the University of Connecticut and later left the university. She earned a Masters in Science Education at Montana State University.
Upon returning to the Boston area, Dannenberg began teaching at various museums, ranging from the Arnold Arboretum to the Museum of Science. She was also the science specialist at the Lower School at Solomon Schechter and started tutoring high school students in biology before coming to North.
Her first few days teaching at North were characterized by the difficulties of learning new names and the nerves from teaching a new subject. “It was teaching half bio and half intro physics. I hadn’t really been trained as a physicist. I was learning enough to teach that class but it was when the whole school was transitioning to physics first, so all the freshmen were taking physics.”
Another challenge she faced in her first few days teaching at North was the 9/11 attack. She said her overall first year was chaotic yet rewarding. “My career has been bookended by two national disasters,” she said, referencing the 9/11 attack that started her teaching career and the coronavirus pandemic.
Through all her challenges, Dannenberg maintained and developed her love of teaching. Aside from teaching and running Envirothon, Dannenberg further involved herself at North by taking Spanish courses. Three years ago, she started taking Spanish teacher Daniel Fabrizio’s Spanish 2 ACP class.
“I was so impressed when she told me that she’d like to continue learning Spanish,” said Fabrizio. I figured she’d pop by every once in a while, so imagine my surprise when Doña Anndy came to class, actively participated, and had her homework done every day! On top of her already-busy schedule. I was blown away and, frankly, inspired by her commitment.”
Spanish teacher Christopher Wood added that Dannenberg made a positive impact on his class. “In some ways it’s like having another teacher in the class and I think that’s beneficial to the students.”
According to Fabrizio, Dannenberg was not only a great student but also a great colleague. “To be a good teacher or a good colleague, you must first be a good human, and with Anndy it’s clear that whatever role she takes on she excels at because she knows how to interact with people.”
Winston added that she could always count on Dannenberg to support new teachers who were struggling. “She is a giving and kind soul who always wants the best for her colleagues.”
Dannenberg was always looking out for everyone and making sure they were doing okay, according to chemistry teacher David Bennett. “I’d jokingly tell her what I’ll miss most is the cookies and baked goods—she is an excellent baker—but really it is the hugs, the jokes, the conversations–both about students and life in general–and knowing that she was always there for all of us, no questions asked,” he said.
Bennett added that Dannenberg will be greatly missed by her colleagues. “She is one of the nicest, funniest, and smartest people I have ever met, and I’m honored to be her friend.”
In particular, students and staff will miss Dannenberg’s enthusiastic presence, said science department head Heather Haines. “She refers to herself as ‘the department mom,’ which I think encapsulates how she cares for others and takes on various leadership roles. She is always looking for ways to brighten others’ days. She also isn’t afraid to geek out over something she finds interesting, whether it is spiders she observed on a GELF trip to Nicaragua or a new lab she is interested in trying out with her students,” Haines said.
In regards to her post-retirement plans, Dannenberg said, “I love cooking. I like to garden. I’m kind of a Darwinian gardener. I don’t know that much, and I don’t have any real book knowledge. So I’d like to get better at that.” She also hopes to engage in more outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing.
“I will really miss my colleagues and my students,” she said. “I’ll miss the people. Without a doubt that will be the biggest hole in my life.”
I received a white envelope in the mail a couple days ago. In the right hand corner was a special edition Fourth of July stamp peeling at the edges. In the middle were my name and address, written in round, uneven handwriting. Having been deprived of outside human contact for so long, I immediately thought (and hoped) it might be from a mystery pen pal.
To my surprise, the envelope actually held the letter I had written to my senior self at the end of eighth grade. Filled to brim with passionate discourse about the future of One Direction (sorry, they’re still on break), detailed descriptions of my recent piano recital where I botched Claire de Lune (was it really necessary to note that Mary in Sherlock wore a perfume of the same name?), and snide remarks about my running career (I’m not even “only mediocre” now), the letter felt so disconnected to my present it might as well have been from a mystery pen pal.
I’ve moved on to new boy bands, dropped piano lessons, and stopped running due to shin splints. Plus, I am no longer obsessed with Honey Nut Cheerios. Even still, I can relate to the hope and yearning I felt four years ago. Up until three months prior, I was filled with the same ache for a fairytale ending and a happily-ever-after.
I thought, once I reached graduation, I would somehow be perpetually and endlessly happy. But alas, my happiness continues to wax and wane, as steady as the moon. And in hindsight, the belief in boundless happiness feels foolish.
During high school, I was granted the fleeting joy of a late night Ranc’s ice cream run (hi Jacques!), the short-lived bliss of sending The Newtonite to press (10 print specials = 10 moments of bliss), and the passing gratification of completing my junior thesis (amongst many other things). But, I was also granted the fleeting disgust of eating the world’s saddest burrito (just a skinny roll of cheese, shrimp, and tortilla), the short-lived pain of walking through snow in heels (that’s why I quit debate), and the passing disappointment of failing my chem final (guess I didn’t keep my ion the prize).
My days at North were filled with such a mix of joy and disappointment. Each time I thought I had finally captured happiness for good, it slipped away again. So to my future self: don’t be foolish, enjoy happiness when it comes and let happiness escape when it goes. After all, it will always return.
Congratulations Class of 2020, we made it. Although this is not how any of us envisioned our four years at Newton North would end, we made it through, and we are now graduating. As I reflect on my time in high school, I’m very thankful for the memories I’ve made, lessons I’ve learned, and most importantly, the wonderful people that I’ve met over the last few years.
Throughout my four years in high school, I’ve always tried my best to be the most upbeat, positive, and happy person that I could. It always came pretty naturally to me to just simply be happy. I was surrounded by family and friends that loved me, which is one of the best things you can have to keep yourself happy. I had many places that I could go to find happiness during high school: the golf course, track, and basketball court, just to name a few. I think it’s essential to find the people and places that make you most happy and know that once you’ve found them, they’ll always be there for you.
However, finding happiness isn’t a math equation that you can simply plug a person or place into and automatically get your result. It takes time to figure out what makes you happy and why those things make you happy. I encourage you to experiment, try new things, and keep searching for what makes you happy. This process isn’t always easy but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Although I consider myself a generally happy person and always try to look at things in the positive light, it’s a natural part of life to be sad. For example, I think we can all agree having graduation, prom, and Senior Spring cancelled due to a global pandemic isn’t exactly anyone’s preferred way to have their time in high school end. For four years we’ve been building up to these moments, and it was our time to be celebrated, but it was all taken away from us.
The thought of having all these amazing moments being taken away from the Class of 2020 has certainly brought me down a lot over these last few months. I’m sure many of you are feeling the same way, and that’s okay. It’s a reality of life that you’re going to have moments like this when you’re sad. Life is full of peaks and valleys, and if you want those peaks, you must have the valleys that go with them.
We can often learn a lot about ourselves and what we value when we feel at our lowest. These moments are when we must rely on those people and places that have always been there for us in order to push through. When this is all over, we’ll come out with a greater appreciation for the little things in life that make us happy. At times these valleys might seem never ending, but eventually it will lead to a peak, and the view from the top will make you appreciate your long journey.
As I sit in my room and reflect on my time at Newton North, my mind seems to focus on more recent events: the death of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic. School seems in the distant past, although, in reality it has only been three months. I look back on my time at North and remember with mixed emotions my experience at school. I will never forget the happiness, the laughter, and the boisterous energy of my friends and peers, nor the stress, anxiety, and the frustrations that came along.
The year 2020 will always be remembered as the beginning of the “new normal”, and our class as the unique class with three and a half years of high school experience, followed by a half year of lockdown due to the pandemic resulting in what I call “quarantined introspection.” During this quarantine, we have perhaps learned more about ourselves and the world than we ever did before, by spending our time pondering over the challenges facing humanity from the perspective of race, color, and health. Freshman year now seems in the distant past.
As freshmen we entered through the glass doors on the first day with butterflies in our stomach. The upperclassmen were peering down at us from the perch. In the days that followed, I realized the depth of my misperception. The upperclassmen were not intimidating, but instead welcomed us into North and helped us navigate the system physically, socially, and academically.
It’s amazing how our class has bonded in these years together. We grew close and what we felt was intense, especially when we debated in class or participated in walkouts together, whether it was for climate change, march for our lives against gun violence, or the BLAC walkout. We stood up and stood together for what we believed in. In high school for the most part we were caught up in the competitive nature of our lives, life mostly seemed about the next assignment, the next sporting event, the next music recital etc. Under incredibly high pressure we competed at the highest level in academics and extracurriculars. We never had the time to mull, reflect, or discuss what we were absorbing. While we were aware of major events taking over our country, and the world, we were totally clueless for most of the time as to how it was going to affect us personally. Until March 2020, three and a half years into high school we were suddenly faced with surreal situations due to the COVID-19 pandemic that had broken out and that had turned our world upside down. We realised that we were not coming back to school again and we were prohibited from hanging out with friends. The track meets, open classroom discussions, the leadership events, the academic learning, and social outings all came to a grinding halt abruptly, like a rug pulled from under our feet.
Soon after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota we were forced to come face to face with an unjust society. We are now living through a week of civil unrest that is different from anything we experienced before in our placid lives. We have been forced to step out of our comfort zone, and explore the meaning of discrimination as it relates to our daily lives. More importantly the quarantine has changed our perspective and caused us to take action rather than moving on benignly to the next phase of our lives. The old phrase, “You live and learn,” is all of a sudden making sense. We have all come to realize within these short months that the responsibility truly rests with us to make our land better, more tolerant, and a healthy place to live. So, as we seniors move on, I urge you all to reflect on life, try and understand the fragility of the world around us and how events can totally change perceptions and outcomes at short notice. Take a step back and spend more time introspecting on what you have learned so that you are ready to face the curved ball that life can throw at you. At the same time savour every moment together, this is your time to have fun with your friends and build great memories. Above all follow your heart, and take the risk to be yourself!
Congratulations everybody! We made it! Well, sort of. I know this is not the ending we would’ve wanted for our high school careers, and it really does suck. Living in my bedroom for the entirety of two months while a global pandemic unfolded was not an ideal way to spend “Senior Spring.”
I want to reflect on my high school career, and give a few tips to the underclassmen. It’s been an interesting, mostly enjoyable, and somewhat stressful ride, from our first day as Tigers, to that fateful day in March, where our journey was cut short.
I would like to give a shout-out to all of the teachers and staff who have supported and guided me over the past four years. Thank you all so much, as without y’all I would not be the student or person that I am today. And of course, I want to thank all of the friends that I’ve made through classes, clubs, lunches, and of course, the all-you-can-eat sushi nights in Brighton (How the waiters there still let us in after each commotion-full meal baffles me). I am so honored to have your support and friendship over the last couple of years, and I am eager to see what comes next for all of us. Lastly, I am deeply grateful for my family, who have helped me and pushed me to grow in countless ways during my academic journey.
Now for the advice part.
– First, use your time inside and outside of school wisely. Join clubs and extracurricular activities. They are both great ways to meet new people. Also, commit yourself to studying and completing assignments, but also find time to do things that you enjoy.
– Second, use your resources! That means going to X-block if you need help, and/or using your free blocks efficiently to get work done.
– Third, this a minor pet peeve of mine, but please recycle/throw away your trash at lunch. There have been too many instances where my friend group’s table has been littered with food and napkins from the prior lunch. It’s a small thing, but it’s really annoying to clean up, plus the janitors shouldn’t be forced to deal with that.
– Lastly, take pride in being a Tiger. Attend sports games, theater shows, debates, culture days, etc…Newton North is so much stronger and unified when we all find ways to connect with the community and the people within it.
Alright, that should wrap it up. To all of the seniors going to college next fall, good luck, and hopefully you all get the chance to start on campus. If that’s not in your plans, I hope that you all find purpose and joy in whatever you are doing.
At Newton North, there exists a separate world that even I forget about sometimes. The Connections classroom on the third floor is home to kids with moderate to severe disabilities, including my twin brother, John. These kids have challenges that are different from the typical challenges of North students. Their challenges include learning how to read, count, and communicate.
I have often felt relieved that my high school world was separate from my brother’s. Still fresh in my mind is the incident in elementary school when I watched a group of kids push my brother on the playground, telling him he was “stupid.” I remember feeling overwhelmed and confused, wondering how people could push a friendly boy with orthopedic braces on his legs and a severe intellectual disability. I never wanted my brother to experience that again.
While I believe the substantially-separate classroom is the best option for my brother, it is important to integrate special needs kids into our community as much as possible. It makes me sad when I pass my brother in the hallway to go to a school event, and he is going back to his classroom on the third floor. When school ends, and most students are off to sports or clubs, John goes home.
I have enjoyed the many music performances, sporting events, and culture days I have attended at North. My classmates are the future of music, athletics, and education. Kids like my brother want to listen, play, and learn, too. Their eyes light up when people engage with them. In my brother’s future, I hope there will be people who strike up conversations with him. I also hope they will listen to what he has to say.
The culture of helping special needs kids exists at North. I know people who have taken time out of their day to assist special needs kids, and there is now a mentor program at North that includes special needs children. When I reflect on my high school experience, I wish this culture of helping would have been more of the norm instead of the exception.
I understand the world of special needs is sometimes a difficult one to navigate. I’ve spent my life with John, and I’m still learning how to help him, often having to try new methods when I fail. However, I promise these kids, their families, and our community will appreciate your reaching out. Go to their classroom, bring your knowledge and enthusiasm, and make a difference in these kids’ lives.
When I came to Newton North as a freshman, I started baking my first sourdough. I made the dough, my foundation, with challenging classes, extracurriculars, and a social life. Kneaded, knocking air into the dough, giving it the texture and complexity it needed to weather the uncharted territory of my upperclassmen years. Gave it room to grow and develop as I accommodated to unseen obstacles and tasks. Now that I am at the end of high school, my first sourdough is fully baked, cooled, and ready to be eaten.
We all bake sourdough in high school. Each of us follow a different recipe – some conventional, some “shortcuts,” some with a myriad of extra ingredients, some vague, some oddly specific – and end up with distinct outcomes, equally delicious in their own way. When I came to Newton North as a freshman, I expected my sourdough to taste not good, not even great. Perfect. I made a step-by-step guideline with the likeness of a scientific procedure – precise measurements, timings, and instructions.
But my recipe was, in some ways, more limiting than it was liberating. There was no room for error – or creativity. I couldn’t imagine taking specific classes or joining certain clubs because they would fall too far out of the range of a “perfect” result. I pushed off spending time with my family and doing the things I loved to do in my spare time – they weren’t part of the recipe. The idea of perfection is one that I chased for so long, I ended up forgetting to add a few extra ingredients to make my recipe especially creative instead of perfectly standard.
We’ve become accustomed to the idea that there is a specific recipe, or set of guidelines, that we must follow to be successful. And yes, at the most basic level, you can follow all the steps to a tee and bake delicious sourdough. That’s what we might prefer to do – the risk of failing due to an extra ingredient or altered measurement may be too high for us to attempt venturing. But more often than not, risk leads to reward. And even if it isn’t everything you’d hoped for, don’t fret. There are many sourdoughs to come after North, and you’ll know what not to do next time.
Now that I’ve baked my first sourdough, I’ve realized that it’s worth it to take the risk. When you look at the final product that you have tirelessly worked on throughout high school, you’ll realize that the ways in which you changed the recipe will be uniquely meaningful. You’ll relish those imperfections instead.
Class of 2020, you are my first full four years with students, and each of you is unique and special to me. My belief in each of you is that you are stronger for all the challenges you have faced since coming through the doors in 2016. You have worked hard to get to the end of your high school academic years, and this last challenge may be your biggest yet. Your goals may shift somewhat as you adapt, adjust, and move forward through more uncertainty in the days ahead.
You will hopefully look back at the extracurricular clubs you joined, assemblies and performance you attended, and sports and games you played or attended. Cherish the connections, experiences, and memories. Focus on the good and release the bad; that too will be an accomplishment that you can all be proud of. Continue to be kind and positive as you journey onward.
Stay the course (along with the curves and bumps), forge ahead, and rise to conquer the obstacles. Keep with you the important lessons and values learned, and continue to support one another. Take a chance to stand out, take action, and make a difference!
I am so grateful to have been a part of your high school experience. The connections made will be a lasting memory for me. Wishing you much success and happiness in whatever path you plan to take!
Cheers to the amazing Class of 2020 – Congratulations!
And grab a mint on your way out.
Congratulations, Class of 2020! It was a privilege to work with you and your families. One of the greatest joys of being a dean is watching the class evolve. The collective growth of this class is impressive. You acquired skills and knowledge in the classroom, and you’ve contributed so much to this community through activities outside of the classroom. Many of you have increased your self-confidence and self-awareness, improved your ability to advocate for yourselves and your beliefs, and learned to cope with life’s difficulties. These skills will serve you well as you embark on the next chapter of your lives. I really wish we were all able to conclude the year together under much different circumstances. I imagine many of you feel a sense of accomplishment about graduating but are also deeply sad that the year ended with our community being physically apart from one another. Although it may be hard to stay upbeat in our current reality, please know that your presence made Newton North a better place. You persevered, and I wish you all the best!
To the Class of 2020:
First and foremost, congratulations! You have spent the past 13 years of your lives growing, learning, and striving to reach this milestone of life—and you deserve to be celebrating this achievement. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed or canceled the traditional events, big and small, that recognize the achievements you have all made, but I hope that in lieu of these events, your teachers, friends, and family—the people that form your communities—have let you know how important you and your graduation from high school are to them.
Community is a basic human need. Wherever we live, we find communities—be they of faith, of shared interest, of sport, of art, or of myriad facets of our lives. COVID-19 has done its best to tear our communities apart. We cannot gather with our classmates and closest friends, see loved ones, or engage with the activities that we love in groups. I have missed working with all of you and my colleagues, and seeing my daughter play with her grandparents.
But this social distancing has not been enough to sunder our ties to our communities. We still connect—in Zoom classrooms or social lunches, with Facetime, with TikTok, with Discord, or, in one of my favorite cases, with a class Minecraft server. We have been physically distanced, but we are still socially connecting and supporting one another.
Our ties to our school have also been strained by the cruel acts of those that attack individuals (or groups) for differences of race, gender, or orientation. In the face of these challenges, our larger school community has been bolstered by many groups acting to build new ties between our community or to strengthen those already existing. Confronted with the use of racist language on social media, the BLAC gathered together to both support each other and also to demand the support of our school communities as well. In response to the recent racial incidents in our digital learning spaces, student leaders spoke eloquently about ways that we can build bridges in our community and support each other.
These responses are important in creating a sense of belonging, but perhaps even more important are all the small acts of kindness and inclusion that we take every day. To paraphrase one of my students’ thoughts regarding supporting classmates of color, “This doesn’t have to be a hero moment—just check in and affirm that what happened wasn’t right,” when someone is attacked. We still have work to do to ensure that every student, faculty member, and staff member can feel that they belong to the North community, but you, the class of 2020, have been models leading us in the right direction.
As our year comes to a close, you all are preparing for your next phase of life in what will certainly be a changed and changing world. COVID-19 will have left its mark on us. My hope for you all is that, whatever your next step is, you find and build diverse communities, and that these communities offer you support, friendship, challenge, and growth. Most importantly, my hope is that you continue to lead these communities in ensuring that every individual feels accepted and valued.
Congratulations once more, and good luck!
Dear Class of 2020,
Congratulations on graduating from Newton North High School! You should be proud of the grit, passion, and creativity that you have demonstrated along the way. Graduating from high school is an important stepping-stone and you should not take that achievement lightly. Now comes the next chapter of life, and obviously it is not starting the way you had planned.
It’s important to plan, but it’s equally important to remain flexible. In life, we are often challenged by unforeseen obstacles, which require us to adapt. During this time of division and uncertainty, remember that you, more than most, are prepared to handle life’s challenges and unanticipated obstacles. You have excelled at a high school that does not teach you what to think, but instead, how to think for yourself. Use this skill with confidence even when faced with adversity and uncertainty. Learn from the mistakes of those who came before you—and never be afraid to question the status quo. Do not blame others, but work collaboratively to create a world that is more just, more manageable, and safer for everyone—not just those who look or think like you.
I have been so impressed by the Class of 2020. I started my professional career at Newton North High School when you entered the building doors for the first time as freshmen. I have watched you transform from immature 14-year-olds into compassionate, intelligent and humble young adults. I witnessed students struggling in the classroom—who now feel confident to use their voice to advocate for themselves and others. I am certain that you will make our society a safer and more just place for all because I have seen your ability to organize peacefully and stand in support of one another. It has truly been an honor to work with you on the football field, in the classroom, and on the lacrosse field. You will be successful if you learn from those who came before you. Utilize the useful lessons and learn from mistakes while focusing on ways to improve yourself and the world you are inheriting. Make no excuses, remain reflective, be open to continuous learning, and don’t be afraid of failure that inevitably comes on the road to success. Above all, take ownership of your actions while remaining flexible during uncertain times.
Best of luck, and don’t be strangers!
Pythagoras of Samos, one of the great Greek Philosophers, is known today for the Pythagorean Theorem. Math majors, please hold. Pythagoras discovered that to find the height of a pyramid, you take half the base, multiply the height where the right angle has been formed and continue on in the extremely rote equation: a2+ b2 = c2. Come on back math majors. Now, knowing how to find the height of the pyramid, let us talk about the stability of the said structure. Architecturally speaking, to the highest degree, one of the longest standing objects on this Earth are The Great Pyramids of Egypt, and there are other great nations and civilizations we continue to learn and be taught from. These are structures that have withstood rises and falls of empires, thousands of years of climate changes, erosion, and even invaders who attempted to desecrate their beauty, but they still stand strong with their original intention: the symbolic idolization of someone great to that empire.
Your first block in your pyramid of life was crafted while entering Newton North High School—whether that was four, three, two years ago or even if this is the culmination of your first year at this great institution. Take a moment, not now, but while this is fresh in your mind and look back at your high, low and in-between moments of your Newton North tenure. Each of these moments—albeit some were not the easiest to navigate through—created a block to the base of your pyramid. Each moment is an expansion to and of yourself: lessons of perseverance, rising against social and racial injustices, time management, artistic ability, building relationships, and many more that you have yet to create. With each moment, again some easier to navigate than others, you lay a block to your ever expanding structure. As life takes you on your journey continue to build and lay your blocks to the base of your pyramid.
As the next space for your block begins, sharpen your tools again, look back at the skill that helped you apply the previous block to your base, and ask yourself, “What did I learn from this block?” Then, go back and make way for a new block. If you do this consistently, with relentless vigor and passion, the height of your pyramid, the symbolic structure of your empire, will be miles high and millions of people will stand in awe of what you have created. But remember, the wider the base, the greater the height, thus the longer the distance to travel to your “Meaningful Specific” or the pyramidion, also known as your capstone. Therefore, do not look left, and do not look right because then will you see others at their relative top during your building process and become a “Wondering Generality.” So I say to you: stay focused on your specifics, reflect from each block you have laid, build your base wider than anyone else’s, and understand your time to lay your peak will be longer and harder than most. Then, when the time comes to set your pyramidion, you will look not back, but rather down at the other pyramids around you. They will be smaller, less stable, and have less intrinsic value than what you have built.
As your final chiseling and refining come to a closure today, look forward to what space you have in front of you to create something great for yourself.
To the Newton North Class of 2020, I send the biggest of congratulations to you and your family, friends, and loved ones. May you remember this day with joy, admiration, and positivity. CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2020!
Newton North School Council Community Representative
Dear Class of 2020,
I was very moved driving along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton recently and seeing hundreds of signs—one for each graduating senior—impressively lining the road in an eye-catching testament to your accomplishments during this time of quarantine. I am honored to join the chorus of those wishing you success as you continue on your journey to adulthood.
You have had the good fortune to spend almost four years in a striking new building, with many courses and activities to choose from. Hesitant at first about finding your way around and making new friends, you have gained confidence during your high school years.
Since March, you have had to adopt a growth mindset and finished your coursework in a new way—online. You have missed certain traditions cherished by both students and parents/guardians. I share your disappointment, and I hope you will learn from these setbacks and gain flexibility and inner strength.
Newton North has been enriched by signs of your civic engagement; your participation in clubs, athletics, academics, volunteer efforts, theatre, art, and music, among other activities, has strengthened the school community and set an example for younger students. Thank you for your energy and innovation!
I hope that you have also grown in your ability to make good decisions through your friendships and through guidance from parents, guardians, teachers, coaches, and counselors. I also hope that the “Just Think: Teens Making Smart Choices” expos and events have helped you realize that your community supports you and wants you to thrive.
I wish you well in the future beyond the walls of Newton North High School.
You have made your community proud.
Mayor of Newton
To the Class of 2020—This is not the graduation ceremony we expected, but the unexpected and uncertainty seem to find you.
You were born during the uncertainty of 9/11, and your class is graduating amidst the uncertainty of a pandemic.
Your script has not followed the expected storyline. You had no group hugs after finals, no senior prom, no group photos with friends in caps and gowns.
I think about that second Thursday in March. When you left school the day before Friday the 13th, none of us knew that would be the last time you walked out of a classroom as a student in Newton. Indeed, that moment was unexpected and uncertain.
But your Class of 2020 is defined by much more than your final day on campus and these final days as 12th graders.
Uncertainty finds you, but it does not define you.
In chaotic times I’ve seen you rise up to find ways to come together for each other; to force the adults around you, including myself, to be better; to write a new story. I’ve seen you use your voices to call for equality, for social justice, for schools safe from gun violence. I’ve witnessed you use the changing world of social media to marshal good works. I’ve heard your call for action to clean our environment, so your children and your grandchildren don’t also face the uncertainty of climate change.
As we celebrate your accomplishments and the imprints you have left on our city, on your friends and your teachers, and as you take this leap into an uncertain world, I know with certainty that your Newton community will always be here for you.
I know with certainty that you will not be defined by this moment in time. I know with certainty that you, the Class of 2020, will lead the way into a new, better, more certain future.
I’ll be following your lead. We all will.
In the finale of The Office, one of my generation’s favorite tv shows, Andy Bernard wistfully remarks, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” The quote stuck with me long after finishing the series, but little did I know just how true it would be.
Newton North is famous for its “Senior Spring”— for four years, students look forward to the dozens of special events that take place in their final few months, and alumni always refer to memories from that time when reminiscing about high school. I always thought of Senior Spring as one of my biggest motivators—no matter how hard high school life could get, Senior Spring was a light at the end of the tunnel.
On March 12, 2020, I attended a normal Thursday at school, went to Newtonville for lunch with my friends, as I had done so many times before, and the rest of the senior class and I thought the best was still to come. Little did we know that we would receive a call later that night that would end our high school experience, without so much as a goodbye or an opportunity to clean out our lockers.
When I first heard the news, it didn’t seem real. I couldn’t fathom that my senior season as a Girls Tennis Captain was gone, or the senior prom that the class officers and I had spent almost a year planning was canceled, or that I would never get to sit under the blistering sun in a polyester straitjacket, waiting to walk across a stage on the turf and collect my diploma. But my feelings of numbness and grief eventually led to an epiphany about the time leading up to that life-altering phone call—I had been enjoying the good old days all along and hadn’t even realized it.
After over two months in quarantine, I grieve the thousands of lives that have been lost from COVID-19, and I grieve for the families of victims of police brutality. But I don’t grieve my Senior Spring because I know that every day you are alive and healthy is one to be unbelievably grateful for.
So I encourage anyone reading this to recognize the nostalgia and the memories in every single day of their lives. You never know when your whole world will be turned upside-down, so whether you’ve been trapped at home for months or are just counting the days until high school is over, live purposefully. Make every day a good old day.
In a moment where heroes are stepping up everywhere, saving lives, putting themselves in harm’s way, it’s important not to lose sight of those who make a difference in people’s lives by being kind and generous in small ways every day. I’ve met a number of the latter at Newton North.
The first was the cross country captain who ran with me in the woods and chatted with me during summer practice. I was much slower than she was, but she still made sure I didn’t run alone. Though perhaps she didn’t want me to get lost, she could have run at her own pace when we reached the second lap of the course, as I was accustomed to the course by then. But she chose to run with me instead, which made me feel welcomed.
More people like her revealed themselves throughout my freshman fall: the upperclassmen who patiently answered my questions and eased my concerns about high school, the cross country girls who would wait to go inside and would stay outside, cheering, until I finished the run several minutes after everyone else; the people who came up to me to chat when I was alone at social events; the people who always smiled at me in the hallway. To a freshman, those gestures meant the world. They still do.
Then, freshman year ended, and the nice thing is that throughout my time at Newton North, those people, generous of spirit, kept appearing in my life: the classmates who would send me text messages to clarify what the homework was—even late at night; the classmates who read my papers and allowed me the privilege of reading theirs, exposing me to new perspectives about books I thought I knew; the teachers who would talk to me outside of class, challenging me, pushing me, guiding me, inspiring me; the older students who talked to me about the nitty gritty of high school, supported me, encouraged me; the people who supported me if I was having a hard time and always provided a listening ear.
To make a long story short, people who are generous of spirit are everywhere, and they make a difference in others’ lives. This doesn’t take anything away from the more conventional heroes, the ones we read about in the paper; they are, simply put, heroic. But I am also grateful for the people who make their contributions through small, seemingly innocuous gestures that truly add up.
Take the routine “How are you?” “How are you?” is really a way of saying, “You matter enough to me that I want to know how you’re doing, or at least wish to extend this courtesy.” “How are you?” has the capacity to make someone feel cared for, and that feeling is special, especially to someone who may feel lonely. You never know how much your words, however routine, can mean to someone. They sure have meant a lot to me.
So please don’t underestimate little gestures. Please place care into the ones that you put forth and please show gratitude for the ones that others extend toward you.
So thank you to all the quiet heroes who, through their simple humanity, help so many others every day. I do see all that you have done and truly appreciate you.
The breaded cutlet of poultry was way more than a chicken nugget. The mac and cheese had the perfect ratio of artificial flavor to al dente pasta, and the broccoli, albeit a little overcooked, complemented the ensemble nicely. This was school lunch on a whole new level. Folks, I ate at the Tiger’s Loft. Some of you probably frequent this establishment, but if you were like me in High School, you popped into the student-run restaurant for a scone or a cookie, but never committed yourself to a meal. Do it. Hyperbole aside, the food is decent, and despite what people might say, or the great options in Newtonville, the Tiger’s Loft Bistro is a must-experience for any NNHS student.
Like eating at the Loft, the greatest advice I can give is to fully take advantage of everything Newton North has to offer. It is easy to skate by, counting down the days to graduation (RIP) and involving yourself at the bare minimum. Do not fall into this trap. Newton North costed $200 million to build, and there is plenty to squeeze out if you know where to look.
1. Use the college and career center. I’ll say it again for the kids in the back. USE THE COLLEGE AND CAREER CENTER! Not only do they sometimes have free cookies and most of the time have candy, but they will do everything an expensive college counselor can do for free. You can take any of the SAT/AP/College Essay prep books from their library for free. Save yourself the headache and some money, and sign up for a meeting.
2. Use your guidance counselor. Befriending your guidance counselor not only gives you a sounding board for any decisions and a person to rant to in the building (a definite bonus) but those wonderful individuals are your inside scoop on the school. When it comes time to get a recommendation for college, or if you need advice on scholarships and career paths, having a relationship with your guidance counselor makes all the difference.
3. Go see the shows. Musicals, art morning, culture nights, concerts, games, and meets. This school’s greatest assets are the students. I am always amazed by my talented, insightful classmates, and going to observe what fellow classmates have produced is always gratifying (or at the very least, entertaining in one way or another).
By now we have all lost a chunk of our high school careers. We have learned that everything we have taken for granted can disappear without warning. Now is the moment to enjoy everything that high school has to offer, because the next moment is not a given. Make connections. Celebrate your peers’ accomplishments. You’ve worked hard, now make this school work for you. Seize as many opportunities as you can, and if you’ve read to the end of this, go eat at the Tiger’s Loft.
I’m sure that by this point, hearing the word “unprecedented” used to encapsulate the entirety of the last three months of your senior year drives you crazy. Take a moment, however, and think about each time you have tried something new or put yourself out on a limb or decided to act spontaneously. Maybe like when you joined that club you knew nothing about, or when you stayed up until 4 a.m. to work on an inconsequential English project because… why not?
Think about the plans you have decided to make for yourself for your time after Newton North High School. These ideas are, in essence, a representation of your personal journey through high school—a journey that cannot possibly model that of any other high schooler once each tiny moment has been integrated.
When I first arrived at Newton North at the beginning of sophomore year, I felt like a fish out of water. It was overwhelming to be in a new environment that was so fundamentally different than what I was used to, one in which there was so much variety and a novel sense of autonomy. I had never really been in a position where I had to vouch for myself, rather than having others look out for me. Frankly, I had never experienced quite a bureaucratic system in which, again, others could only do so much to help me. It would have been easy to make such a big school feel small and to just stick to what I was used to and what I had known as “normal” before coming to Newton North.
Now, I’m no fortune teller, nor can I look into the past, but I am pretty certain that if I had tried to make my time at Newton North fit into some preconceived notion, whether what I thought my high school years might have looked like if I hadn’t transferred to Newton North or simply how the lives of other high schoolers looked like from afar, I would not have gotten as much as I have out of my time in high school. The same goes for you, too. If every student walking through the doors on Tiger Drive tried to model their own four years after what they thought of as the “quintessential” high school experience, no new returns would be realized.
There would be no reason for new clubs and fresh lineups and performances. Friend groups would be static. Everything that makes high school special and formative would be lost. Take a moment again to think about the past four years of high school. What I hope you are able to realize is that you’ve faced challenges time and time again during your time in high school. You have been preparing every day—whether or not you’ve realized it—for the past four years to make the next big transition—a major life change involving new, unprecedented situations—in your life. These strange days offer the perfect opportunity for you to figure out so much you don’t already know about yourself. This situation is the time to try new things and move out of your comfort zone. Now is the moment to realize a journey free from the ones of those who have come before you—vestiges of a different time.
I implore you to embrace an unprecedented beginning to an adult life in which you will find that the situations without precedent are the most fulfilling of all.
In the 2019 hit movie Booksmart, Molly and Amy, two academic overachievers, decide to finally go to a high school party the night before graduation. They go through an emotional evening and arrive late to their graduation the next day, not regretting their choices to work hard and, ultimately, play hard. I first watched this movie at the end of my junior year, and I saw myself in Molly and Amy. I had worked so hard, and I decided that, come Senior Spring, I would allow myself to have fun and relax.
Senior year began, and it was even more stressful than junior year. Every night that I stayed up late, every weekend that I spent doing homework and writing college applications, I reminded myself that Senior Spring would come soon. The grind would eventually stop, and I would be able to live a little.
March came, and it was brutal like March always is. I told myself to just get through March, hold out until the end of term three, and I would finally get my reward. I would stop caring about my grades and do what makes me happy. I would spend all my free time with my friends, savoring our last memories together before college. I would free myself from the standard of excellence I have for myself.
We all know what happened instead. We are isolating at home for over two months now, and term three was extended through the end of the year. Anything that was supposed to happen this spring was canceled.
Several weeks into quarantine, I rewatched Booksmart with my friends. It hit different. Instead of hopefully fantasizing about the future, it was a painful reminder of what could have been, of plans gone awry.
Looking back on my high school experience, I realize that I did not have fun nearly as much as I should have. I passed up opportunities that I would have enjoyed because I was scared to miss school. I did not go out on school nights for fear of not finishing my homework.
Nevertheless, my friends and I are making the most of the situation. Through Zoom calls, movie nights, and even socially-distanced surprise birthday parties, we are making our own Senior Spring memories. However, nothing can replace the feeling of being together, in person, closer than six feet.
Freshmen, sophomores and juniors: do not make the same mistake I did. Let yourself have fun. Don’t wait until Senior Spring to enjoy yourself; you never know what will happen.
About two months ago, I turned eighteen in quarantine. It was a strange day, for a few reasons. Firstly, it was snowing, which is abnormal for late April. It was also the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, which meant I spent much of the day on climate-related webinars and Zoom calls. Finally, it was the second month since school—and almost everything else—had closed in mid-March due to coronavirus. I turned eighteen quietly in my kitchen with slices of homemade cake and a bottle of hand sanitizer as a present.
Around 2 p.m., as the cake baked in the oven, my sister and I decided to go on a walk. We grabbed our coats and our masks and walked out into the blustery and cool day. I immediately burst into tears.
Arrayed on the street, standing six feet apart, was a group of my friends. It was the first time in over a month that I had seen them in person.
They yelled “Happy Birthday!” and I ran down to join them in the circle—six feet away, of course.
For about an hour we stood there together, teeth chattering, as cars drove between us and passersby stared. By the time I went inside, I was frozen to my core. But that one hour was the best hour I had spent in quarantine.
As school winds down for the year, I’ve found myself spending countless hours connecting with friends in creative ways—over Zoom, on Netflix Party, at a socially-distanced picnic. Whether we are watching trashy TV shows, discussing our worries about the future, or hosting book club, my friends are always there, even if we’re apart. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I’ve probably been spending more time with my friends during quarantine than I did during the regular school year, when my main priority is school.
They say that in your hour of crisis you discover what is truly important to you and those who will stand by you. While this is certainly not the end to high school I imagined, this time has shown me what’s most important: the people around me. In the thick of essay-writing or flashcard-flipping, the late night panicking about GPAs, the queasy fear before an oral presentation, it’s easy to feel alone. Especially as an introvert who needs solitude, I’ve often felt distanced and disconnected. So much of my high school experience has been about individual hard work and individual success. But what these past few months have shown me is that my friends are only a click or two away. That we all crave connection, especially when apart. That the only way to solve this thing is to stand together.
To everyone in the North community, I would counsel you to reach out. To anyone, to everyone. The people around you are your safety net, and if you build a connection with them, they will catch you when you fall.
Looking forward, while I hope that the Class of 2021 will be able to graduate in person and that I don’t turn nineteen in quarantine, I know that no matter what, we will have strong enough bonds to h