Tuesday, 24 March 2020 21:55

PILLAR: Letter to our Seniors - Finish Writing Your Story

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Hey, Richmond Senior High School class of 2020. It’s your sports editor, Kyle. 

Before I begin, I want you to know this is one of the toughest pieces I’ve ever had to write. But for good reason.

I recently had a conversation with a group of senior student-athletes (before social distancing was a legitimate thing) who were visibly upset at the current situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak and the impact it was having on their final semester of high school.

Then over the past week, as things became glaringly more serious, that same conversation happened too many more times with other student-athletes, parents, coaches, teachers and eventually fans who love Raider and Lady Raider athletics.

Each time, I found myself saying the same thing -- “It’s not fair, this whole thing stinks… I wish this wasn’t happening to such a great senior class.”

It’s a cliche response, I know that. But in a way, it felt like the right, and only, response to the teary-eyed seniors and their families who are facing an unprecedented challenge in what’s supposed to be the best time of their young lives. 

My job as the Richmond Observer’s sports editor is to feature local athletes and their successes on and off the field. Positivity is my angle all the time, win or lose. 

And that’s the same lens I’m going to look through in this letter to our seniors, athletes or otherwise. I’ve been so moved by all of this that I wanted to express my thoughts, condolences and offer some inspiration to our seniors. So, here goes...

Dear Richmond Senior Class of 2020,

I’m writing you this letter to remind you that you still rock. All of you -- from the student-athletes, to the Senate and Beta Club members, the studious interns and the band members, to the general student body. 

And I want you to know that there are so many people and strangers in this community, this state and this country who are standing behind you and cheering you on in this time of uncertainty.

I’m only 10 years removed from my high school graduation, and I remember at the time it was one of the biggest milestones of my life. 

The cap and gown, the senior pictures, snapping memories on my flip phone (yeah, those existed at one point) with friends at high school games and events, the anticipation of walking across the stage to receive my diploma.

This was supposed to be your year. The class of 2020 was supposed to have nine months as the quintessential kings and queens of the hill. 

You’ve all put in the effort, the studying and completing homework, the ACT and SAT preparation, the long hours on the field and in the classroom to earn the right to make your final year of high school “the one to remember.”

And it is still yours to take. 

Albeit a little bit different than the typical senior salute, the class of 2020 will be remembered long after you’ve graduated for obvious reasons. But that in itself is unique. 

Yes, this stinks. I’m not trying to dissuade you of that -- but I know Raider Magic exists and you will get through this.

But at the same time, it’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to ask questions, it’s okay to cry. That’s the human in all of us. 

And to combat these emotions, you can use one another to make the remainder of your senior year the best school year of your life -- you only get one.

Just look at your teachers and administrators, coaches and guidance counselors, office workers and cafeteria staff. As a teacher myself, I get to be on both sides of the fence. The amount of work I’ve seen put forth by your Richmond family is overwhelming and it’s reassurance that this is still your year.

Several coaches put together the #SpringAthleteChallenge to inspire and honor the nearly 200 student-athletes not playing spring sports. Rainbow colored hearts are springing up on the front doors of houses and local businesses. “eLessons” are new strategies your teachers are implementing to make things as normal as possible.

Though we are fighting an invisible opponent, please try to remember all of the good that still persists in your world, your school and your community during these tumultuous times. 

The fact is, this is our reality. School buildings are closed through May 15, interscholastic sports don’t seem to be coming back any time soon. You are losing time that you won’t get back. 

But the good thing is we’re going to come out better than before. Stronger, closer, smarter and better prepared for “real life” than we were when the new decade started almost four months ago.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to cover this senior class since you were sophomores. In the nearly three school years, I’ve forged relationships with coaches, families and our community that I never dreamt of. 

But most importantly, I’ve also been impacted by you, our seniors, in more ways than you can know.

I could write a column by itself of all the memories I have of covering games and events where current seniors were the stars of the show. And that’s not just sports coverage -- I’ve seen some pretty amazing things done by students in the classroom and around our community.

One positive of this situation is that you had nearly three-quarters of your senior year to etch memories that will last your lifetime. As an outsider looking in on sporting events and school functions, a lot of great times have been had and I hope that we’re not quite finished.

There is still so much more to your story that needs to be written.

As I get ready to pack up my classroom and bring all of my materials home on Wednesday for the next seven weeks, I can’t help but miss the normal day-to-day things that we all took for granted. Racing to beat the tardy bell, an extra 10 minutes on the practice field, the bus rides with teammates, asking a teacher to run through a couple more problems on the board.

So I leave the class of 2020 with this -- I’m challenging you to make the most of your time away from school and still engage in normal activities (safely, of course). You’re lucky enough to live in a time when social media is an integral part of society, and that makes this somewhat more tolerable.

Whether you FaceTime your classmates every day, go old school and make a photo album or scrapbook, pick up a book and read, binge watch the newest show on Netflix or workout -- do it by staying connected and staying strong.

One of the things we have going for us right now is each other. 

Class of 2020, better days are ahead for you, even if it looks bleak right now. So, here’s to making the final marking period of your senior year the best one yet.

Remember that you’re not forgotten and your hard work as Raiders isn’t going unnoticed or unappreciated. Pick up that pencil and finish writing your story.

Stay safe and stay healthy -- I’ll see you on the other side of this.

Signing off,

Kyle Pillar

Last modified on Thursday, 26 March 2020 09:46

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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