Graduating students are called many things.
Most are boilerplate: “Talented.” “Hard-working.” “The future.”
They are seldom called “heroes.”
There are several ways to define that term. One is “a person who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength.”
When they receive their diplomas next week, the nearly 500 young men and women in Staples High School’s Class of 2023 will know that they have faced — and overcome — adversity.
In the spring of freshman year — as they rounded the corner toward a time when finally they feel fully comfortable in their new school, and really begin enjoying their time there — their world abruptly changed.
For 3 months, COVID forced them to learn at home. They struggled with isolation, depression, and teachers who struggled too.
Despite uncertainty and fear, many 9th graders reached out to friends, neighbors, strangers (and their teachers) to see how they could help.
In the spring of 2020, James Dobin-Smith quickly created the OneWestport.com website. It provided up-to-date information on what’s open and closed, all around town. It’s still live.
Some of those students — though certainly not all — returned to campus for the fall of sophomore year. They spent the year wearing masks, following 1-way arrows in the hall, separated from friends by Plexiglass at cafeteria tables.
Sports schedules were truncated. The drama program was curtailed. The Candlelight Concert went virtual.
And in the classroom, students and teachers still struggled with “hybrid learning.”
It may not have been a lost year. But it came close.
in the 2020-21 school year, athletes competed in masks. (Photo/Dylan Goodman)
Junior year was a bit more normal. This year has been even more so. But the scars — the fears, the solitude, the years of high school shattered — still linger.
The soon-to-graduate seniors faced adversity even before the pandemic. They were in Coleytown Middle School when it was closed by mold. They were crammed into Bedford and Staples — fun, but a further disruption of their education.
“I’m not gonna lie,” to use a popular teenage expression. Our Staples seniors were hardly the only ones to face adversity. Students in most school districts across the country — not to mention billions of other people around the globe — faced far worse.
But obstacles are not a contest. We should not try to discount anyone’s experiences, for any reasons.
So today’s Unsung Heroes are each and every member of Staples High School’s Class of 2023.
Congratulations on getting through high school (as every graduating class is told). And, for you in particular, for doing it with ingenuity, courage and strength.
Our “06880” hats — and mortarboards — are off to you.
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
(“Unsung Heroes” runs every Wednesday on “06880.” If you enjoy it — and everything else we do — please consider a contribution. Just click here — and thank you!)