“Senior” citizens: Graduating journalists reflect upon their time at East

High school journalism isn’t for everyone. It requires some innate writing skills, some unique work habits, time management, and a willingness to talk to strangers.

Similarly, high school isn’t really for everyone either.

But like all things, high school — too — shall pass.

This year’s crop of graduating student journalists look back.

Samantha Anderson, senior

Looking back on my time at East, there’s not much to commiserate. While it is a significant chapter in my life coming to a close, I’ve longed for this day since the first time I crossed the threshold into OE as a freshman. In all honesty, there are other chapters in my life that I’m looking forward to much more. 

However, my time here wasn’t all bad. One of the highlights from my four years — albeit there weren’t many — was being a student journalist for the Howl. Admittedly, I was hesitant to join this class but I needed another English credit so it was a solid option at the time. I never would have thought that this staff and our website would come to mean so much to me. The Howl will always have a special place in my heart and I’m so glad I took the opportunity to contribute to something bigger than myself. So, a final thank you to this staff for all the memories and incredible stories I got to be a part of. 

Aside from the bright spot of journalism, there’s not a whole heck of a lot to say about my senior year and spending it remotely because of the pandemic. It was miserable. I usually don’t like to look at the glass as half empty but it was impossible not to. With the changing of every season came a flood of reminders on what I missed out on — football Fridays, Homecoming, indoor soccer, prom, and the list goes on. 

Every aspect of my life was affected in some way and it was a lot of change to take on at once. I try not to dwell on the ‘what ifs’ anymore because it doesn’t change anything. And while the past will always be the past, I like to direct my thoughts towards the future and what it has in store for me. 

For example, I often find myself thinking about how much I want to get out of here. The thought of going to a new school with completely fresh faces is so refreshing and it truly makes me excited for that chapter of my life to begin. 

There’s an exciting energy about going off to college and, personally, I think it’s the freedom. For instance, just imagine having the freedom to express yourself through your clothing without getting dress coded by the administration for showing your shoulders. Ah, truly a breath of fresh air. 

Or imagine actually getting to take classes you’re interested in because they relate to your field of study. No more pointless art classes to fill my schedule!

There’s so much I’m looking forward to in the future that it feels like my life is just now starting. Sure, I’m grateful for some of the memories from OE, including soccer and journalism, but there’s a whole big wide world out there waiting for me and I can’t wait to explore it.

East, I feel like you deserve one final goodbye even though I didn’t particularly enjoy my time with you. Thanks for all the memories, friends, and life lessons I gained from my four years here. Maybe we’ll meet again down the road. 

Rebecca Anderson, junior

I am graduating in a week. Which is insane. It feels surreal for this year to be over and I feel like high school has gone by so fast. To be fair, I have only been at Oswego East for three years since I’m graduating early. 

It’s hard to know that I’m leaving all of this behind soon, all of my peers and teachers and friends. It’s even harder to say goodbye, which I’ve always been awful at. Goodbyes are for people on their deathbeds and soap opera characters; otherwise, they’re a waste of time and tears.

So here is what I leave all of you with: the few pieces of wisdom high school has given me. None of which I learned in a classroom. 

Try everything you can, even if it’s just once. You never know what opportunities lie in a club, a class, an event, or a game.

Talk to people. Trust me: I know the whole “being social” thing can be pretty scary, but try meeting as many people as you can. It pays off. 

Do the workouts in gym. Yes, they suck. And yes, you will look stupid, but they really do make you feel better.

Monster energy drinks are not breakfast. Please, eat a fruit or a granola bar. I’ll even settle for a Pop Tart.

Procrastination is fine. As long as you’re willing to deal with the stress of writing an entire essay on the theme of Mudbound in two hours. Which I did. And I didn’t deal with the stress. So it may be hypocritical, but try not to wait until the last minute.

There’s no such thing as kids’ movies. Watch Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lavagirl again. You know you want to.

Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” The real worst case scenario is always that the universe ends. And in that case, you have nothing to worry about.

Mental health comes first. Always. That essay that you’re stressing over and the project you can’t finish without staying up all night and having a mental break down? They are not nearly as important as your health. School is great and all, but you come first.

Sleep. I know everyone says this, but it is super important. I’m writing this on three hours of sleep. Do you want to turn out like me?

Everyone can use therapy.  Anyone who says they don’t need therapy is lying. It’s always nice to have someone you know you can talk to. 

Work hard and have fun. There’s a time and place for each, and achieving some sort of balance between the two will really help. Make sure to take a break from doing math homework and go get some ice cream.

Thank you, everyone, for being part of the last three ridiculous, difficult, and incredible years of my life.

See you later!

Deshna Chitrarasu, senior

In my freshman year, most of my teachers made me write down my goals for high school. Like most students, I immediately wrote down all things relating to academic success. While I’ve accomplished those goals, I achieved something even better during my time in high school without realizing it. 

I’ve made long-lasting relationships that have helped me become a better version of myself. 

And that’s really what high school is all about. 

When I think of my time in high school, I think of the teachers and friends who’ve made a lasting impact on me, who’ve contributed to the person I’ve become. My experiences in all my classes wouldn’t be what they are without the teachers I had. From Business with Mr. Brown and Mrs. Sajder, to Government with Mr. VanLandeghem, and English with Mr. Query and Mrs. Sudberry, they have all helped me expand my understanding of the world around me, and most importantly, helped me see what I was capable of achieving. 

But when it really comes to the people who have made me believe in myself and become more confident during high school, my friends are the first people that come to mind. High school would truly be nothing without them. When I think of my most memorable moments from high school, my friends are there in each memory. Whether it be group study sessions for AP tests to hanging out during football games, they’ve made everything better. Through sleepless and anxiety-induced nights, they always encouraged me and reminded me that I could get through whatever obstacles I faced. Their kindness, compassion, and determination has taught me so much. 

I’ve learned so much academically, but none of it compares to what I’ve learned from the relationships I made during high school. Even during a global pandemic, when I felt tired and unmotivated, it was my friends and teachers who helped me overcome those challenges. Our experiences are defined by the people we surround ourselves with. And I’m glad to say that I’ve surrounded myself with some amazing people, and grateful that I’ve gotten some amazing teachers. 

My time as a student journalist has also proven that it’s really the people we meet and the experiences we have with them that contribute to our growth. Working as a journalist for the OE Howl has given me the opportunity to reach out to various people, learn so much from their experiences and viewpoints, and apply it to my own self-development.

As I embark on the next chapter of my life and move to the other side of the country, I look forward to continuing my growth as a person through meeting new people and building new relationships.

I’m so appreciative of my high school experience because I’ve been able to meet so many people who have had a profound impact on the person I’ve become, and I can only hope to make everlasting, impactful relationships like these in the future. 

Liam Fitzpatrick, senior

They say you can’t have the highs without the lows, and I feel like this past year has been the perfect way to show me exactly what that truly means.

Up until the pandemic began, my peers and I lived in a pretty normal high school world. 

Wake up, go to school, learn, hang out with friends, do your extracurriculars, and then go home. For me and I’m sure many others, that was generally what life consisted of: going through the motions.

Then the pandemic hit and everything changed. No more seeing friends, no going out to the bowling alley, no sitting down and eating at a new restaurant. It was all taken away in an instant. In my life, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much mental disarray as I did at that point in the pandemic, and I would never want to experience something like that again.

Yet looking back, I think I learned more from that small period of my life than nearly any other.

Having your ability to do any of the normal activities you desire taken away from you without any choice is an odd feeling and definitely not a pleasant one. But even with all the pain the situation caused, it made me realize how truly amazing the little things throughout high school are. 

School assemblies that felt drawn out in the moment are now memories I look back on dearly. Going to bowling tournaments and getting benched all day sucked when I was there but just enjoying the company of friends in a crowded bowling alley is something I really miss. And to be completely honest, if there’s anything I can thank the pandemic for, it’s making me realize how genuinely important all those seemingly insignificant high school things actually are to me.

But even with that realization, it was hard to come to terms with online school and not being able to do those things I love. Luckily, I decided to be a part of journalism this year and I couldn’t be happier I did.

Not only was it fun to make work I am truly proud of, but at some points, it even felt like I was back in school with my class. Talking about obscure albums, watching random horror movie trailers, celebrating competition wins with each other. All of it made things feel normal again, even if just for a moment. It may have been short, but journalism made me excited every day. It felt like I was somehow transporting back to normalcy in some strange way, and I’ll never forget that.

So if there’s anything I’m going to take away from high school and this year especially, it’s that I need to appreciate what I have in the present moment like it’s going to be gone in the next. But even knowing that, I also know that in whatever form it may come, there’s always going to be something to bring me back to exactly what I’m missing.

Kaitlyn Riley, junior

Being a high school student is easily one of the most influential periods in your life. Within these four years, there is so much to explore for yourself, to learn for yourself. Being a high school student is also easily one of the most difficult periods of your life. Whether it’s stressing over your next math test, to asking your crush out, or even just adapting to growing up, high school isn’t easy. So much in your life is changing that it can be ridiculously overwhelming, especially when you incorporate the hardships of a worldwide pandemic.

Suddenly, the life you were growing accustomed to is changing and you have to get used to everything in a completely new way. 

I remember the confusion I had, at first. How serious is COVID-19? Why is it blowing up all of a sudden? How long will school be cancelled for? In the beginning, I wasn’t thinking about how the virus could affect others. All I cared about was that I got to take an indefinite break from the various accumulations of stresses created by high school.

When I learned about how COVID-19 could affect my family, well, I started to care a lot more. My mom’s health has always been an issue and something my family has struggled to keep up with over the past couple of years. There was so much that had to change for us in order to accommodate her conditions. 

Finding out that this virus would ultimately kill her stressed me out so much more.

When the new school year came, I did everything in my power to ensure I would keep myself safe from the virus, in turn keeping my mom safe, all while still completing my final year of high school. 

But that was so much easier said than done.

I could hardly focus. My mental health was at an all time low. I was in a constant state of worry and stress. 

My grades fell, and I found myself caring less and less about the work I was turning in. I felt like a complete and utter failure. 

But when I stopped and really took in the situation around me, finding the core of the issue, I realized that I was incredibly brave and strong for pushing through these incredibly difficult times. 

I realized that I should be proud for making it this far, for persevering when I wanted to give up.

While my grades did increase over the course of the school year, I believe that I discovered something much more significant than some grade point average: that each and every one of us is so incredibly important and we should treat ourselves as such.

The only message I wish for you to take away from this is one of strength and of self-recognition. I wish for you to recognize your own self-worth and to know it’s okay to put yourself first. You are so brave, so capable. You may be living in the same time period as a pandemic, but I believe that makes you much stronger as a person overall.

Sriya Veeramachaneni, senior

I can still remember the day I first walked in through the back door from the bus parking lot, intimidated by the unfamiliar halls of the new building. I still don’t really know what I was expecting. Some sort of classic first-day-of-high-school formative experience? Maybe. It’s safe to say that never quite happened.

For the better part of my time at East, things were fine. I had good grades, I worked hard in my classes, and I was involved in extracurriculars. For one, I started writing for the Howl my senior year. In our “newsroom” — once the confines of a classroom or the building, now the confines of my laptop screen — I met people I otherwise would never have worked with and learned, in a way, to be more responsible and professional in my everyday life. Part of me wishes I’d started earlier, gotten more time to learn and grow as both a writer and as a person, but hindsight is always 20-20, right?

If there’s anything I could say I’ve really learned during high school, I’d say I learned a great deal about the relationships I have with other people. People I thought I’d be friends with for life slipped away, some quietly and others with a bang before disappearing. And on the flip side, people I didn’t know very well at all grew to be some of my closest friends and confidants. I had once naively believed that after knowing someone well enough for long enough, there’d be nothing that changed the nature of our relationship. Clearly, I was wrong.

And thanks to the relationships I had with others and the various challenges being a high schooler put me through — with the extra special addition of living through and graduating during a pandemic — I learned a lot about myself. Being isolated in my house (and more often than not, the four walls of my bedroom) gave me a lot of time alone. Usually, I didn’t mind being alone. I like to think I can be independent and that I don’t need to rely on others. But living in isolation for the past year and a half showed me just how much I truly crave spending time with and talking to others. I felt like I was falling behind, running on time I knew would be lost and unable to do anything about it. 

In all, I guess it’s fair to say that it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.

It’s cliché, I know, but there have been days where I’ve felt like I was on top of the world and others when I thought I could never reach a lower point in the rest of my life — albeit I’ve still got a lot of life left and a lot of low points to get through, so surely I was just being dramatic.

But ups and downs, those are normal. In fact, I guess I could say I’ve grown rather neutral about my time here: it was neither definitively good nor definitely bad, just normal. Maybe that was the formative experience, though — learning that not everything has to be black and white in life.

Here I am four years later, about to walk across the stage and receive my diploma in less than two weeks. 

So farewell, East. Thanks for everything. It was nice knowing you.

Congratulations to the senior student journalists, high school seniors, and all early graduates leaving Oswego East High School this spring!

Leave a Reply