From a wide-eyed freshman, timidly navigating the halls with my head angled towards the floor, to a senior confidently striding through the halls, purposely acknowledging all of the people met throughout the transformative four-year journey.
For most of my time as an underclassmen, I feared change. I remained heavily attached to the same friend group from middle school and never felt brave enough to branch out.
The only program I initially became involved in was cross country – a program I imagined would only be about competitions – but to my surprise it’s where I met lifelong friends and made forever memories.
I had always been involved in OE running, from the camps I started the summer after 5th grade. But I didn’t anticipate it to have such a profound impact on shaping the core of who I am.
Many of my best friends came from this program. And even now without participating in track, I am still hanging out with the same people I befriended at the start of cross country.
Beyond remembering the most insignificant days – like the time we turned part of our course into a muddy slip-n-slide after a home race or when we did mascot relays at the Blue and Silver Bash – the program taught me how to prioritize my own well-being.
My senior year season was unlike any other I had even witnessed my teammates experience. I was diagnosed with PTSD after a hospitalization post-race my junior year. I didn’t race except once, which was the last race of the season, Conference.
The experiences, the breakdowns, and panic attacks all led me to becoming the person I am now: learning my limits, familiarizing myself with support systems, and finally accepting help.
While athletics played a crucial role in my high school experience, it was in room F225 where I truly discovered my passion and purpose. Mr. Query’s fifth hour journalism class ignited my love for sports writing and propelled me towards a career in the field. Competing at state for news writing is what initially allowed me to recognize the depth of my skills and solidified my desire to pursue a similar career.
From freshman year, I had dreamed of becoming a journalist, but it wasn’t until Mr. Query’s fifth hour class that I truly discovered my passion.
I found my love for sports writing and it’s geared me to seek a career in the field. I even went to state last year for news writing, which finally made me realize the depth of my skill.
My love for writing was sparked by my Dad. As an English teacher, his encouragement and validation was more profound and set me on my current literary path.
For as long as I can remember, he has always complimented my writing skills. As he sat and edited my seventh grade essays, he acknowledged how my writing was better than my brothers’ – who were two and five years older than me.
As I dove into the expectations of this program, I was finally forced to step out of my shell. The face-to-face interviews allowed me to become more confident and comfortable with social interactions. I was no longer limited in social settings and I had finally abandoned my introverted tendencies.
The program not only honed my writing skills but also shaped my overall personality, expanding my horizons and preparing me for a future where social interactions are necessary.
From the transformative experiences on the cross country course to the profound impact of journalism, each chapter has contributed to the person I am today. High school has prepared me to embrace new challenges, pursue my passions, and continue growing as an individual as I step into the next chapter of my life.
I began my time at East as a very different person from who people have become familiar with today. I did a lot of the same things, I swam, I played guitar, I listened to music, but I feel strongly that the Jackson of the past would be over the moon to see who he has become.
My senior year has been a big one for me. I’ve learned more about myself and the world around me in the past eight months than I ever have before. I’ve become my own person, now capable of everything I have done and more all alone.
I developed a new confidence, one that does not stem from the reassurance of others, but one that is based upon my own values, and my ability to uphold them throughout my life. I don’t require external ego boosts, but reflection on the effects my attitude and actions have had on the world around me can provide that sense of pride.
Watching the student I’ve been working with for a month finally nail their backstroke.
Providing a friend with a thoughtful ear and a shoulder to cry on during a hard time.
Helping a coworker pick up dishes because her back was hurting.
I take pride in the work and effort I can put into aiding others. I learned I love to teach people new skills, like swimming. I want to be an English teacher. I want to use the skills I have to help the people in my community, and I want to feel fulfilled in my career.
I don’t think these values could have been instilled in me without East, however. Without the brats, the narcs, the d-bags, or the b-words. Without the real ones, OGs, pride of the pack, or nice ones, either.
I learned from all of these people. I learned what it means to be a friend, a boyfriend, a man, a drug dealer, a carpenter, a teacher, a forensic scientist, a marine, a mechanic. I learned what others have to go through, I saw what I went through, and I’m proud of how I came out the other side.
Whether you want to admit it or not, we are all a part of every fellow Wolf’s story. No matter who you are, you took part in this school. We all went to football games, we all went to homecoming, but most importantly, we were all here, every day, learning.
It’s strange to walk into a building, knowing the number of times you are destined to walk the same halls you have for the past four years is dwindling, I can now count them on one hand.
These halls, though crowded and sweaty, have led me to so many places, so many rooms, that I will never forget, one way or another.
Freshman year, the halls seemed so much wider, so much longer than the ones I was used to at Bednarcik. I wondered how so many people could fit in one space at one time. That year, they led me to B141. A room much larger, with a much higher ceiling than the others I had been acquainted with those first weeks of school. There, I met my band directors, Ms. Kelly Cooper and Mr. Stevan Rexroat, both as excited, but a lot less nervous, than I was to get the year started. I also re-found my love for music in that room, though I will admit some of the pieces we played will haunt me forever (Armenian Dances by Alfred Reed, anyone?). Most of all, I got closer and closer with the people who shared the same love, and later the same memories, of the band program.
The hallways soon had to lead me back to my house, as I sat in my room for the majority of my sophomore year, I looked at who I was before, and who I wanted to be after COVID. I missed my friends, the ones who knew all my secrets, who I could count on. I missed my classmates, the ones you shared a knowing glance with after a “you had to be there” moment. I missed those halls, the ones where you could see someone who hates your guts, or maybe your favorite teacher, or maybe that cute boy from your English class.
I was glad to be back at school junior year, though I admittedly yearned for the luxury of someone presenting me with Dunkin’ every morning as I logged on to class, but those halls yet again led me to a room that would change my life: F225. The poster-filled, always-cold, dark space that was Mr. Query’s classroom. I’ll be the first to admit that I hadn’t really thought about journalism as a class, and I only took DJI because it sounded like fun (and no reading!). However, I had no idea how lucky I was that those halls led me there.
Journalism started out as a fun class for me. Each day, I walked into F225 not expecting much, maybe a one-year commitment that will be a fun way to break up my busy day. But as the year went on, I found myself becoming more and more invested in the Howl, how I could make the publication more accessible, how I could make my writing better, and I even found myself considering the possibility of making writing my life’s work. It wasn’t until I made it all the way to State, placing second in Feature Writing, that I realized that this wasn’t just a silly elective.
As I rose to the top of the totem pole, I’ve grown to know these halls like the back of my hand, and unlike the three years prior, there weren’t many new places for me to go. But, the places I had known, B141, F225, East in general, began to look different. I grew more comfortable interacting with teachers, more outgoing with my classmates, and I soon found little families within each of my seven periods (thank you Late Arrival). Senior year for me has been a time of getting to know and love the people who have somehow been there the entire time, and learning that wherever you go, there you are. Even the most dramatic parts of this year have only lasted a few days, and just like a family, we all come back together.
As I arrive at the end of my senior year, there is so much for me to look back on. There are so many emotions, but the one I feel the most? Gratitude.
So, thank you to all my friends, past and present, who made me who I am.
Thanks to all the teachers who put up with my proud talkativeness or abject silence (special shouts out to Mr. Rexroat, Mr. Query, Mrs. Calvey, Mrs. Thuneman, Mr. Vera, and Mr. Puckett).
Thanks to every person who created memories that every student here shares, good and bad.
Thanks to every cute or funny boy who consumed my daydreams for weeks or months at a time.
And of course, thanks to those hallways, you have never led me astray.
Unfortunately, it was the pulsating, hot, sweaty dancing at prom that made me think, “hm it’s almost done isn’t it?’. It wasn’t me counting down the days until I didn’t have to wake up at 6 a.m. or when I took off my volleyball jersey for the last time, it was the stupid prom.
Perhaps it’s because I was so, so close, to my classmates -both physically and emotionally- that made me realize that I’m never gonna be around these people again. That this exact group of people will never gather back together again, we’re never going to return to the same monotonous routine that we had been doing together for the past 4 years.
Freshman year me would be stunned, to say the least, if she saw me now. I had no clue what was coming… Aside from the football games and meeting some new friends, I was tired and overwhelmed. As a freshman, I was already exhausted from coming to this building every day and being bombarded with busy work.
But little did I know that I would come to miss the dingy halls of Oswego East in just a short few months, I would be sitting in my room wishing I could break out of my house during the shutdown.
Ah, the overcrowded, loud hallways. Some of my favorite memories have been just walking down those halls with my friends, laughing our a**es off over anything and everything. Overhearing raunchy conversations or just absurd phrases from sophomore boys is more entertaining than it sounds -trust me-. I’m beginning to realize that in less than a week, those hallways won’t belong to my friends and me anymore.
But I wouldn’t return to those hallways until a year later. And looking back now, I guess I did really miss them during our time apart. I missed hustling from the J1 language hallway all the way to F3 where my math class was. I did not miss math in the slightest though -to all of those taking Pre-Calculus… have fun-. I missed giggling with my friends or making scathing comments about which teacher or acquaintance pi*sed us off that day. But alas, I returned to that status quo my junior year, and I have to say, I actually enjoyed it.
Junior year came with the return of my entourage, my best friends Casey Newman and Savina Trujillo didn’t even know the year we’d be in for. But by far the highlight of my junior year, and my entire high school experience, are the memories that were made in F225 that year. The dark, nerdy room belonged to none other than Mr. Justin Howard Query.
While I came into his classroom anticipating just another blow-off class, I ended up making my favorite memories with the people in that room. That room gave me drive, it made me realize that I could actually write, but more importantly, it gave me one of my best friends. From conspiring tier lists on the back whiteboard to driving her home at 1 in the morning, Journalism 1 gave me bonds that I know can’t be replaced, easily making journalism the highlight of my junior year. Finding a safe place within F225 made the abrasive nature of freshman and sophomore year with it like the thorn-laden paths had led me to a nerdy, comic book-ridden, safe haven.
So for some quick advice: please do implement yourself into those quiet, otherwise boring, “blowoff” classes.
Senior year has clearly come and gone as a year of ‘lasts’. I dealt quite possibly with the hardest goodbye all the way in October when I hung up OE #6 for the last time after volleyball season. My whole life has been school to volleyball then school and volleyball then school and volleyball, and East volleyball reignited that love I gave for the game, stepping off the court for the last time hurt, to say the least. But now as I round out the year, I realized I’ve been saying goodbye all year long, last group projects, last news story, last locker jam, last fitness gram pacer test. It came and went in a blink.
So here’s a special shout-out to Mr. Corey Puckett, Ms. Colleen Calvey, Mr. Justin Howard Query, and Ms. Deborah Burgess, who have dealt with my overbearing energy, sarcastic quips, and most importantly my midday naps.
Jokes aside, I think I will miss East. Not so much the sweaty annual dances, but I’ll miss the genuine laughs that came from my gut that I’ll never be able to recreate again.
I’ll miss every relationship I made and broke within these halls, they were all lessons learned.
I’ll miss seeing my friends every day, gossiping about whatever crosses our minds.
So here’s to East for being the host to the most memorable laughs of my life.
Congratulations to the senior staff of the Howl and congratulations to all of the 2023 senior graduates!
Good luck in all that you do!