Dear Class of 2021,
I think it is more than safe to say this is not the senior year we expected. For three years, we threw ourselves into Spirit Weeks, Sing for Your Suppers, banner planning, food drives, Homecomings, rallies, tailgates, Trivia Nights, Battle Laxes, and so, so much more, assuming all of our “lasts” would spark the familiarity of our firsts. Yet, at the end of senior year, hardly anything feels familiar. With a Spirit Week in April and no supper to sing for, the stands socially distanced and concerts masked, the expected nostalgia feels a little upended.
Even with these hurdles, however, we found comfort in our class. Trivia Night offered the opportunity to see many of those we had missed over the first quarter, in the atmosphere of frantic competition. And, while the Mystery Inc.’s meddling may have taken first place in trivia, it felt like the first real victory for the senior class as a whole – a chance to come together in the midst of uncertainty. With the fortune to fully return for our last month, there came a new appreciation for shifted seats and filled lunch tables, an appreciation for all the members we missed behind computer screens for half the year. Mori Sokoloff explained, “[Through both Prom and Spirit Week], the community was able to come together in a very short time span and bring back the happiness and joy through what is usually one of the best weeks of school.”
It seems this is our greatest strength: the community. I asked the senior class who and what they will miss most from Severn, and with one exception, (i.e., the chocolate chip muffins), the most common response was the community. After months in quarantine and isolation, some people online and some people in-person, the sense of a broader community became more important than ever. While we each have our own private circles, it seems easier to cross barriers and start a conversation – perhaps simply because of the distance that separated us, or perhaps because we have outgrown the barriers themselves. As individuals, our collective growth provided us with a stronger basis to form connections with each other.
In my psychology course this past semester, we discussed the way that the brain develops through adolescence. Strangely enough, the brain reaches its peak, in terms of making connections, around ages eleven and twelve. It has accumulated connections, corresponding to different activities, in an abundance of growth amassed over a “building-up” phase. In fact, the volume of gray matter in the brain exceeds the necessary amount, so the brain begins a process dubbed “pruning.” Unused synaptic connections wither and decay, while the used connections strengthen, providing us with a specific set of skills as we grow out of adolescence.
This is all to say that as eighteen and almost-eighteen-year-olds, we are physiologically nearing the end of our “pruning” stage. We have cultivated the connections we will likely continue to use in the future, and our brains have likely settled into the rhythm they will want to adhere to as we move forward. But if we apply this pruning strategy socially, we are far from finished. There are people that we will “prune” away — acquaintances we will lose touch with as we move into college and beyond, but those connections never fully die. And while the relationships we choose to cultivate may never be the same, we will learn to shift and grow in the same way. The experiences we have gained from each other, positive and negative, are just as alive after losing touch, in the decisions we make and the values we display. The Severn community has impacted us all differently, but we are united in the synapses that fired between us.
While this may not have been the year we expected, we saw it through in the company of friends, family, and faculty. We tackled every new challenge with a support network built through time and patience, and forged relationships we will keep with us far beyond Severn. From Bel-Air to swimwear, from Disneyland to Candyland. . . it’s been a fun four years. Congratulations.
I collected some words of wisdom, for those of you with some years to go before graduation, from members of the Class of 2021 – here are a few tips from some of our members:
- Do all the events that you can because often they’re pretty fun and maybe next year there won’t be any events to do
- Try new things, even if your friends don’t want to.
- My biggest piece of advice that I always tell the underclassmen is to be a part of as much as you can, because before you know it, you will be a senior graduating and moving onto college. As for classes, the workload at first may seem daunting, but it is all preparation for you to reach your full potential in the future.
- Make the most of every situation. Go to every single game. Go for extra help when you need it. Live in the moment because you never know when it could be the last time.
- My advice would be to take the opportunities you have when you can, because you don’t know what the future holds. For example, If I hadn’t gone on the exchange trip sophomore year, I would never have gotten the chance later (because of Covid-19). I’m so happy I took that opportunity. Even if it scares you, the experience and the memories are worth it, so do it!!!
- “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”