Back to School Letter from the Editor

Dear Bengal Community,

By now I’m sure you’re tired of hearing the phrase, β€œunprecedented times.” While we’ve gotten used to living during these unprecedented times for the most partβ€”wearing masks outside of the house, celebrating major milestones via Zoom instead of surrounded by loved ones, exchanging air high fives with friends six feet awayβ€”the only constant is change as they say. We are now entering an unprecedented school year and, though the Board of Education and our administration have done a great job accepting feedback, fielding our questions, and updating us on their plans for remote instruction, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered.

For my fellow seniors, we’re wondering whether we’ll have our senior banquet, our prom, our graduation. We already know we can’t enjoy our last Homecoming this fall, but will it be postponed until the spring? Senior portraits will be scheduled sometime this September, but how will those work? We won’t have our traditional β€œlast firsts” this year. Traditional last first games are being pushed off til the spring and our last first day of in-person school may not be until January at the earliest. Parking spots will go undecorated and unfilled, and we won’t get to savor that I’m-on-top-of-the-world-nothing-can-stop-me-I-rule-the-school feeling for a while. Navigating the college admissions process is stressful enough normally, never mind when you can’t go on visits or interact with counselors in person. And for those of you already dealing with senioritis and looking forward to skipping class to sleep in, we’ll already be at home, and I’m pretty confident some of us will be Zooming in, pajama-clad, from bed. 

For freshmen, many of you won’t get to experience traditional first firsts this year either. All the heightened anticipation of physically entering high school, starting over, and reinventing your middle school self, will be put on hold. Your first Homecoming, pep rallies, and sporting events will have to wait. You won’t feel the rush of finally slipping into class just before the bell rings those first and second days of school after losing yourself in the halls. You won’t have a mean senior tell you there’s a third floor swimming pool (it doesn’t exist!…or does it?). It’ll be more challenging to make new friends this year without in-person club fairs and the opportunity to mingle in the halls during our beloved open lunches. 

For sophomores and juniors, well, navigating the middle years online will still pose a unique set of challenges (especially for you juniors on the AP grind), but you’ve gotten the opportunity to experience traditional firsts and should hopefully still get to cherish those traditional last firsts. 

This letter is not meant to put a damper on your virtual first semester. Yes, a lot of us might not be able to make the memories we were looking forward to making this year, but if there’s anything my three years at Blake have taught me, it’s that the Bengal community will always find a way forward. We are so fortunate to have the administrators, teachers, counselors, and parents that we do because they have shown us time and time again how dedicated they are to our success and overall well-being. 

Seniors, our administrators and parents are fighting tirelessly for us to get to enjoy all of our senior rites in some capacity or another. Freshmen, the same goes for you. Our teachers have vowed to prioritize our social and emotional well-being this year, making more concerted efforts to connect with us in a human-to-human capacity, not just a teacher-to-student capacity. Seniors, our counselors have worked diligently all summer to make the college application process run smoothly online and Mr. Marshall has done an excellent job making himself available to us when we’ve undoubtedly needed college questions answered. Freshmen, your counselors are doing their best to help you prepare for a smooth transition into high school. 

We are still going to have pep rallies, plays, sports, social events, and even more community building exercises this year. Instead of getting wrapped up in all that we’ve lost, our community has pulled together to find alternative solutions aligning with COVID-19 safety guidelines. There will be many virtual activities and interactions and a host of physically-distanced activities (a drive-in movie night in the parking lot, anyone?). 

As long as our community continues to come together and support each other during these unprecedented times, we’re going to be just fine. We’ll find answers and solutions together. We’ll find a way forward together. We’ll heal together. The coronavirus pandemic has surely done a considerable amount of destroying and separating, but it has also provided us with new ways to come together and rebuild in ways sustainable and apropos for the 21st century. As Mr. Sinclair is fond of saying, we are one team with one goal. I am so proud to have gone to this school and I cannot wait to see what my last year has in store for me. Go Bengals!


Olivia Gyapong