A Change ın Plans

A  Change  ın  Plans

It was a time when everything changed. As the first signs of spring were appearing on campus, members of the senior class had much to look forward to. Spring break was coming up, and after months of hard work, seniors were preparing to take off for class-and-sports-related programs or to relax with friends and family.  hen they returned from break, there would be spring sports—tennis, sailing, lacrosse, and baseball—and concerts, art shows, and a spring play. And, of course, there would be Prom and Graduation—those final moments to celebrate with friends and classmates everything they had shared.  ut all that changed last March amid a health crisis that upended life around the world. Travel plans were discarded, and students headed home, uncertain when they would return. In May, Milton announced that the campus would be closed for the remainder of the school year.  n early June, in the days before their virtual Graduation, several seniors shared their thoughts on what was lost—and what was gained—following the unprecedented turn of events in their young lives.

Nyla Sams
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Next: FLORIDA A&M University

We all joke about how high school is nothing like High School Musical, but I don’t think any of us expected it to stray from the Disney movie’s plotline this much. I remember sitting in Mrs. Baker’s nonfiction English class on the day before spring break. We chose to spend the class saying good-bye to one another rather than going over the classwork that had been assigned. (I believe we all chose this route to get out of going over our homework.) I remember scoffing at the sentimentalism expressed throughout the discussion, believing Mrs. Baker’s apocalyptic premonitions to be just that—apocalyptic.

Now, lying in my bed, writing this reflection six days away from Graduation, I feel utterly blindsided by the present circumstances. I would be lying if I said that I am not secretly grateful for quarantine. Despite what my Transition counselors told me, homesickness grew worse as the years went by. I was unsure how I would make it to Graduation, and senioritis was doing nothing to help my cause. You deal with a lot of emotions and internal conflict when you leave home at a young age; I grappled with questions regarding whether I had given up my childhood.

Was it worth it, and what had I lost by coming to Milton? Quarantine has made me feel like I have gotten those years back with my family. It has also allotted me the time to repair and strengthen my mental health. Being able to be in the comfort of my home before making what seems to be the final transition into independent adulthood is the greatest blessing I have ever been granted.

But I would also be lying if I said that the pandemic and its repercussions have not taken a toll on me and the Class of 2020. I have witnessed the devastation that Covid-19 has caused among our class. I have seen the tears cried; I admittedly have cried some tears myself. I have read the angry rants on Instagram about how none of this is fair. I have watched myself slowly withdraw from society and the strong efforts that Milton has made to keep the end of the year as “normal” as it can possibly be. It’s been hard to remain motivated and hopeful during this long stretch of time that seems to constantly extend. But I have seen our community come together as never before. From the Student Activities Association’s weekend activities that were updated weekly to the Boat Dance and Prom videos that our faculty and staff put together, it’s clear that Milton cares about its students. Our teachers and advisors are thinking about us and finding creative ways to make the best of this situation, and it’s a much better response to this pandemic than the response by a lot of the world’s governments. It’s keeping me hopeful and encouraging me to look at the bright side of things.

 

Olivia Wang
Hometown: Shanghai, China
Next: Stanford University

As many students can tell you, the last week before we left for spring break was a pretty grim one. All of a sudden,   the coronavirus pandemic became very real in the country. Trips were canceled one by one, and rumor had it that we would return to campus later than expected. Classes were filled not with stress about assignments and projects but, rather, with despairing discussions about the virus. I wish I could’ve ended my time at Milton on a happier note, but of course I will remember Milton for much more than just the last week of school.

I can’t remember the last time I have spent so much quality time with my family and with myself. My mom and I are trying new recipes; my brother and I are going on hikes. I feel like I am almost living in a bittersweet pause in my life right now. Spending time with myself has also been important. I’ve gotten a lot of small things done that I have always wanted to do over the past few years, such as  reading and reflecting, and I’m also getting significantly more sleep now than I have ever before, a good recovery from an exhausting three and a half years at Milton.

This is definitely a year to remember. I think it will forever be a part of how my friends/teachers and I remember high school, especially my class. Because we are without one another now, we realize how good we have had it for the past three and a half years. Like most students, we always found something to complain about—the workload, signing out, chapel—but now we literally wish we could complain about school again.

If anything, this experience has reinforced my love for the Milton community. Even when everything is uncertain and up in the air, my class deans and the administration do their best to plan a senior spring (albeit virtually). Even when they don’t have to, my teachers check in with me. Now that I know the world really can turn upside down at a moment’s notice, I think I will return to normal life with renewed appreciation for structure, friends, and fun.

 

Zac Ibrahim
Hometown: Quincy, Mass.
Next: Cornell University

Parents and friends have said to me, “You must be so upset to be missing graduation.” However, I discovered that graduation was the least of my concerns and that what I truly missed were all the daily interactions with peers and the casual spring evenings sitting on the Quad.

I’ve attended Milton since the second grade, and for the majority of my life I thought of Milton as a school and nothing more. Only when I lost the ability to be physically on campus did I realize that Milton is so much more than just a school. There is an energy to Milton that I could not replicate in the past couple of months. Whether it was meeting on campus with friends for socially distanced get-togethers or continuing our learning online, nothing felt like Milton. I found that the passion, spirit, and “vibe” that exist at Milton are truly something that I took for granted throughout my years there. My time away has allowed me to fully appreciate Milton for what it is, and I will remember it far more fondly than I might originally have.

My senior year was taken from me in what felt like the blink of an eye, and what that has taught me is that you never know when you might lose something or someone, so always make sure to appreciate what is in front of you.

 

 

Beck Kendig
Hometown: Marblehead, Mass.
Next: Gap Year

I left for spring break with half my possessions piled onto my bed or scattered through the drawers of my wardrobe and desk. Most of the stuff I considered unessential at the time. I had enough clothes to wear, my backpack of school supplies, and whatever I needed for the week I planned to spend skiing with friends.

As we know, the week after school let out for break became a time of revelation and increased confusion. covid-19 was very much our problem—a global problem, now America’s problem, now Milton Academy’s problem. Many of us would be lucky enough to keep a certain distance from the pandemic’s real damage; some not so much. But when I arrived home early and attempted to fabricate some sort of routine, I felt a slow settling of unease. What now? There was always something I was missing, something I did not know, some return date to Milton that felt a little too hopeful.

Just before Graduation, in early June, I was let back into Wolcott by Vito, the man who has cleaned our dorm since I started at Milton, and who, after freshman Beck misplaced his new retainer, spent a morning combing the trash with me to find it. The author Tobias Wolff once wrote, “It takes a childish or corrupt imagination to make symbols of other people.” I haven’t graduated yet, so perhaps childishness is not such a crime in my case. Vito waited, holding the door open whenever I passed through, as I reunited with and packed up all my beloved, nearly forgotten, and nonessential things. All my papers and photocopied poems, the steel wire basket full of water bottles, a thrifted Coogi jumper displaying its iconic past wearer Biggie Smalls—these things left behind for months calling me back. But when I came by for my last load, Vito was gone. I left the dorm, its halls and common room strangely subdued, and I felt empty. I have my stuff. Alongside these artifacts of Wolcott and senior year, I have memories from 3.75 very good years. But I am missing
the bits of Milton I did not get to say good-bye to … and properly thank.

 

Jayla Rhodes
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Next: University of Pennsylvania

When thinking about the expectations and excitement I had built up for my senior year, I never imagined I would be sitting at home during the last week before Graduation. In the 80 days I’ve spent here in Atlanta, I find myself missing my daily routine on campus and grieving for the moments I had planned with my friends who are now dispersed around the world. I miss my friends’ fellowship and their presence, but I don’t dwell on it; I know we’ll all be reunited soon enough.

The hardest thing for me has been transitioning out of Milton so loosely and trying to keep my joy while celebrating my accomplishments. I’m proud of the resilience of my class through this chaos, yet a part of me wishes my turbulent high school experience could have just ended normally. Without the noise and hassle of campus, I have found a silver lining in the peace my room and time with family have brought me, and I’ve gotten some big plants to pass the time with me.

This experience has brought me closer to the friends I value the most and has allowed me to take some time away from a community that was just as draining as it was uplifting. I have an urge to reach out to many of the teachers who have impacted my time on campus, and I thank this distance for giving me the space to reflect on what I want to say. Overall, this time is teaching me that my life is larger than just what I experience on a day-to-day basis, and that good things come to those who wait.

 

Alli Reilly
Hometown: Dedham, Mass.
Next: University of North Carolina

Last weekend, my dad, brother (Eric Reilly ‘22), and I rode our bikes from Dedham to Milton and then spent an hour riding around campus. Just as when I first read the email announcement that remote learning would continue through the end of the year, I was surprised by how emotionally impacted I was. Biking around the Quad, I couldn’t help picturing myself eating lunch with friends on the grass, playing Spikeball and pick-up soccer after school, enjoying English class outdoors on a nice day, performing in my last Beatstock before a crowd of students and families, attending my own live Graduation, and saying in-person thank-yous to the peers, teachers, coaches, and mentors who made my time at Milton so special. I missed it all.

During a conversation with Mr. Reddicks earlier this year, before we knew much of anything about covid-19 and the impact it would ultimately have, he predicted that I would cry at Graduation. I don’t cry often, but I expect he was right; I know that with or without this early termination of senior year, I would be sad to leave Milton behind. So these days it is sometimes difficult to know whether to attribute my emotions to this particularly unexpected end or to the inevitable feelings that come with any kind of major life transition point. What I do know, though, as my friend Maya Bokhari ’20 so perfectly put it, is that we should be grateful that Milton gave us 3.75 years of experiences worthy of being this sad about losing.

This pandemic will certainly bring the Class of 2020 together, not only at Milton but around the country and the world. How many other classes can say they celebrated their 18th birthdays with car parades? Or got to spend a lot of time with their families before heading off to college? Or received commencement speeches from Barack Obama and Lebron James?

On a more serious note, though, our Milton class really has experienced a lot. We were freshmen during the 2016 election; we’ve gone to high school while school shootings have risen nationwide; we are the last class to have been present for the 2017 sit-ins and we helped build a new disciplinary system as a result; we’ve experienced significant changes in dorm visitation rules; we’ve watched the names of spaces on campus change in response to revelations of a past faculty member’s sexual misconduct; our class served as the first group of mentors for the reinvented Transition Program; and now, when we seniors believed we’d finally earned just a few months to simply enjoy life together, this.

The Milton Academy Class of 2020 absolutely deserves an opportunity to come together and reflect on all that we’ve gone through. Milton’s rigorous academics, incredible arts programs, competitive athletics teams, and community of support—not to mention all the challenges that we’ve endured during our time here—have more than prepared our class to take on the world and make the changes we want to see in it. And so, my hope is that this unexpected end to senior year will prompt more of our class to return for future reunions than ever before. I am forever grateful for all the opportunities that Milton afforded me; I just hope I get one last chance to share that gratitude with the people who have supported me.

 

Will Livingston
Hometown: Katonah, New York
Next: West Point

If someone had told me at the beginning of the school year that in the spring we’d go home for spring
break and that would be it, I think I would have tried to live more in the moment and appreciate how special a place Milton is. I loved Milton,
and I’m so grateful for the years I’ve had here.

Leaving Milton and not knowing that that was it was a challenge. Once we began our online classes, it was kind of a return to normalcy. Obviously, we weren’t able to cover as much online as we would have in class, but I think for me and for a lot of other students, it was just awesome to see everybody’s faces again. It became more like school, and it was so good to have that kind of structure. You can get lost in the days at home not having much of a schedule.

I arrived at Milton in my sophomore year, and I lived in Goodwin all three years. Living in Goodwin, where I was the dorm monitor my senior year, was one of the highlights for me. We were all super close, and I loved the faculty. I got to form relationships with them in a way that I never had before. Ms. Collins, our dorm head, always helped to make Goodwin feel like a home. I think it was on a Goodwin Zoom call where someone mentioned that they now realize how just seeing people every day is special; it’s easy to take those moments for granted. This experience has made me appreciate people more and the things we got to do. Playing football with Coach Mac and with my closest friends was another highlight of my time at Milton.

I try to focus on the fact that I had two-and-a-half years at Milton, which was fantastic, and I will make sure that I stay close to the friends I’ve made. Obviously, I’ve never been through anything like this before. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and one I’m sure I will take with me into the future, knowing that nothing is really guaranteed and just how lucky I’ve been.

Kendelle Grubbs
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Next: Vanderbilt University

Like all things, my time at Milton has come to an end. The end-of-year, senior-focused events that seemed so distant when I was a freshman are now coming to a close, with Graduation just a couple of days away. Now it seems that all I have left is to reflect and say good-bye.

Boarding school and Milton are not for everyone, and it’s sad when you have to see your classmates leave because of that. But, thankfully, Milton was for me. Here we’re allowed to grow. We’re given opportunities to make our own choices and pathways that other schools would never allow. What school allows its students to so vocally criticize their administration when they deem something unjust or unfit? A good one.

Milton does not stifle our voices. And for that I am grateful. I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t gone here. I, for one, don’t think I’d be a leader. Milton has an abundance of student leadership positions (some might say a bit too many) because it fosters a sense of fighting for what you want. Once you take that first leap into the deep end of your own passion, you realize that the world contains more possibilities than you previously imagined.

I don’t know where my future will take me when the last name is called at Graduation, but I know that I have something to strive for and fight for. A little piece of Milton will always be with me in the form of that passion and leadership Milton burrowed in my heart. I’m sad to leave, but I know that Milton has prepared me for greater things to come.

Abi Borggaard
Hometown: Marblehead, Mass.
Next: Tulane University

For me, the hardest part of finishing senior year at home was missing my final sports season at Milton. After looking forward to finishing our high school sports careers, it felt like the season was taken out from under us. Although we couldn’t spend time with our friends on the Quad, we did find ways to keep in touch. We had weekly Zoom calls with our sports teams, and we had group FaceTimes with friends. Some people even started sending letters to their friends or teachers. Although finishing high school this way would definitely not be anyone’s first choice, it did allow us to look back and appreciate what we had as a class at Milton. Because we did not get our final days on campus, we have learned to treasure great moments with friends.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The curiosity to ask why and the courage to speak out are qualities that lead to innovation and change. The individuals featured in this issue embody these qualities. Through their questioning, leadership, and willingness to share their views, they are making a difference–in their professions and in the world.