What does it mean to be a rocket?
Is it the black and red image on every uniform? Is it the jam-packed hallways and stairwell 9? Or something else?
In the eyes of history, a rocket is synonymous with the Apollo missions of the 1960s. It was during this time that our nation was engulfed in some of the most turbulent and divisive conflicts to ever brace U.S soil. Between the civil rights and feminist movement, the country was in the throes of a revolution. Cities became war zones. College campuses were on fire. Protests erupted over the Vietnam War, triggering tension between the greatest generation and “flower childs”. It was an era steeped in blood, marked by the assassinations of John F Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. However, against this backdrop of violence and turmoil, there was a burst of hope. A rocket. By the end of the decade, the Apollo 11 Saturn V Rocket landed the first man on the moon. 650 million people watched as Neil Armstrong descended the lunar surface in a gleaming triumph of human daring and achievement. A moment marked by an uplifting sense of pride, hope, and unity. The sky was no longer the limit, and the possibilities of human advancement were endless.
We are rockets. Rockets represent achievement despite overwhelming odds, as a rocket must overcome the force of gravity in order to fly. And Class of 2020 have we overcome the force of gravity. In what felt like an instant, the semester we had been anticipating after years of hard work was stripped from us. Years of staying up until midnight to finish that lab or essay that we definitely should have started earlier, years of volunteering, years of working a job. Maybe you had been training all winter for the final season of your high school sport, practicing music for your last concert, or preparing to take the stage in your last play. Those memories were stolen from us. And yet, Class of 2020 we made our own.
With the unwavering pride and spirit of our class, we creatively celebrated senior week. Our social media feeds exploded with red and black, as we made daily countdown posts with clever RMHS jokes leading up to the last day of school. For each senior week theme, we crafted the perfect costume and dressed up for virtual prom. We scoured Reading for the hidden letters in a scavenger hunt race and watched the video of our classmates’ acts in Misster RMHS. By the end of senior week, we came together, this time in person, to watch the Senior Slideshow. Cars arrived and the Jordan’s parking lot quickly became a never-ending sea of seniors. Something as simple as seeing a friend was a special reunion, the look of pure joy on our faces as we frantically waved to those who we had missed for months was powerful. Together we viewed our 12-year journey, our cute elementary school selves playing at Field Day, our awkward Middle School moments, and finally our time at RMHS. Watching the photos of our big Powderpuff win, us screaming our heads off at the Pep Rally while proudly wearing our senior shirts reminded us that we made the most out of our time at RMHS. We conquered it together and had a lot of fun along the way. Yes, the rest of our traditions looked a little different, but unique circumstances call for innovative solutions.
During quarantine, we not only had fun but committed selfless acts. Many seniors continued working, ensuring that stores could remain open and that people were able to purchase their groceries and other essential goods. Some seniors took care of loved ones, particularly their elders. Many didn’t see their friends for months out of respect for the safety of others. Together, after learning there was a real need for virtual learning resources in the elementary schools, seniors filmed themselves reading books which were compiled into an online library for teachers to use now and in the future. It is not atypical for the Class of 2020 to act selflessly and passionately to make a positive difference in the community.
Perhaps one of the best outcomes of the pandemic was the fact that we felt overwhelming support from our community. Townwide our neighbors rallied together to ensure that we were celebrated. Thanks to the Rotary Club, the Town Hall lawn became a beautiful display of senior pictures. Walking around the display and seeing each senior, you couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride of being a part of this class and our academic achievements. Even though we weren’t physically together, the display of all of our pictures conveyed how we were united as a class. On the day of the parade, the Reading community once more expressed its love for the seniors. Driving through town, supporters clapped and neighbors held colorful handmade signs. Teachers and faculty cheered as we passed RMHS. We felt a real sense of community. It is to this community that we owe our gratitude, for the love and support we received not only during this time but throughout our journey at the Reading Public Schools.
Maybe we didn’t have the prom, or the boat cruise, or the All Night Party, but we learned that we can gracefully adapt to change. We can be creative in the face of adversity, and we can make a positive impact. Together we grew closer having shared this experience. We learned that we have a community that cares about us. We learned to never take things for granted. We are the Class of 2020. We are rockets.
This isn’t goodbye but see you later, because within the next year we are having the best reunion ever. I love you all. Thank you for everything.