Four short years ago, I walked into my first day at Bethlehem High School with absolutely no idea what to expect. I was nervous, excited, anxious. More than that though, I was searching for how to become the strong and compassionate woman I dreamed about while looking in the mirror. What I didn’t know is how many people would walk this journey with me. After four years at Bethlehem, the biggest lesson I learned was not found in any textbook but in the hearts of those I encountered. And I encountered some very special people, specifically my 67 classmates.
So who is the Bethlehem class of 2020, you ask? We are wearers of the plaid and khaki. We are girls’ basketball state champions. We are National Merit Finalists. We are QuestBridge Scholars. We are speech and debate national champions. We are Distinguished Young Women. We are airplane builders. We are future college athletes. We are thespians. We are academic team members. We are Friday night lights lovers. We are student section leaders. We are student athletes of the year. We are record breakers. We are servant leaders. We are first team all-region players. We are family. But even more than that, we are children of God.
It is important to emphasize that last part: children of God. High school was full of change: change in class schedules, change in grade level, change in friend groups and change in interests. But, God’s unwavering support was constant. He guided us the last four years. He, along with many others, holds our hands on the way to the next phase of life.
The change that no one anticipated, however, came when COVID-19 ripped away our last sports seasons, our senior prom and our last few months together in the place we love so dearly. The coronavirus broke our hearts and made us wonder why this happened to us.
Yet, Bethlehem assured us that we were not alone. Teachers and faculty hand-delivered pizzas, support signs and t-shirts to our homes during our quarantine. Staff lit up our softball field for 20 minutes and 20 seconds to show they were standing with us. They were not the only ones standing at our side either. Our parents became our counselors, our homework helpers and our motivators. They helped us keep pushing. They, along with our teachers, provided us with constant reassurance to make us feel loved and remembered during this time of great isolation.
Together, with an unending support system, we trusted that God had the bigger plan. United, we protected the mental health of our classmates by staying in contact and doing what we could to rise above hardship — because sharing the load makes it easier to carry.
Bethlehem taught us that it is by looking outside of ourselves that we find resilience and patience, and the greatest lesson I learned was the bittersweet reality that one can’t do it alone.
Looking back, I am eternally grateful for this magical family that welcomed me with open arms. The support system that Bethlehem gave to each and every student won’t end here. We join 200 years of alumni that continually prove that we’re always part of a community. Today, I look in the mirror and see the compassionate and strong woman I had dreamed of becoming. I praise God for putting all of these wonderful people on my path to help me get here.