Plainfield East administrators pen letters to 540 seniors
Last updated 4/25/2020 at 2:48pm
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker officially cancelled the school year earlier this week, meaning the senior class of high schools all across the state will never again walk the halls of their schools as students.
While graduation ceremonies and activities such as prom have not been cancelled many school administrators are doing their best to help the seniors through the abrupt end to their life as a student.
At Plainfield East, the administrators got personal.
East Principal Dr. Joseph O'Brien was joined by assistant principals Heather Boswell, Kate Morris and Mike Romeli; athletic director Paul Raspolich and special education administrator Kathryn Wade, in writing personalized letters to all 540 Bengal seniors.
"It is a small gesture on our part – they are the ones that are suffering and if there is anything we can do that they can take with them that they are not alone in this and that we do care – those are the thoughts behind this. We see what they are going through it and we see it and we care," Raspolich said.
O'Brien said the East staff wanted to let the seniors know they are not alone.
"This is taking a different route for their senior year. When we are going through and talking about the impact that the seniors have on our building, there are multiple layers," he said. "We are talking about leadership and traditions and culture modeling things that are lost, too, from them not being in the building. It did take some time and the time that it took is minimal compared to the impact that those students had on our building, so it was well worth every second spent.
"One of the things that we value ourselves on is the relationships that we build with our students from a positive sense. We wanted to let them know what an impact they had and what they mean to the Bengal family and that we are in this together."
The idea of family is even more impactful to Raspolich, whose son Ethan is a senior at East.
"I have a senior that attends Plainfield East, so I am living it. When you have a senior at home that is missing out on things, I see firsthand how emotionally upset he can be at times," Raspolich said. "He is not angry. He is in the same boat as everyone else. He is a spring athlete and it is a challenging time and he is taking it day by day. They are losing parts of their lives they will never get back."
Just because they will never get the end of their senior year back, that does not diminish what they meant to the school.
"We talk about towards the end of their junior year, how they are going to be seniors and going to be leaders and these seniors were a great class and did a lot of tremendous things in our building and they deserved this, Romeli said. "We really, really like our kids and we felt the seniors especially needed this pick me up. We wanted them to think about their impact on the building these last four years that five administrators would take the time to write them a personal message and I think that personal touch went a long way."
As only the 12th graduating class from East, the 2020 senior class is still laying the foundation for what will be built on in the future.
"The kids that are in the building now, they are still creating our tradition and we are building on that foundation and that makes it special," O'Brien said. "There are great seniors and great young adults in our building that have great ideas and we listen to them."
And, the administration is determined not to let COVID-19 fracture what has been started.
"Our goal is not to have this be a crack in that foundation," Raspolich said. "It is a different layer in the foundation – we will never forget the 2020 graduation class from Plainfield East High School. The group as a whole is what will define Plainfield East."