As crazy as the past days, weeks, and months have been, this is still our senior year. As we continue to grieve our lost memories and traditions, and rightfully so, it becomes easy to feel hopeless and angry. However, as frustrating as all of this has been, I am so proud to call myself a Friar.

We arrived at these gothic walls as wide-eyed freshmen hailing from every nook and cranny of Chicagoland. We all funneled into the same hot, balmy auditorium on that fateful August morning. Excited but anxious, we donned our blazers as the class of 2020, rubbed elbows with faculty and administration for the first time.

I wasn’t paying much attention to most of the speakers on orientation day. But I was suddenly awakened when Father Peddicord took to the podium. If I’m being perfectly honest, as loving and wise as Father is, the detail in his welcome that gained my focus was the mention of a certain satellite radio station on Sirius XM. I distinctly remember thinking, “This guy listens to The Pulse?!”

Slightly shocked, I attentively listened as he explained his affinity and liking for OneRepublic’s 2014 hit single “I Lived,” a song which he had discovered on that very same radio station. Father talked of how he felt that single related to the new journey of high school on which my classmates and I would soon be embarking. As the song blared from the auditorium speakers and all of our parents began to burst into tears in the back of the room, I just sat and took it all in.

Freshman year came and went, we paid our dues and moved our way up the ladder to become the ever-so-popular members of the sophomore class. Our eyes caught the corners of the room in Speech and we skated around the gym in PE and before we knew it, Junior year was right in front of us. We might have (slightly) slumped, but we were continuing to learn the ways of Fenwick.

I think everyone can attest that Junior year is no walk in the park. The combination of a rigorous workload, standardized tests, and the infamous Christian Service Project can certainly take its wear-and-tear on a student. But again we stood tall, and for the first time we began to think about what life beyond Washington Boulevard might look like, and in an instant, we were seniors.

This is the hard part. We have all been dreaming of senior year glory since the moment we first walked these halls four years ago. We’ve saluted our teammates on senior night. We’ve yelled our hearts out as members of BFG gave their final bows. We’ve sat through honors convocations. We’ve seen the pictures from senior prom and heard stories of the roar of the crowd on graduation night. This lack of closure is extremely disappointing, but in a way reminds us of something important.

I could mention how the class of 2020 is one of the most academically impressive in school history, but I’ll spare all the underclassmen, and all of our friends at the other high school down the street from having to be flexed on too hard.

But while we’re talking about that other high school down the street, I feel it’s important to mention how lucky we were to grace these halls during one of the most successful periods in the history of Fenwick athletics. Fenwick teams competed on stages big and small, and battled the likes of Huskies, Roadrunners, and the Wolfpack on stages big and small. Friar Nation has witnessed the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but regardless of how many wins and championships we may have, we’ve stood by our athletic department with unwavering support.

However, what I find to be the most impressive and valuable thing about the class of 2020 is the community we have developed with each other. I was talking with someone a couple of days ago about how much we love going to Fenwick and how astonished we were to hear the love we felt for this place was not a common opinion among a lot of the other high schools in Chicagoland. The early mornings to get a good parking spot on Washington and the late nights spent cramming for an exam the next day were certainly not the most fun, but these and all of the other experiences we had at this place between sunrise and sunset defined and shaped us to be who we are today.

So with the rest of our school year gone and the fate of graduation and other traditions in serious jeopardy, it’s important to remember that although these experiences are both important and pivotal scenes of our lives, they do not define us. Although we may not be able to return to this special place as students, we will always be welcomed back as proud alumni and Friars for life.

Because we lived.

Colin Wright, a resident of Elmhurst, is a graduating senior at Fenwick High School in Oak Park.

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