by Dr. Lynn Waidelich
Coronovirus has taken so much from so many. There have been times over the last six months, when each of us have wondered if there is anything safe from the virus.
After Orientation Week at Cristo Rey Richmond, I will propose that HOPE is safe; hope is secure, and hope found its way to the surface in a very hot and humid gymnasium last Tuesday during New Student Orientation. We started the day setting up tables and laying out stacks of handouts. We had hand sanitizer stations and tested our thermometers. Our families trickled in just before noon, and one by one, they visited seven stations spread out on the gym floor. We welcomed them in our masks and gloves, requested signed paperwork, and confirmed addresses. By the time the families got to my station, they were sweaty and overwhelmed with information. We had told them too much and not enough at the same time. My job, as the Assistant Principal, was to give the students their class schedule and explain our complicated hybrid model for the upcoming school year. I explained the four virtual school days per week, and the one live day, using a green highlighter to circle their class schedules and explained Zoom links to new students.
At the end of my spiel, I stepped away to pick up the right sized t-shirt for our new 9th grade students. Then, I got to welcome them to the Class of 2024 by dramatically opening up their new t-shirts displaying CLASS OF 2024 on the back. This moment, recreated nearly 100 times that evening, was a moment of magic buried beneath the minutiae of orientation. When I said “Welcome to the Class of 2024,” a smile would begin to form on the students’ faces. It was hidden by their masks, of course, but you could see it walk up their cheeks and light up their eyes.
They were standing next to their moms or grandmas or in between their parents, sometimes they had younger siblings running around their feet, and at that moment, you could see the spark of hope. I asked rhetorically, “Do you know when we will have done our job for you?” They hesitated, wondering if it was a trick question and why in the world was I asking this. I answered for each student, “Our job is done when you graduate from college. We are here to support you to and through college graduation.”
Their faces lit up with the hope of graduating college and the opportunities that would present. Some of their mommas cried or said “thank you”. Some of the families cheered. Regardless of the student, tall or short, studious or relaxed, organized or disheveled, I could see a flash of the possibility they hold within. In a world that tells us hope is lost, I would suggest, hope is inherent. It smolders underneath the facade, and for some, it only comes to the surface on rare occasions but it is there.
On a hot summer day, in an un-air conditioned gym, amidst a pandemic, we were blessed to witness the hope in our incoming class. Now the work begins. I promised these families our job is not done until their young people graduate from college. This is not an easy promise. It is what gets us up in the morning and what keeps us up at night but is a promise built on hope. As our founder, Father John Foley said, “May our hope be so outrageously bold that people will laugh at us if they knew what we hoped for.”