I have been having a hard time writing this because I have so much to say. I cannot encompass all of highschool into this testimonial. I cannot detail every event that has made me who I am today. I wish I could describe the intricate feeling I felt when winning a field hockey game or acing a presentation in class, but I cannot put those feelings into words. However, I can paint you a picture and tell you what I gained from each experience I valued in high school, what I gained from my ‘core four.’ Through field hockey I established work ethic, through the History department I found my aspirations, through the Lobby Observer I found my voice, and through Best Buddies I found community.
Field hockey taught me you have to prove your value. I had to prove that my skills were at a varsity level, I had to prove I was a good teammate, I had to prove that my playing time was well earned. Through field hockey, I worked extremely hard and knowing I was not the fastest I had to make up for it in other areas. I had to work on my drive every practice and I would pass with my teammates or the coach and improve my form.
I also understood the importance of trusting my teammates. As an underclassman, I built up trust with the upperclassmen as I made relationships with them and they saw themselves as my mentor. One upperclassman gave me advice my freshman year that I will never forget…” never take the main staircase.” Now I tried my best to take that advice; however, as an avid history student you end up taking the main staircase more than you would like. Through the bonds I created with my teammates their respect for my abilities grew and they felt I was a strong player and reliable pass option. As they watched me improve with every practice and listen to their sage advice, I earned trust.
While teammate trust is key, I also built trust with my coach. Through the humor and joy I brought to the sport I earned my coach’s trust, through being open and vulnerable when I was struggling I earned their trust, through hard work I earned their trust. With the trust I earned my junior year my coach allowed me to help lead the team charity game, which was dedicated to the Boro Program. This was special for me as I have strong ties to the disability community. It was wonderful to combine my passion for field hockey with advocacy to accomplish one goal of raising money and awareness. Through my hard work and love of the sport, I built trust throughout the whole team, which was evident when I was named co-captain my senior year.
I LOVED being a team captain. I looked forward to practicing every day, getting to hang out with my teammates, and share my knowledge with others. I knew what it was like to be in the underclassmen’s shoes, so I tried to be open and personable. Luckily, this technique worked out as our whole team became like a family, regardless of the grade. Field hockey gave me so much: friends, exercise, leadership, the list goes on, but one trait that will follow me from field hockey is work ethic. I had to work to make JV as a freshman and then work to make varsity the next year. I worked to prove myself and earn my teammate’s trust. And ultimately, I worked to be captain.
Now when most students define their high school career they do not shout out a whole department. However, I love history so much that I genuinely wrote my college essay on it. I have taken an abundance of history classes at WHS, from world history to legal studies. One decision I made my junior year was to not take AP US History. I had heard how much work the course was and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself as I was already taking AP Government and Accelerated English. I had a goal to self-study and take the exam at the end of the year. I was thoroughly prepared for the exam by taking honors US1 and US2. However, I also enjoy studying history in my free time and got lucky my exam was online due to the pandemic. I ended up taking both AP Gov and APUSH exams and scored very well.
Yet, these exams are not the reason I admire the history department. The reason I admire them is because of Facing History and Ourselves. This course should be required for all WHS students and I highly recommend you take it if you have the chance. Through this class, I learned the immense injustice in our nation and the world. I learned that history works in waves and that patterns are repeated so frequently. It was truly a privilege to learn that we can learn from history and the patterns that are present. We can prevent future atrocities by learning from the dark past. I want to help foster a more equitable nation, by practicing law. Through law, I can help uphold legislation which protects the rights of our citizens, and I can also help create new legislation necessary to people facing injustice. I learned more about this aspiration of mine through the history department and legal studies.
More importantly I connected with many teachers within the department who genuinely want me to succeed. These teachers have helped me with opportunities, helped me with my resume, prepared me for future jobs and internships, and overall helped me better myself academically and personally.
The reason I have the privilege to reflect and publish said reflection is because of the Lobby Observer. Everyone has their ‘why I took journalism’ story and mine is rather funny. I was in eighth grade signing up for classes and I was asking my friend’s older sister what to take. She told me to take journalism, not because of the course itself necessarily, but because of Mrs. Stoker. She said she showed up late to school crying because she crashed her car into her garage and Mrs. Stoker was extremely supportive and made her day better. Thus, I was convinced.
I enjoyed my freshman year journalism class with Mrs. Smith. I improved my writing skills and learned the stylistics of article writing. Freshman year journalism was a wonderful introduction to the craft; however, my passion was ignited my sophomore year in broadcast journalism. I have always loved video editing. I used to make videos when I was younger tying barbies to string and creating storylines. I also was invested in Video Star where you could add special effects and create music videos. Therefore, it was no surprise when I excelled and enjoyed broadcasting. I really enjoyed it when my group anchored at Westborough TV and I loved interviewing WHS students. Overall, I loved the whole broadcast process; I remember volunteering to be Executive Producer for nearly every broadcast my class did, even when my group was full of upperclassmen. I learned so many new things, especially the ins and outs of video editing software. I took my new knowledge and received a job at Westborough TV. In addition, I began making promotional videos for local businesses and volunteering my tech skills to student organizations.
My senior year is when I truly found myself in journalism, I earned the position of Senior Executive Producer. I did not apply for Co-Editor as I wanted to focus on the actual production of content for the paper and not the nuances associated with the Co-Editor position. I took my position of Senior Executive Producer and ran with it.
I was like a little workhorse first semester, I produced, edited, and uploaded nearly every broadcast. I redesigned our website, added an entire section/website for podcasts, and revamped our YouTube channel. In addition, being in the advanced journalism class gave me the opportunity to pursue whichever story I wanted and I was able to write about topics important to me. Some highlight articles were: “Racial Injustice: 5 Ways Teens Can Stand Up, Speak Out, and Take Action,” “Covid Impact On Intellectual And Developmental Disability Community In Westborough,” “National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: How Social Media Influences Teens.”
I am privileged to have a powerful place like the Lobby-Observer to express myself and to have a voice. I have relished the opportunity to be a part of this program and have become an intern for broadcast journalism, where I have been able to pass on my knowledge to younger generations. Overall, Mrs. Stoker and her wonderful journalism program have helped me develop and learn new skills, connect with amazing people and organizations, and ultimately find and express my voice.
Lastly, there is one club that transcends the walls of WHS. Best Buddies has defined me as a person these past four years and will continue to define me for the rest of my life. Who would have thought that some smiling faces at the freshman activity fair would change my life. I am so privileged to have joined the disability community here in Westborough. I had done Special Olympics Basketball and Soccer throughout middle school so I was semi-familiar with the goals of the Best Buddies club. I understood the importance of inclusion and not using derogatory terms like the r-word, yet that was about it. I understood the importance on a surface level, but once I joined the club and began fostering friendships I understood the importance on a personal level.
I remember wanting to get involved in the club from the start, recalling how I bringing my camera to our apple picking event to take pictures of the club. I remember running around in my overalls avoiding the apples on the ground and capturing pictures of happy buddy pairs. I loved seeing the joy in everyone’s eyes and I admired the genuine friendships the buddy pairs shared. I then applied to be a peer buddy, I was given a difficult buddy as he rarely came to any events and was three years older than me. Looking back that may have not been the best match, but I made the best of it. At the events my buddy attended I was friendly and outgoing and he reciprocated. At the end of my freshman year, I knew this was MY club: the energy was like sunshine, the people were so authentic. The president asked me to apply for an officer position and of course, I did. I successfully clenched one of the two officer positions for sophomores as membership director.
My sophomore year I began my role as an officer attending calls and helping plan events. I was also placed in a ‘trudy’ three-person buddy pair with two lovely girls. I was able to grow my leadership skills and my connection with my buddy that year. I remember one event specifically where I had just come from a field hockey game and our Halloween dance was happening simultaneously. I was sweaty, tired, and gross but I wanted to see my friends. I was a very well costumed ‘field hockey player’ and enjoyed dancing the night away with my friends. That year I remember the club began becoming bigger than WHS awesome walls began to break down. I saw my buddies outside of school, we hung out at each other’s houses, went on walks, and I also attended one of my buddies’ bowling birthday party which was a blast.
However, sophomore year was not all sunshine and rainbows for me, personally. I was morally challenged to my core. I had a group of friends who were most definitely the ‘popular kids–’ they were funny and tended to be good friends, but things started to take a turn. I remember taking a video of one of my buddies from the club doing the Monster Mash dance. I thought it was a fun video to capture of my buddy, yet my ‘friends’ thought differently. While I was hanging with my friends one of them took my phone. This friend sent herself the video of my buddy doing the Monster Mash. The video was then sent to many group chats and used to mock my friend based on her disability. I was honestly heartbroken when I found out this had happened. I was mad at my friends but ultimately mad at myself. How could I have associated with these people who so strongly contrasted my morals. I remember finding out and crying to my mom. She told me that your friends are a reflection of your character and that I needed to surround myself with people who have similar morals. From that moment on, I began distancing myself from these ‘friends.’ It was extremely difficult for me but fortunately I had friends to fall back on who followed a similar moral compass. Throughout this conflict my roots dug deeper into the club. The bullying and hatred I witnessed fired my passion to foster inclusion. I saw both sides, the ‘oppressed and the oppressors’ and I knew what side I wanted to be on. I concluded my sophomore year applying for club treasurer and ultimately earned the position! I was so proud of myself and ready to tackle junior year.
I embraced my position and held many meaningful fundraisers: Panera, Chipotle, bake sales, and more. The money all went towards funding our club events and helping pay for Best Buddies International Convention tickets. I gained experience in writing grants and working with large distributors to run our pastry fundraiser. However, my highlight as treasurer was spirit wear. I was so excited to let my creativity loose when designing our club gear. I had our logo, our school name, our colors, but I just felt like we were missing something. That’s when I came up with our club slogan: “More Than Just A Club.” This slogan embodies the goals of our club to foster inclusion and facilitate lifelong friendships. Thus, like that, we had a cohesive design that was put together on clothing and stickers and distributed to our club for purchase. I was so proud of the work I had done on the officer board but my friendships were the main driving force.
Maintaining friendships is key to BB, so when quarantine began, our club struggled. Disabilities and Zoom are not compatible duo. I missed my friends. Seeing everyone on the screen was okay, but our club felt out of touch. I was lucky to start to see some friends towards the end of May, but it was distant and filled with “keep your mask up.” Throughout it all, my passion for the club persevered.
Luckily before the pandemic had begun I was in Mrs. Peixoto’s office with Joey Bellofatto. We were discussing the logistics of the BB International Convention and how the president got to go for free. We were conflicted on what to do because we were unsure at the moment who the president would be. After some thought, a bright idea came up: what if Joey and I were Co-Presidents? This idea was semi-unconventional for WHS BB: however, it was exactly what our club needed. The idea was eventually approved by Mrs. Peixoto and then-President Emma Spiro who is one of Joey and I’s great friends.
Thus the senior year Co-Pres saga began. An amazing saga, full of virtual zoom events, covid restrictions, differing comfort levels, hybrid learning, the list goes on. But, Joey, Mrs. Peixoto, and the rest of our officer board made this OUR year. We used our creativity and dedication to conduct wonderful events; online games, zoom cookie decorating, Chinese New Year celebrations, Southwick’s Zoo zoom call, and many many many more interactive, virtual activities. With all of that said, our most prized achievement has got to be the 2021 Spread The Word To End The Word Event.
This year the campaign was challenged by the restraints of COVID. However, the online atmosphere created by the pandemic created opportunities for online speakers. Our school community was privileged to hear from Frank Stevens, a comedian with Down syndrome. Frank was inspiring and hilarious as he spoke to 80+ students, educators, and parents. Another virtual element our chapter utilized was video production. Using my Lobby-O production skills I produced a video that explained the history behind STWTETW and the importance of not saying the R-word. The video was shared at the beginning of class and teachers facilitated important discussions with their students. Also, we had our buddies give morning announcements during the week and sell candy from the Boro/Sugar Shack. STWTETW was a massive success, and I was so proud of our club.
Our chapter had been a success the whole year and people took note, as we were recently awarded “Outstanding MA High School Chapter.” This accomplishment was huge for us and me personally, it truly validated all of our hard work. I wouldn’t want to win any other award. I owe these successes to our club members, everyone in the club whether big or small roles contributes to the success. They contribute to the club’s energy and positive vibes. I owe my motivation and passion for inclusion to the club, to the buddies, my friends. I have been privileged to be a part of the disability community, and an exclusive club of inclusive people. I have my own little secret crew that most people don’t take a chance to get to know. A crew of people with silly habits, quirks, and massive hearts. I love this community for everything they have given me through Special Olympics, Unified Track, and most importantly Best Buddies. And I hope to spend the rest of my life giving back to them.
The beauty of highschool is that all of your communities are interconnected. During STWTETW week, the video I produced had teachers from the History department who understood my goals and were excited to help me reach them. I was able to publish important notices about STWTETW week using the Lobby-O website and Instagram and celebrated our outstanding chapter award using Lobby-O platforms. In addition, I was able to support the disability community through my field hockey charity game, and I used my leadership skills from being team captain to help me lead Best Buddies. Ultimately in pursuing my career in law, I will use my love for history and law to advocate for people with disabilities. I have gained so much from my ‘core four’ I established my work ethic, my career goals, my voice, my passions, and ultimately my community. I owe so much of who I am to Westborough High School. All I have to say is do what you love and the rest will fall into place. Thank you WHS.