About a week ago, our Senior Wall went up. Covering the entirety of one wall in the PLUS Center are the faces of each and every senior, with space for their accomplishments this year. Students came in all day, and the day after, most screeching when they saw their pictures. “Miss, why did you put that one up?” “I’ll find you a better picture, let me just go on Instagram!” and “That’s it, I’m tearing mine down,” were the most common reactions. I’m used to this. Every picture we take demands a re-do. Especially if we trick them into smiling. Even their senior pictures, for which they were proudly prepared and in perfect lighting, were met with collective horror when they saw the results.
Despite their self-conscious outcries, I know how excited they were to receive this tribute to themselves. (Just as they not-so-secretly loved showing us their senior pictures knowing we would quite sincerely ooh and ahh over each one.) I know they’ll be even more excited when they see their accomplishments, from completing their senior projects to receiving college acceptances, marked for everyone to see. So much of senior year for our students is about racing to the finish line that they don’t often stop to appreciate their accomplishments on the way.
As a Flight Fellow, one of the most satisfying aspects of my work is the chance I get to not only push students towards those achievements, but also to celebrate them. From the beginning of the year, I’ve read and reread personal essays, teasing out real and moving stories from students convinced they had nothing to share. I’ve seen those same essays elicit college acceptances and scholarships, and I've been the person yelling in joy when they show me their acceptance letters. I’ve seen students scramble to the PLUS Center in packs to tackle a giant project, labor over it with them for weeks, and been the only one to celebrate its completion (they’ve moved on to the next one at this point). Even smaller moments – an English concept clicking for the first time for an ESL student, finishing an outline for their senior project where before they hadn’t even known where to start, or hearing a speech for their English class get better and better – these are all moments I celebrate.
As the end of the school year rapidly approaches for our seniors, they feel the clock running out. In the beginning of the year they might have stopped to appreciate what they had done a second longer, but now they race past to the next big goal. As the Senior Wall becomes studded with achievements and reminders of their work, I hope they stop and admire themselves and each other a bit more. I know I will. Whether they stop to do so or not, I know their photos up on that wall will do more than give our seniors a pat on the back. The Senior Wall will remind me of what these students can and have accomplished. It will give a face back to the hours of work we do at Kensington. And most importantly, it will remind KHSA juniors, sophomores, and freshmen of the road ahead and, hopefully, inspire them to reach for their own goals.