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East Lyme's Caroline French

Dear Class of 2021,

They told us high school would teach us life lessons: about ourselves, about the world, about people. So we studied, we joined all the clubs, tried new sports, new instruments, made new friends. I now know what it means to be an ambivert, and that I hate when people don’t use the Oxford Comma. I am also happy to say that I can tell you all about FDR’s New Deal and the Constitution and Taylor Series. But the important life lessons you learn in high school, the ones that stick with you, aren’t things you can study. They are lessons in compassion, hard work, and friendship. And we learned these lessons every day from our teachers and peers just by being students, open to learning and making new connections.

At East Lyme High School, we have learned compassion from the teachers who sacrifice their time outside of class to help their students love learning, even if it means explaining synthetic division or titrations a million different ways until we understand. We have learned hard work and dedication through hours of sports practices and studying for AP exams. Through the junior-year workload that pales in comparison to the stress of senior year. We have built lasting friendships that have carried us through our toughest times and made the best ones a million times more memorable.

With our high school experience cut tragically short, we must hold onto these lessons and memories dearly. I can still remember the first day of freshman year, walking into the commons with big dreams and plans for my future. About 80% of those plans have changed, along with my interests, friends, and values. I can no longer say that I want to become a neurosurgeon or fashion designer, but I can say, with confidence, that I will hold onto my love for history, music, and exploring new places. The past four years have changed us all, but deep inside, we are still those wide-eyed 14-year olds, eager to experience the next chapter of our lives. Now we are here, nourished with the wisdom we have gained and prepared to take on the world, wherever that path may bring us.

I urge you to savor the memories you have made here. And as easy as it would be to develop a sense of amnesia about this past year, it is important to remember that it didn’t define our high school experience. So, thank you, Class of 2021, and may your futures be filled with success and happiness.

Caroline French



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