Looking Back on the Past Academic Year


Photo Credit: cistercian.org

Santiago Barajas, Writer

Last March, most of us were looking forward to the end of the semester, hoping for a strong finish and yearning for excited for summer when all of a sudden, a virus swept in from the East and changed our lives completely. On campus, most students were at first beaming with excitement to take a break from the tedious routine of school, captivated by the thrill of a new adventure ahead. The idea of an extended break and getting to learn from home was exciting. But, after the supposed weeks of quarantine turned into months, that joy slowly developed into boredom and despair took root in the hearts of our young men. But the cause of this all, the source of dismay, the author of our misery, the slayer of joy and felicity, is COVID-19.

Despite our dread as we faced a terrifying viral pandemic that had overrun hospitals in every country it touched, Cistercian kept fighting. Through the combined efforts of the newly formed Medical Board, Nurse Nevitt, Father Paul, and our teachers and staff, the school successfully managed to surpass perhaps the most difficult and unexpected trial in recent history. It is an amusing to think that while students studied for their own exams, the teachers were also given a test: not a handwritten exam, but a technological one that many struggled with (and eventually overcame). That fourth quarter at the end of the last school year was perhaps the most stressful and exasperating time for our teachers. For students, it was another annoying obstacle to conquer to finally reach the freedom of summer. But still we managed, somehow, to finish the year while in distance learning, though becoming weary of it. Most of us were glad to return to campus and were willing to take the precautions necessary to ensure a safe environment in the community.

Though the experience of masks and in-class cameras may have been unsettling at first, when the doors to return to campus were finally opened, most of us were glad to no longer have to stare at a computer screen all day. While some people were missing in the classroom, onlookers from ‘distance learning land’ (as Mr. Mehen would say), those present at school could finally see the faces of their friends again—well, half of their faces, anyway. Of course, hand sanitizer now had to be used regularly and lunch was to be eaten outside, but these precautions gave us the privilege to remain on campus and brought the new semester the closest to what we had considered normal before this pandemic. I did not feel dejected nor did I despair due to the COVID restrictions imposed by the school, which I think were necessary for us to actually learn, and I think the school succeeded in their plan to safely return us to campus and continue our studies as normally as they could.

Of course, the school could not satisfy everyone with every decision that was made. Many students were extremely disappointed with the cancellation of fall sports and the subsequent cancellation of the afterparties, a staple of Friday nights for many Cistercian high schoolers. Any gatherings that may have spread COVID—afterparties, Homecoming, movie nights, a proper Freshman Baptism, and a majority of the electives—were all cancelled. Practices in this winter season have all looked different and extracurriculars have been forced to change as well. There seemed to be no end and many students began to get angry at the administration for taking away their activities. But the dawn of the vaccines mark a new hope for the end of this horrific fright. The monks over 65 in the monastery have already been able to get their vaccinations. When we return to our regular schedules, we will better enjoy the time spent with our friends, and no longer take these little things for granted, but rather relish them in the new times and grow in our relationships with those closest to us.

It is easy to focus on all the bad things that the pandemic brought (and there’s a lot of them), but that does not mean that our school lives were completely ruined. Although we could not have fall sports, at least winter sports were provided. We were privileged with the opportunity to return to campus. The upper school play declared that the show must go on, and the freshmen were given their social with Ursuline. Cistercian has provided far more than most other schools in the nation have been able to. Even online school has its advantages—waking up late and not having to wear a full uniform are benefits that cannot be overlooked. We must make sure not to be carried away by the depressing thoughts brought by the virus, but focus on our good experiences during the pandemic, which we’ll be able to remember for the rest of our lives.

Though last year did not go at all as anyone would have expected, it helped us grow in patience, courage, and wisdom. Despite its imperfections, this last semester was an experience that we will never forget, both the good and the bad alike. We can’t decide what befalls us, but we can decide how to react to it, and that is what makes us grow in character, if done well. Luckily for us, the end is in sight. This source of dismay, author of misery, slayer of joy and felicity, COVID-19, will soon be brought low by the great minds of our time.