Though 6 Feet Apart, Connected By Love and Light
It's Orientation Day and the students have waited all summer to be reunited with their school friends! On a typical day like this one, the hallways are filled with students anxiously waiting to give out friendly warm hugs to all who enter into their path. The air is saturated with the sounds of chatty girls huddled up in small groups sharing stories from those lazy summer days; they are also buzzing with anticipation over the fresh start to a new school year. Personal space among students at Seton is obsolete when it comes to the first few days of school. However, this school year painted a different picture.
Throughout the lower student lobby and inside the Mahler Center for the Performing Arts were different cues reminding the students to remain six feet apart from each other. Markers were placed on the floor, chairs were spaced out, and masks were securely placed over the faces of the staff present on campus. The halls of Seton were almost too quiet. "This year our masks hid our great big smiles" said Junior Kaniyah Ford. "Practicing social distancing from my friends was really hard because I haven't seen them since our abrupt shutdown in back in March." A virtual option was available for those students who preferred to stay home for their orientation. With the onset of the pandemic and the start of the school year, Elizabeth Seton High School took the route of "safety first" and made the decision to go virtual for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. And although it was a hard reality for the students to accept, the staff of Elizabeth Seton High School went above and beyond to help acclimate them to their new normal. Kaniyah shared, "Honestly, I don't think that anyone was happy about the fact that we had to remain socially distant during orientation this year. However, I feel that Seton did a great job to make this year's orientation feel normal, despite the changes that we had to face."
Tiphanie Gilmore-Edwards '92, Dean of Academics, spearheaded the transition into the new virtual world, and the amount of time and the many late nights she spent to make the move as seamless as possible for everyone was worth every bit of her energy. Dana Zellers Cunningham '05, English Teacher and Academic Coordinator, was also one of the many faces behind the construction of this year's virtual school plan and orientation; and together, they worked around the clock to put out a plan that would uphold the Seton Core Value of Academic Excellence as well as give the students the same feeling of love, warmth, and support that they would normally get from the Seton Staff. Dana stated,
"Although orientations were split into multiple sessions this year, each one was special. We all worked together to make sure we practiced safe measures to be able to welcome our students in the same warm Seton environment even if it looked a little different than we were used to." Seeing some semblance of life in the school brought hope to the staff who assisted with orientation, and it helped them to remember that in everything they do for Seton, it is done out of love for their students. According to Junior Melissa Guillen, the efforts of the staff were successful. "Despite the big change we all faced in March, orientation felt reassuring and joyful. Although we would not be going into school as we usually do, we cherished the little time we spent together at orientation." Tiphanie proudly stated, "I am so proud of our faculty , staff and students for their resilience, hard work and creativity. Launching this new school year has been a mammoth undertaking. Everyone has pulled together to keep the Seton spirit alive. From our freshman Class of 2024 who have brought so much energy and light - to our senior class of 2021 who are brave and strong while leading the student body with courage. This 2020-21 academic year will be one for the history books. We continue to pray and ask Mother Seton for the Light to know and Grace to do."
With that said, congratulations to the staff of Elizabeth Seton High School for making the beginning days of school warm and inviting despite the obstacles of this pandemic. Despite their hidden smiles, there is no doubt that the students felt the love, excitement and energy they need to take on the changes and challenges of this unique school year.