As the high school gym echoed with the cadence of graduation practice Monday morning, Patch sat down with a sextet of (CHS) seniors to learn how they feel about leaving behind their alma mater.
To a one, they were optimistic, yet measured in their aspirations. All were student athletes. Each credited student advisers with meaningful guidance along the way.
"Our teachers prepared us for life."
Allison Hawco, a multi-sport athlete who was , says she’ll never forget how coach Nancy O’Neill got her out of a slump: by convincing her that she had the strength necessary to overcome her own obstacles.
“If I ever get overwhelmed or worked up over something small, I have to know that I am capable of doing it,” says Hawco, a prospective math major at the College of New Jersey.
Kathleen Daly, who will study liberal arts at in the fall, says that in addition to inspiring her students with trips to Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, CHS vocal teacher Cristin Charlton guided her through a vocal cord injury that was frightening.
“I got vocal cord nodules,” says Daly, who also captained the girls swim team.
“I couldn’t sing for a while and I had to go to therapy,” she says. “That took almost a year for that to happen. I couldn’t do the things that I had relied on [doing, and]. Ms. Charlton helped me work on it.”
William Weldon, who is attending Rowan University to study civil engineering, says tearing his meniscus cost him his senior year of basketball. In the process, however, he says he learned to transform himself into a source of motivation for his teammates.
“I had to sit on the sideline and watch every game,” Weldon says, “but I had to go to the next level of being a leader. It just showed me how to deal with my circumstances.”
Edward Newton, who is heading to West Virginia University to study petroleum engineering, says that language arts supervisor Mark Wiltsey—also his freshman year soccer coach—guided him throughout his high school career.
“He’s always helped me, given me advice,” Newton says.
Swimmer/volleyball player Nigel Patterson summed it up by saying, “We have a lot of really good teachers. They go over what you need to know in life.”
Dreams of their own
Patterson says that since his freshman year of high school, he’s “always wanted to do something with the FBI or the CIA.” This fall he will attend Marymount University in Arlington, VA in the hope of pursuing a career in computer forensics.
“I want to work in cyberterrorism,” Patterson says. “That’s what I’m hoping to do.”
Newton says that his interest in petroleum engineering came about because of an environmentalist streak that his teachers helped cultivate.
“I want to help create a safer way of extracting oil without harming the environment,” he says.
Track and field athlete Chante Johnson, who will attend Rutgers University-Camden, wants to earn a law degree.
“I want to be able to say that I went into a job out of college,” Johnson says.
Ten years from now
Daly says that at her 10-year CHS reunion, all she wants is to be able to say she’s got a job she loves doing.
“I have a bunch of different things that I like but I’m trying to find a way to figure out what I love,” she says.
Weldon echoed her sentiments while commending his peers.
“I know that each one will be successful in their own field of study,” he says. “I want to come back and say that I’ve been successful in what I’ve done and that I enjoy my job and that it’s a passion for me.”
Hawco’s comments, while no less optimistic nor positive than her cohorts, showed that she had internalized the lessons of her mentors.
“I don’t know where I’m going to be in ten years,” she says. “I take it day by day. I’m going to handle my obstacles and wherever they lead me, I’m going to be successful in that field.
“I want to have a job. I want to have a family. But that’s so stationary,” Hawco says.
“I want to do something big, I just don’t know what it is yet.”
Collingswood High School graduates its class of 2012 tonight at 6:00 p.m.. Commencement ceremonies will be held in the CHS football stadium, weather permitting.
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