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By Jesse Utz 

The day has come: goodbye, seniors


Last updated 6/6/2018 at 10:12am

“This is bittersweet.” “I was not prepared.” “No one told me about this.” “Every time you think something will be easy, it is not.” These were all phrases that scooted through my head as the date of June 9 approached. June 9, graduation day for the 2018 seniors at Lake Roosevelt. I am excited for them, but also there is a pain deep within my heart. This is a special class. Beyond special.

I took the position of Pathways Coordinator this year, knowing full well I was going to get the chance to work closely with seniors and prepare them for what lies ahead. What I did not know was just how connected you get to these little twerps, who are not so little anymore. Heck, they are not even twerps. I have had deep and truly great conversations, at least once, with every one of them. I learned of their dreams, I learned about things they overcame in their life, I learned their fears, and I learned their stories. Stories that are not finished and the endings of which have not been established.

Stories. We do not know if they are romance novels written by Carson or if it is a military thriller written by Cleveland. It might be an epic sports drama by St. Pierre or a hard-hitting political-spy trilogy by Derr. It could be about caring for animals by Pitner or caring for people by Priest. A comedy by Wilder or a documentary by Williams. You see, we just don’t know yet. Yes, there are plans, the groundwork has been laid, the future predicted. But as all adults know, life happens.

But this is not a column about their future or their past. It is about right now. It is not even about them. It is about a former firefighter who was forced to change careers, who relied heavily on himself and a wife he loves. A man who found God (or God found him), softened his heart; and somehow, some way, all these kids found a way into his life. Things changed.

I have written about a few of them on these very pages, and some I have not. But make no mistake, every one of the class of 2018, here at Lake Roosevelt, has made their way into my DNA. I will never forget Yamni. We have bonded like no other. Well, maybe except for Wayne and Renford: two boys who became men in front of my eyes; or maybe Pitner and Priest, who have set their eyes so high and are achieving by overcoming and conquering everything. Or maybe Charmayne. I can’t even say or hear her name without thinking of the phrase “Overcomer.” I could go on and on with names like Whitegrass, Bird, Shelby, Nordine, Abel, Steinert and Garvin. I seriously can look from top to bottom of this class and be proud of every one of them. No one told me. No one told me that my family was about to grow by 50 kids at the beginning of the year. I had no idea there was room in my heart for all of them, but there is.

I know I did not mention all of them here or during the course of the year. But believe me, they will all go wherever I go. They are a part of me, and I am ingrained in them. I will stay in contact with some and watch others from afar. But know this, class of 2018: my door, phone and anything else is always open to you. I will continue to support you as I know you will continue to make me proud, just as you continue to make your own families proud. We will see each other again. We will chat. We will tear up together, and we will laugh together. Life is upon us all, but this is not goodbye; this is hello to something greater, and it is up to each of us to go find it, nurture it and grow it. I will be watching, with a smile and a hug waiting for you all. I’m Jess saying.


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