Senior Column: Tess Fitzhenry


Tess Fitzhenry, News Editor

Like many things done in my high school career, I procrastinated writing this senior column until the night before. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I probably have nothing better to do, so why procrastinate? Well, in many moments of my life, I have struggled to find the right words. I find it difficult to convey my feelings about receiving a diploma for completing the “bare minimum” of education. I, like many other high school graduates, could tell you the function of the mitochondria. Easy. Powerhouse of the cell. Although some of the facts and trivial information I learned from classes at Oshkosh North won’t stick with me forever, I know the experiences and range of feelings I underwent will. 

When we complete each jump through the hoops of education, we’re told we will have more freedom than we did before. Freedom to pick our classes, have longer lunches, and have more choices for sports. And although these are rather simplistic, deemed “adolescent” choices, many have failed to see that we’re faced with more complex, complicated choices. Freedom in high school means the choice to be who you are. Finding the things that you want to define yourself with and continue working at until you are the person you’ve envisioned. Adults tend to stereotype high school students as lazy or troublesome. But behind these stereotypes and assumptions are adults who were high school students too. I think instead of remembering high school by the smells, lunch menu, and the extensive feeling of boredom in first period, we should start remembering the way we entered high school: as a blank slate. With opportunities and freedom, comes choice. Whatever aspect of life 2020 graduates choose to enter next, I hope they realize that they’re the driver, and it’s never too late to try something new or start over. It’s never too late to start being who you truly are. 

I’ve found it’s challenging to define myself without bringing up the people in my life who have shown care, help, compassion, and hardwork to get me where I wanted to be. First off, thank you to all teachers who have helped me along the way. Who have encouraged me to reach my goals and aspire for more. 

To Señora Rodriguez, thank you, (or should I say gracias,) for helping me discover my love for Spanish culture and my passion for travel. Being your student for 3 years, I’ve learned that your techniques and teaching styles have helped me become a stronger Spanish speaker. Not only that, but I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about your life, experiences, and how wonderful of a person you are. You are always willing to offer help whenever necessary, even if it isn’t Spanish related. 

Next, thank you to Mrs. Hartjes, who helped me discover my love for creative writing. If you’ve never had Mrs. Hartjes as a teacher, I’ll let you in on a secret. She always finds a way to relate to another person, even if they have more differences than similarities. Not only does she have an incredibly understanding heart, she never fails to remind her students that they have a purpose. 

To Ms. Samples, thank you for believing in me academically and sharing your wide range of knowledge. I didn’t think I could pass an AP exam, but with your help, I did. Not only did you make history and politics important and somehow hilarious to me, you opened my eyes to the wide range of possibilities life can offer me. 

And last, but not least, I want to thank Mr. Cummings for all he has done. I don’t think you need to worry about going out of style, because my brother said you were one of the best and coolest teachers, which you still are, 5 years later. My junior year of high school was probably one of the hardest years of my life. And I’m sure most high schoolers can agree with that, however, I was balancing a lot last year. Each of the teachers I’ve talked about have helped me find an aspect of myself that needed to come out for me to know who I am. But I think the most powerful aspect out of them all came from Mr. Cummings, who helped me find my voice. Although he has packed my head with loads of grammar concepts, shoe game talk, and Zoolander quotes, he has stood up for his own beliefs as well as students in a professional, admirable manner. Last year, I had trouble standing up for what I thought was right because I felt alone. But, I realized that I had a lot more support than I originally thought I had. Mr. Cummings was an adult that helped me find my voice to share opinions, facts, explanations, and to do the right thing–even if others weren’t in favor of it. 

I plan to attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in the Fall for Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management with a minor in Spanish. Being the daughter of a journalist, many have asked if I would consider pursuing the career. I will continue to write, and I hope to apply it to my degree in order to research, travel, and communicate ongoing environmental problems and effective solutions to others. I promise, my dad did not force me into journalism or writing at all. 

My last shoutout is to him, which once again I swear he did not make me include. He has experienced a wide range of opportunities to travel, learn, report, and bring the news to others. And although he has successfully done his duty to report the facts for years, he simultaneously has helped me grow as a person. Being 8 years old and seeing my Dad’s face in the paper was pretty neat. And now that I’m 18 years old, it’s just as neat because I see someone who not only loves their job–but who loves me as well. 

So to the class of 2020, it’s time to start a new chapter in life, to make new choices. Be sure to thank the people who have helped you along in this journey, who have made you who you are and supported you in your best and worst times. If high school teaches you one thing, I hope it’s that you have the ability to make your own life. It’s never too late to start being who you want to be.