Missing the Northeast: Reflections from a Catholic high school graduate

For four years of our lives – definitely some of the most formative years of our lives – high schools become our second homes. In addition to classes, we might spend additional time there for extracurricular activities. Then when we go home, we do additional work for school that essentially permeates into the rest of our lives. With so much time dedicated to school, we doubtless have an endless amount of stories and other memories, many of which are hopefully positive.

If we are ever forced to part ways with our childhood homes – whether due to moving, foreclosure or something more negative – we would feel like a part of us has been destroyed. We feel as if our identities are being stripped away, identities that soon exist as nothing more than memories.

I believe the case is the same in terms of how we view our school years. Now I am lucky enough to have gone to a high school, Archbishop Ryan, that will hopefully be immune to closure for a long time due to it being co-ed and its accessible location with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia – right on the edge of Northeast Philadelphia and almost right down the street from the suburbs.

Not everybody is so lucky. Take my parents, for instance. My father graduated from Northeast Catholic, which closed in June 2010. And the Archdiocese suggested at the beginning of the month that my mom’s alma mater, St. Hubert’s, be one of nearly 50 schools to close at the end of the school year. The future will be certain once the Archdiocese announces its official decision in mid-February.

What I Will Miss

I guess you could argue this particular column is less about what I do miss and more about what I would miss. As I mentioned earlier, schools are physical representations of our most formative years. For many, if these representations are removed from existence, we may feel as if a part of us has been removed.

As my parents get older and have other representations of themselves (i.e. their kids, like me) to worry about, their high school experiences are but a dot in their rear view mirrors.

However, it’s something that hits me pretty hard. I don’t know about everybody else, but my first understanding of high school life came from stories told to me by my parents. I remember my dad telling me about what he learned in his English classes and my mom telling me about working behind- the-scenes during plays.

My parents aside, all of the archdiocesan schools that are slated to close have thousands of alumni and many years of tradition that make closure seem almost unfathomable.

 What I Would Miss

I think what bothers me the most about these school closures, aside from the shuttering of the alma maters of my parents and friends who went to some of these schools, is the fear that this might happen to my high school one day. I know that I enjoyed my four years there – years that allowed me to meet many of my closest friends. Additionally, high school is where I fell in love with journalism (my current career in PR is an extension of that), performed in a play for this first time and established an appreciation for reading.

If I was able to have an enjoyable quartet of years, then other people can too. If a school can produce positive results for one person, it can produce similar results for others, as well.

Now I don’t get back to my high school all that much nowadays, especially since I live nearly two hours away. However, back when my sister went to school, I would come home for the weekend to see her perform in the plays or pick her up after school if I was on vacation from college. But I always enjoy going back when I can, seeing how things have changed.

Maybe someday – possibly 10 to 15 years down the line – I’ll be able to walk through the halls of my (hopefully still intact) high school with the children I hope to have, telling stories and giving them an understanding of what their high school experiences will be like.

Missing the Northeast is a column written by Stephen Wilson, a former Northeast resident who moved to New Jersey for work. You can read his column on the last Monday of every month.

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