Hayley Ross-Settineri '21
What the John Thomas Dye School Means to Me In a Few, Short, Lyrics
The words that have always been with me whether I'm walking into my classroom on campus or logging into a zoom classroom at home, are the lyrics to a song that has been with me throughout my entire JTD career. This is the song that was taught to us our first music class in Kindergarten, the song that we sing when we are huddled around a table with canned foods waiting to be donated, the song that we sing when a big candle is the only light in the whole school, and the song that I sang as a first grader during the Thanksgiving feast on the bleachers, dressed up as a pilgrim. This song is so special to me not just because of the number of years it's been in my life, but because the lyrics really do talk about JTD and really do symbolize this wonderful place that I have been lucky to call my school.
I'll hold my friends, for I will need them. My friends are amazing people. It's as simple as that. They are the people who I can go to if I need help with an assignment, if I need people to play roof ball with at recess, if I need suggestions on which show to watch, If I need somebody to sit with at lunch, or even If I'm just having a bad day and need someone to cheer me up. JTD has admitted such amazing students, and my hope for the future is that they will keep admitting students who will never forget each other when their paths diverge.
I'm not alone. At JTD, I never feel alone. Whether it's a teacher, any faculty member, my classmates and friends, or a good book from the library, I always find myself laughing off an embarrassing fall, finding out I actually liked nonfiction books, or catching up on an assignment I missed or needed help with. Everyone who goes to or works at this school knows at JTD, you're not alone, and someone is always there for you when you need it. Here we are one. This is a community where everyone is one, no one is ever left alone, left behind, or anything like that. My family was the very first family to get admitted into JTD with gay dads. On my first day, I was a little bit nervous. I wasn't sure if I was going to fit in, because as I saw parents saying goodbye, I noticed there weren't any like mine. To my surprise, that day went on like any other first day; meeting new friends and teachers introducing what we would do for the year. I was also really excited that I was going to get to play on the playground that in my own words was, "For big kids." Since that day, things were even better than normal, and the first time "I had two dads" was brought up, my friends said the exact words of, "That's so cool!" From then on, I started to realize more and more throughout the years that we were a community, and no one was ever treated differently than others. During the salutation of the dawn, everyone is around the lawn, reciting the same thing in unison each day. During take S's everyone is in the hall together. Everyone is always together, and that is something I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life.
And if I fall, or if I stumble, I know I've got a hand to help me carry on. In many ways I have stumbled whether I've fallen on the pavement and skinned my knee, hit the handball over the handball wall, or finished a project late, but someone is always there to help me. Besides from my own problems, the school has had a few major ones, but has been able to get back up on its feet because everyone is helping each other. During the fires as a third grader, the only thing I remember was being so scared that the portraits were going to burn down, so the second I heard that the portraits were saved, I was so excited that tears started to well up in my eyes thinking of what life at school would be like without them. It was silly to me, worrying about three portraits that had no meaning, but now that I am graduating, I will miss walking into the hall and seeing Uncle John, Auntie Cathrine, and John Thomas Dye all smiling at me.
The school has also not stumbled, but fallen in March of last year, 2020, when COVID-19 hit. We all were gathered into the hall, and everyone was nervous after seeing the news of a deadly virus spreading around the U.S. I was nervous too, but not about dying and getting the virus, but about possibly not being able to come to this campus again, see my friends again, see my teachers again, and more. I was so attached to this school (and still am) that I would do anything for it, not caring if I got sick from a deadly virus infecting our country. JTD slowly started to situate things from there. They implemented a new form of learning called "Remote learning," or, "Online learning," and it was a struggle for me. I was not happy to see my friends and teachers on a screen, but kept telling myself to be grateful for what I have. Soon enough, we were back at school on Wednesdays, and now, we are here fully, watching the pandemic slowly start to go away. This school has had to get through many challenges, but we always get back up on our feet.
Throughout my years at this school, I have learned so much and gained so much, that as I am graduating this year and writing this, I am remembering my memories at this school and thinking about how this too will soon be a memory replaying in my head. This school has taken many turns, but we always "Turn mistakes into happy accidents," as the art room says. These lyrics are whatJTD means to me, and as my path changes from other people's paths, I will keep singing this song in my head, remembering these lyrics, and wishing I could stay at JTD forever.