In Headmaster Bill Taylor’s words: “This year’s Head Prefect is a perfect illustration of someone who embraces a growth mindset. As a student, athlete, and citizen, he is committed to his own growth. As a leader, he is also committed to his own growth, even when that growth can be challenging. He is not afraid to hold himself accountable, which is a hallmark of true leadership that I am sure will be in full supply next year at Clarkson University. Simply, he has courage when it matters. He is also an incredibly kind person and someone who commands respect because he is kind. It is my pleasure to present the McCollom Award to the Head Prefect of the Class of 2022, Joe Porto.”
Joe Porto ’22 addresses the Class of 2022:
Mr. Taylor, Mr. Romain, The Board of Trustees, Faculty and Staff, Parents, and especially, my classmates in the Class of 2022: I would like to start off by saying thank you to the trustees, faculty, staff, and my fellow classmates. Now for the last time, good morning. At the beginning of the year, I gave a chapel talk about why I chose Trinity-Pawling and about my experiences at T-P. I ended the talk with a quote from Mr. Davenport “just be a good guy” which was told to me at the beginning of my freshman year. Of course, we may have made a few mistakes along the way, but we recovered and turned ourselves around to be good guys again. This year we were all good guys and some of us were great guys. The expectation was to just be a normal person and follow the golden rule, but with the strength of our community, this year’s expectations were exceeded. Thank you to everyone for making this year special for us as seniors and congratulations to every member of the community, because we have officially made it through another unique year of learning.
Before coming back to school I had a phone call with Mr. Taylor saying that since we were all getting vaccinated, he was trying to get approval from the Governor for Trinity-Pawling to be mask optional. Sadly, that wasn’t possible and we started the school year wearing masks and it felt like this year was going to be like last year, where we couldn’t go into other dorms or hang out together without masks. Throughout the fall and early winter, our amount of COVID protocols kept becoming fewer and fewer, until we came back after Christmas break. After Christmas break, we had to adapt to a new class schedule and went back to having only 4 chairs per table at the dining hall, instead of the 10 which we became used to having again in the fall. Luckily that wave of COVID passed and we were able to decrease the COVID protocols again and, finally, be at school again without masks. We all were incredibly ecstatic when Mr. Taylor made the announcement that Trinity-Pawling had become mask optional, with the Governor dropping the mask mandate for schools. After the dropping of the mask mandate this spring, we have been able to live life at Trinity-Pawling normally, like we were used to 3 years ago before COVID even existed. As we returned to normal, the community kept becoming stronger and we were slowly taking safe risks returning back to pre-COVID Trinity-Pawling.
I have been at Trinity-Pawling for four years, and every year has been different and had its own ups and downs. My freshman year, the, 2018-19 school year, was what would be considered the most normal school year because it was pre-COVID. We had all of the regular traditions that year like the Thanksgiving dinner, Candlelight dinner, Stepping up in the Chapel, and Graduation where everyone could be there. My sophomore year, the 2019-2020 school year, was definitely something unique, and I hope we never go through that again. We had a normal beginning of the year with the Thanksgiving dinner and the Candlelight dinner, but then during Spring Break, everything changed. We first just got a longer spring break and we were all super happy having more time at home, but then COVID had spread and we found out we weren’t coming back to finish the year. Last year, in my junior year, the main tradition we had was softball in the spring. We had very few all-school gatherings and when we did they were outside, so everyone would have space around them. At our final family-style lunch together the other day, we were talking and realized that we never even went into the chapel last year, and we barely went into the theatre. We had all of our chapels outside and usually by grade. This year, in my senior year, we were able to bring back and have all of the traditions we had before COVID. Despite wearing masks in the fall until the mandate was dropped this spring, we were still able to have the Thanksgiving Chapel Service and dinner, the Candlelight Service and dinner, softball, Stepping Up in the Chapel, and Graduation together, today, with everyone. There are only about 30 students who completed a full school year before COVID. Despite having less than 15% of students who have experienced these traditions, we were able to bring the old traditions back, and have what felt like a more normal year.
Being able to have a more normal year allowed us as students to try new things and take healthy risks. At Trinity-Pawling, we are taught to take chances and try something new that you may have never even thought of trying before. We are shown and taught that at Trinity-Pawling the worst thing that could happen when you tried was that you made a mistake or even failed. When we failed or made a mistake, our classmates and teachers were there to help us overcome that challenge and show us how we could fix the problem, or teach us a new way so we wouldn’t fail. We all make mistakes and fail at times. I know during my time at Trinity-Pawling, I have definitely failed and made mistakes. But I was still content with myself and what I did because I failed by trying. The most important advice I learned over my time at Trinity-Pawling, that I think will help me in any challenges I face in the future, is to stay positive and try in everything I do. When you try you are going to succeed, fail, and/or mess up, but don’t let that stop you from trying again and having fun. Learning to laugh at yourself and with others when you mess up is rewarding because when you succeed you can celebrate with the same people that were there for you when you failed. Next year, let’s continue to try because it will lead to success right away, or eventually will bring us to success.
Looking to next year, you might be nervous, anxious, or even scared to go to college or start the next school year, but I can assure you that you aren’t alone. I am feeling all those emotions about the start of college too. I came to Trinity-Pawling my freshman year not knowing anybody and on top of that, I was never away from home for longer than a few days without my family. And next year I will be a freshman again in a whole new place where I know very few people. This time, I will have experience living away from home though, and being with new people I didn’t know yet. It is sometimes concerning to think that next year we will be living with a total stranger we have never met before. Yet, like we did at Trinity-Pawling, we will quickly learn about them and they won’t be a stranger for long. We are going to face many new challenges in college and may have a hard time overcoming them the first time. But if we continue to face those challenges head-on, we will get over them and succeed. By trying, like we learned at Trinity-Pawling, we will be able to find success again.
I wish all of us the best of luck next year and now “onward” to the next chapter of our lives!