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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2020 3 months ago

Windermere Prep Class of 2020: Growing up in a changing world

From the very beginning, the Class of 2020 has jokingly been told that they are the class of perfect vision. But that prompts the question: What exactly are we seeing?

By Anavi Uppal
Salutatorian, Class of 2020 

From the very beginning, the Class of 2020 has jokingly been told that they are the class of perfect vision. But that prompts the question: What exactly are we seeing?

We've witnessed so much change in the nearly two decades we've spent in this world. Having grown up in the early 2000s, we've been among the first generations to experience the global shift into the digital age. We were in kindergarten when the first iPhone came out, and Apple gradually digitized our personal lives. We watched as our classroom whiteboards and projectors were slowly replaced by SMART boards. Even our downtime consisted of copious amounts of Wii, Club Penguin, Webkinz and much more.

As we grew older, we became immersed in an increasingly globalized world. Our tastes and interests drew from countries and cultures all around the globe. The WPS Class of 2020 has become especially acquainted with global cultures, with the boarding program bringing students from all over the world together in Windermere, Florida. We've become friends with students whose homes are thousands of miles away in countries such as Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Norway, Ukraine and Vietnam.

With this globalization, we have also gained an increased awareness and respect for the issues that our Earth is facing today. Deforestation in the Amazon, fires in California and Australia, the growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, have all made the headlines. During the 2000s and 2010s, these environmental issues have bubbled up to the top of our generation's consciousness. Our increased connectivity has also brought us closer to ever-present human issues, like poverty, hunger, and illness. We've read the accounts of gun violence in schools and communities across the country, and it has affected the way that we go about our daily lives.

And now, we're faced with one of the biggest changes that we've had to deal with in our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed what we thought our senior year — the crowning achievement of our academic careers — was going to be like. But rather than be intimidated by this change, the WPS Class of 2020 has risen up to meet it.

Why? Because that's what we've always done in response to change. With our trademark perfect vision, we've looked at the change around us and have embraced it. We've tried to bring as much creativity and light into the world as possible with each step that we take. It's the little things, like having a nice morning conversation with Mama Rat in the school store, and the bigger ones, like raising thousands of dollars for community organizations and natural disaster relief.

Our experiences at WPS have changed the way that we view the world. We gained an appreciation for nature as we trekked into the Grand Canyon. We developed a respect for our history in the countless museums we visited in Washington, D.C. We learned to appreciate what we have as we helped build a school in Tanzania. These experiences and many more have created a unique class of WPS Lakers who are poised to make a difference in the world.

The WPS Class of 2020 is made up of budding pilots, dancers, doctors, astrophysicists, actors, entrepreneurs, fashion designers, and many more incredible people. WPS has given us the tools and guidance we need to navigate our changing world. Every single member of our class of 134 students is ready to step into the world in their own unique way.

What makes the WPS Class of 2020 special is not just the people in it. It's all the people that we've affected. The friends we've made. The families that we've spent time with. The strangers we've volunteered with for over 17,000 hours. We've grown up in a changing world, and we've decided to change it, too. I'm honored to be a part of this amazing group of individuals, and I can't wait to witness our impact on the world in the future.

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