Letters From Class of ’22: McKenna Fellows


Writing this is nothing short of surreal. Every year for the last 13, I’ve taken comfort in the guarantee of another nine months here. And while I know the saying is to look forward and not back, I simply can’t help but take a (long, sentimental) glance over my shoulder at the past decade and a near half.

A life without Latin occupies no corner of my memory, and frankly it terrifies me to have to leave it for something shiny and new. What is a world without the Lower School rooftop, Middle School Spelling Bees, Upper School … everything? I don’t care to imagine one.

Jokes aside, there is a special something about this school—perhaps becoming truly apparent only toward the end of one’s time here—that touches every individual who floats through its halls. It is neither seen nor heard, but rather felt with every warm passing-period glance between strangers and friends alike, every word of sincere encouragement offered by a peer to a peer, every teacher’s digression about how much they love what they do. Even in the difficult moments—especially then—the essence of Latin lingers to give that extra thrust to the finish line, however it takes shape for you. Today, as I write this, mine is only weeks away.

As blunt and melancholy as it may be, graduation means goodbye. It is foremost a farewell to the good—the immeasurable good that has encapsulated these 14 years and that will continue to do so for those who succeed me and my class. But saying goodbye to the bad is not to be discounted.

The lows of my time here are equally valuable to me as I make my final trips around the five familiar floors of the Upper School. To be a Latin lifer is to observe the ebbs and flows of this school as it evolves over more than a decade; I have done so and then some. It is rather remarkable when a pandemic is not the greatest obstacle to face an institution like Latin by a landslide. My peers and I, for better or for worse, have paid witness to such an atypicality. That said, each confrontation of adversity—from (the necessary) demands for accountability to our nearly two years of remote learning—has made us both more self-aware and resolute in our integrity. It is my most heartfelt wish that you, rising sophomores, juniors and seniors, continue to be steadfast in your own principles for the remainder of your time here and beyond; doing so will be a service wherever you go.

To my peers, you are who have challenged me hardest, uplifted me without question, and given me a second family for the greater portion of my life. The Class of 2022 is beloved at Latin because we love each other. We share a bond—wherein the “special something” lies—that has stood the test of hardships proving to be mere blips in our extraordinary journey together. I could write essays about you all, whether we’re the best of friends or our interaction has been limited to a single think-pair-share many moons ago in 2018. And in some (perhaps naively) optimistic sector of my mind, I believe that we will stay in touch. For we would all be sorely remiss not to.

It used to surprise me when others oohed and ahhed at my mention of attending Latin, but today I understand why with stark clarity. The reason, I am certain, has almost everything to do with the kinds of people this school propels into the world.

So thank you to our propellers.

You are who make this school go round. You feed us, encourage us, and equip us with enough knowledge and confidence to succeed in the “real world” as mere adolescents. Above all, though, you teach us to be ourselves.

I racked my brain for deeper meanings to exploit in my college essay before learning from Mr. Marshall that trying to be profound actually makes you sound less so. He guided me when I decided to write about a public library, of all things, imparting with his quiet wisdom that what is basic can also be the most authentic.

Ms. Kutschke took my, “Science isn’t really my thing,” and turned it into a plea for her recommendation nine months later.

Kendrick showed me just how good teachers can be—a quality that extends far beyond a job title.

When people ask me why I’ve chosen to stay at Latin for so long, my answer never exceeds a few words: “It’s just home.” And while I could easily elaborate, in this instance there is simply no need. The well of tears forming in my eyes as I type is a perfect testament to everything that the last 14 years have given me.

Borrowing words from a speech I wrote not long ago, there’s a famous Latin buzzword that, throughout the time I have attended this school, has only crescendoed in the ears of the student body. The word is Fidelitas, and it means fidelity, or faithfulness. For the longest time I wondered why, of all the regal foreign words out there, this one was chosen as Latin’s motto. But as I approach my final days here, what is evident to me is just how faithful this community is to the intertwined processes of learning and growing.

We understand that an education is something that transcends the validation of a diploma; that it is an intangible gift that we should uphold as one of our most valuable assets; that its “worth” cannot be quantified, nor can it be confined to the rigidity of subjects learned through a high school or collegiate curriculum. We frame our education as an accumulation of personal growth—intellectually, culturally, and experientially, and we gain some of our greatest insights outside of the classroom, through the application of existing academic knowledge to real-world decision-making. We know that our education is multifaceted—that it comprises not only our academic triumphs, but our depth of character and experiences—and this is what empowers us as students.

The gratitude I have for this place is indescribable. Above all else, Latin has made me privy to the fact that being “smart” is one thing, but it is another altogether to apply such a gift to the pursuit of new challenges, the use of one’s voice for good, and the probing for meaning beyond what is immediate and obvious. We exit its doors with a simultaneous acknowledgement that we do not know everything and desire to keep learning anyway. Our Latin education testifies to this faith in the unknown and the unlearned, this Fidelitas, that exists in everyone here and that will carry us far beyond these walls.

I’ll miss you most, 59 W. North Blvd. Go Romans.