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Rotondo: ‘I’m not thinking about my own future right now, I’m thinking about the future for my colleagues’

Irene Rotondo
@irenerrotondo

The energy of this campus has changed. I can feel it, and I think the other seniors can feel it too. It’s not the same as before, when we all stepped out as a unified group of unaware 18-year-olds in August 2018. We secured a maroon-and-white beanie atop our heads with one hand while we wrapped a brand-new lanyard from the bookstore (crisp new ID dangling) around our necks, excited and beautifully naive to what our college experience would be.

In my memory, it was different here before COVID. Before the EEE mosquito virus. Before the deaths of first-year students during both my freshman and sophomore years.

Before someone drove their car through President Mary-Beth Cooper’s front gates, before everyone got their catalytic converters stolen, and before the ‘I wonder why…’ community art wall went up, which detailed sexual violence and racial disparities experienced by students on campus, Springfield College was a different place.

And despite these tragedies — some close to home for us on Alden Street, some felt by the world — Springfield College has maintained its Humanics philosophy, continued construction on buildings, inducted alumni into the various Halls of Fame, and graduated students from its campus. Classes have been held, games have been hosted, facilities workers have kept cleaning, and Cheney is still open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The College has kept moving, a well-oiled machine designed for higher education to form students into leaders, all for “the future of our country.” 

And this is not to say that Springfield College does not still hold the bravado and glamour it did for me when I first arrived. Students still clap when someone drops their plate in Cheney, they still hold doors open for people yards away, and they still transform the dirt backyards of the Townhouses into a haven for extroverts every Saturday night.

But, even as I begin to close my senior year, with just 4.5 credits and the spring semester to go, I’m not thinking about my own future right now. I’m thinking about the future for my colleagues graduating from here who still have two, three, or four years to go. What will they take away from their experience? Did they even have what one could feasibly call, “the college experience?” 

I still recount our freshman year memories with my friends I’ve been with since Dirty Gu; we still look at videos from our comically-tiny rooms of the shenanigans we’d partake in, at least 10 of us crammed in at once to enjoy each other’s presence.

I feel lucky enough to have these memories. I am extremely grateful for the time I have been blessed enough to have; I know the classes below mine were only able to experience a semester, at most, before COVID ruined it all.

So, for my final semester at the College, I’ve decided the tragedies we’ve all experienced aren’t going to plague me anymore. I’m not going to think about the “what-ifs:” what if COVID never happened, or what if Jake hadn’t died? Those are circumstances out of my control, and because, as a collective human race, we’ve had so much taken from us, I will be taking this semester as an opportunity, not as a chance to mourn what could have been.

I’m thrilled for Senior Week, for Sti-Yu-Ka, for the lacrosse games and for the daytime parties fueled by warm weather and fewer responsibilities. I’m excited that my last required class I need to get my diploma will be taught by my beloved mentor, Marty Dobrow, who has guided me each step I’ve taken through young adult life at the College. I can’t wait to soak up every minute I’ll have with my six roommates, most of whom have been with me from the beginning (and the others quickly becoming my sisters too) before we all have to leave our microcosm of a Townhouse.

And lastly, I’m confident that the energy my class felt our first year here will return. I’ve seen the inner workings of the College by now, the way unseen heroes go the extra mile to keep those around them happy. There are survivors who remember the way it used to be, and those who do not know can still feel the way it should be.

I believe the energy of Springfield College was magical before, and even through the darkness that was the last few years, the College has continued to shine as a beacon of light for students trying to find themselves. 

Springfield College has never stopped moving, and I believe that the fortitude of this institution will spark the original Spirit for the Pride once again.

Photo Courtesy of The Springfield Student

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