Even with The Vedette staff scattered across the globe, the presses still roll. The team recently published a special online edition covering how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students. The following article was written by staffer Di Tian ’21 (Shanghai, China).
By Di Tian
“…Proud am I of Culver, And to be a Culver grad.”
Though sitting by their most-talkative friends, none of the crowd wanted to break the silence after the echo of their most memorable Culver lyrics, knowing that this might be their last time singing this song with their hands on the shoulders of their brothers and sisters.
On a warm, cloudless Friday, March 13, nearly 80 days before graduation, the final decision was announced: school will be closed (and remain so for the remainder of the year, though that fact wasn’t clear at the time) and we are all dismissed. Students sat in the grand – yet emotionless – Eppley Auditorium, quietly accepting this sudden conclusion of the school year. We looked around at a loss, not knowing what to do next.
“By my left shoulder was my senior roommate, and on my right side was my one of my best friends,” a CMA junior recalled, “I tried so hard to hold my tears, but when I saw those people I had known for three years, I could not stop crying.”
Students felt lost, not just because of their reluctance to part from their friends, but also because of their anxiety about what to do next. It changed so fast, leaving everyone surprised and unprepared. Seniors had to give up their last chance to spend their spring with their most valuable friends in high school.
As flights got suspended, many students, especially international students, faced difficulties in the process of getting on a plane back home. One of the Chinese students had transferred to three different airports, and been quarantined for 14 days, before finally getting home. Uncertainty was hanging over everyone like a dark ghost that overshadowed all plans and hopes, at least at that moment.
While the cancellation of school was a devastating blow, the students would not let their spirits be brought down. Culver students quickly recovered stronger and more united than ever. Despite having the option to leave early, many students chose to stay with their friends at school for the last weekend. Seniors chatted and danced in Beason till closing, letting go all the unforeseen misfortune and appreciating their last piece of Culver memory. The Shack was filled with laughter and teenagers unwilling to say goodbye to their most cherished friends.
COVID-19 might take away our favorite classes or clubs, punctual cannon firing or orderly BRC marching, flowers on Beason grass or chairs on the East Barrack balcony, trophies in speech meets or cheering on the track field. But we all have so much more inside us that cannot be taken away. One of my favorite sayings from Chinese martial arts goes: “Counter thousands of changes with an unchanged heart.” In this unprecedented crisis, despite everything outside being so volatile and unpredictable, Cardinal Virtues and Culver Values stand firmly inside every one of us.
Our community shows great support to one another as always. On my way to the Shack to meet my friends on March 13, I saw a maintenance staffer struggling to push his malfunctioning truck uphill. I helped him push his truck to the Naval Building. Several days later, when I needed to store my clothes and books, my mentor, Mr. Nathan Wachtmann, helped me pack and placed everything in his basement. I do what I can to help the community, and the community returns the support when I need it.
This sense of servant leadership, “to place others before self,” is what Culver has been valuing since its establishment and is what will help Culver through this crisis. Besides service, the trust between teachers and students committed to the Honor Code remains unchallenged no matter when or where we are.
Statistics instructor April Bain fully trusts and encourages students to take responsibility of their own learning. “Although there’s no homework submissions, no tests or grade, I feel more motivated to learn because it’s for my own sake,” one of her students responded.
Chemistry instructor Adrian Dingle even trusts his students to grade their own tests. “I know [my students], and I trust them.”
What also remains unchanged is the sense of duty “to fulfill all obligations.” Although many leadership plans were interrupted, student leaders came up with creative ways to engage their followers and take care of their obligations. Coaches and athletic officers create fitness challenges to ensure the well-being of everyone; technology coordinators carefully check on everyone to ensure the accessibility of online learning; and the unit commanders guide the reading of the book Legacy with cadets to prepare them for future positions.
Instead of giving up or using the social distancing as an excuse, student leaders adapted to find various ways to fulfill their duties and take care of their followers.
“…Proud am I of Culver, And to be a Culver grad.”
Culver ties us together, beyond time zones, state and national boundaries, and travel limitations. And the virtues and values Culver taught us will guide us through this difficult time, and any other ones we might face in future time.