Dear Fairbanks…..A letter from Gage Garlinghouse

Gage, a senior at Fairbanks, submitted this open letter to our school community. Thank you, Gage!!

Dear Fairbanks,

This year has certainly been something special hasn’t it? Who would have thought that we’d be kept away from each other for this long. I know that this means different things to all of us, no matter the position. Be it teacher or faculty, student or parent. We all have a stake in this, and this has a stake in all of us. And while there’s nothing I can do, or say that will make any of this better or feel like it is all going to be okay, that doesn’t mean I can’t try. 

Seniors, I’m one of you so I guess that I have the most authority to speak on this case, but none of us planned on our senior year ending like this. The time we are missing is the time that makes senior year special and different and worth waiting for. High School was not my time in the limelight, it had many ups and downs as I’m sure it was for many of us. I never really got into the whole spectacle of the senior year, but I know that many wanted, waited and looked forward to this year more than just about any other. We lost our final seasons, our prom, our musical, our clubs, our band, our trip, our picnic, our skip day, our celebration, and most importantly an in persson graduation. Nothing can make up for that. We don’t have next year to fix it or another grading period, this was it. And I get that it can feel stolen from you or ruined. But it’s all going to be okay. Through my years of being with this class I know that you can push through anything and can make it into something special. And while this isn’t what any of us wanted it’s what we have to do. We have to push forward and look to the future that we have made with our hard work. We have the potential to make this quarantine and the rest of this year into something that no one will ever be able to replicate, no matter how hard mother nature tries. Sure we have lost out on a lot and there isn’t anything that I can say that will make any of that better, but we can still make this special. We can better ourselves, our community, our anything. I know that we can, because I know you and  deep down I think you know it too. We may joke about stuff but when we have to we get work done. And that’s what we need to do, get work done, and continue on with that same pride and skill we’ve always had. You were an amazing class to be with throughout the years, and I’m honored that I’m able to say I was a part of it. 

Underclassmen and everyone who isn’t a senior, we haven’t forgotten about you. I know that really all of the focus is going to the seniors right now, but you aren’t forgotten. Your teachers, friends, classmates and families are there for you just as much as they are for us. So don’t forget that you have people, and that it will be all okay. 

Juniors, this is hard for you guys just like it is for seniors. This is the year when your grades really matter and remote learning can be a pain in the butt sometimes, like when Schoology doesn’t work. And I know that for you it’s kinda hard since you have to start making decisions on your future, like where you want to go to college, how do you get your SAT/ACT scores up, what’s a FAFSA? College visits being very limited right now also makes it hard to do anything about them. There are online resources to find them and Mrs. Studenmund can help you with any of these questions. But this is a lot to handle all on your own, I get that. I get that you’re stressed and miserable and just wish it was all over. Trust me when I say, it’s no different than if you were at school. At least the feelings aren’t. Many of you are missing out on your extracurriculars and just like with the seniors I can’t really say anything to make that better. Except for this, you’ve got one more year. One glorious and final year in high school that you get to do all of the stuid stuff that you could possibly dream. All of the senior traditions, all of the honor, all of the pay off is yours in one more year. You’ll be out there doing what you do best again, be it sports or clubs or anything. You’ve got a whole other year to enjoy them and make up for missing out on them this year. Once the seniors are gone you guys are top dogs in the school and it’s nice. So just hold in there, everyone is here for you to help you or be with you if you need. And you’ve still got the best to come of your high school years. 

Sophomores and Freshmen, this is new. Many of you are getting ready to take your first AP test and let me just say, breathe. You’ve got this. Your teachers are there to answer any questions and help you out the best they can. You’ve got the skills, now it’s just time to show them off. Like with the juniors you guys have more time to make up for all that you’re missing. Sure it’s never going to be the same, but it’s still time. And time is one of those commodities that you don’t fully appreciate until you’ve run out of it. But just hold on. With my experiences TAing for some Freshmen classes and interactions with the sophomores I know you guys have got this. You guys each have the potential to be one of the best classes that this school has ever seen and if you keep impressing your future teachers like you’ve impressed an extremely jaded senior then you’ve got this in the bag. So relax, have fun, do your work and remember that you’ve got some great years ahead and that we’re all here and rooting for you. 

Middle schoolers, I’m going to be honest I don’t fully understand all that you are missing. I guess I’ve just been too removed from it all to understand. I know that for 8th graders the picnic and DC. As for 7th and 6th grade, I know you’re missing out on your movie day and other fun stuff that you guys get to do. But I do know that this is bad all around. For the 8th graders it’s your final year before moving on up to the high school, for 6th it’s your first year in the middle school, and 7th graders get that awkward middle child year. But it’ll be better soon. 8th graders, you’ll soon get to be freshmen, and just know that all the jokes aren’t meant in poor humor, every class goes through them. 7th graders, soon you’ll be the heads of the middle school and trust me there is some very fun stuff waiting in 8th grade. And for the 6th graders, soon all of this won’t be so strange. Soon you won’t have those scheduled bathroom breaks that you never need to go during but always have to during class. Things get better as they go on in middle school. Don’t let yourselves get bogged down in the craziness of what’s going on, and look forward to your bright future. You guys have some of the most time to make decisions about who or what you want to be and that’s incredible. Use it, be whatever you want to be. Don’t be scared to dream, it’s a very good thing. We’re all watching out for what you can do, and we’ll be supporting you the best we possibly can be.

To the Elementary students, wow it feels like forever ago I was one of you. The other day I got an email from a 5th grader and I remembered my time in that grade. It was when I first came to Fairbanks and got to experience Panther Pride and all that goes along with it. For many of you the elementary will still be a great place to be. It’ll still be fun. For the 5th graders, don’t be scared about the changes that are coming next year. I know they’re big and scary but your teachers have prepared you for them and your teachers next year will get you to feel right at home. For the rest of you, keep doing what you’re doing. Keep living life and having fun. Actually that goes for everyone. Don’t lose that childlike wonder that you guys have, or that curiosity or playfulness. It makes peoples days a lot better. While what’s going on may seem scary I promise it will be all better soon and until it is all of your friends, family, teachers and people older than you are there to support and encourage you. 

Faculty, I know that remote learning has been a struggle for all of you and has been a pain to figure out. I also realize that we may not have figured it out yet, and that’s okay. I know many of you have lost a lot be it a club, or sport or activity or anything, just like us. So I just wanted to say thank you. Many of you are parents and I’ll be getting to that here in a minute but it also adds to the fact that you’re still taking care of us and that’s amazing. You’ve supported us throughout our schooling career whether that be one or thirteen years worth. You guys show amazing resolve and willingness to help and make us better and for that we could never say thank you enough. To our teachers who learn about us and teach us, and put up with us day to day. To our custodians who make sure our buildings are as safe and clean as they possibly can be. To the cooks who make many people food every week day. To the management and people who work in the offices who make sure the school runs and functions on a macro level. To the bus drives who are some of the first and last people we interact with in the day. And to everyone that may have just slipped my mind, I just wanted to say, thank you. You have given us the best possible experience at and away from the school and it shows. It’s not always easy but you still try. Please never stop trying. This world needs more people like you. People who are willing to try. 

And finally to the parents and families, I hope you’ve enjoyed all the extra family time. But in all seriousness, thank you. You guys have, for the most part, kept us sane and safe and healthy given the state of the world. Ever since we were children you’ve done all that you can for us to provide and now given this hard time many of you can’t work or anything, and those that can are putting themselves at danger. We can pull through this together. Sure we may need a little more support right now, or maybe even a little more distance but we definitely need you. And for all that you’re giving us it means a lot. You have allowed us to grow into who we are today and will continue to grow into. We know you are struggling through this hard time for many reasons, some similar, some different than us. But just take a breath, relax and just be for a moment. Work and stress can take a back seat for a time. You and your family are what are important right now and you’re doing a great job. We’re going to get through this, I know at least that much. 

Fairbanks, we can do this. You’ve heard many of your leaders say that we are all in this together and they’re right. We lean on each other to survive, and I know we can. We have the capability to come out of this stronger and better than ever. So let’s take this chance and relax some, become who we want to be, have fun, dream again, and look forward to the future. We may not have the today that we wanted, but we still have the ability to make tomorrow brighter. 

Sincerely, 

Gage Garlinghouse, class of 2020

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