By Taylor Giuffre-Catalano, RHS Class Secretary ‘18
Thursday, March 12, 2020 inadvertently became one of the most notable days in recent Revere High School history. “I never thought it was going to end like this,” recalled senior Emily Woodman. The former field hockey captain who, for years, watched her older sister Samantha make her way through Revere High rites of passage, was “shocked,” when the coronavirus pandemic escalated in Revere, leading to the abrupt closure of schools.
Though, from March 12 on, the end of her senior year was indefinite, she was hopeful that school might reopen, so she could have “closure” on her senior year: That was until Governor Charlie Baker closed schools statewide on April 21 for the remainder of the year. With the closure of schools came the cancellation of Senior Prom, the Boat Cruise, Talent Show, Mr. RHS, Spring Sports, and more.
Woodman commented, “As seniors, we didn’t know that we would be walking in the halls for the last time on March 12. That’s definitely something that is still hard to process. We never got to say goodbye.”
Emily’s older sister, Samantha, graduated with honors in 2017, and is now a junior at Emmanuel College. “As an alumni and the sister of a senior, not only did I feel terrible that the Class of 2020 would miss out on activities that provided me with some of the best memories in high school, but I saw upfront the emotional toll not having these events was taking on our seniors,” Samantha explained. The Woodman family was not alone.
The O’Donnell family fell into a similar predicament. After graduating from Revere High School in 2018, Holy Cross sophomore, and former Class Treasurer James O’Donnell III witnessed his younger sister, star field hockey player Katie, “robbed” of her senior year experience. James noted, “For myself and close to every member of the Revere community, COVID-19 has been devastating to our way of life. Of the many things the virus has taken away from us, the cancellation of the school year is what struck me the most.” He continued, explaining, “The memories I had made during the final few months of my senior year, I look back at rather fondly time and time again… This was supposed to be the year my younger sister would have had those experiences, and I hoped she would have revered them as much as I do.”
As the situation for the senior class looked bleak, former Revere High School class officers and alumni stepped up to help. “I knew it was time to step in,” James explained. Others agreed.
Jenna Wells, who graduated as Class President last year, now studies at Salem State. Wells, who was the assistant coach of the Revere High field hockey team this past fall, acted as the thread between seniors Emily and Katie, alumni Samantha and James, and other former class officers. Wells said, “After hearing the news that schools in Massachusetts were shut down for the year… one of the first things that came to mind were all the senior activities… and even graduation, that would potentially be cancelled or rescheduled.”
The team of Jenna Wells, Samantha Woodman, James O’Donnell III, and yours truly,Taylor Giuffre-Catalano, began to brainstorm, and reached out to other former class officers and alumni. It seemed that everyone was on board. Wells noted, “Myself and former class officers wanted to do something to help.” With a team assembled, consisting of former Class Presidents, Gianni Hill (‘17), Megan Nguyen (‘18), and Jenna Wells (‘19), Vice Presidents, Henry Batista (‘18) and Brandon Nguyen (‘19), Secretaries Cindy Murphy (‘17) and Taylor Giuffre-Catalano (‘18), Treasurers James O’Donnell III (‘18) and Cristian Acuna (‘19), and alumnae Samantha Woodman (‘17) and Natalie Maggioli (‘18), support for the Class of 2020 was inevitable.
In terms of planning something for the Class of 2020, O’Donnell III explained how the cancellation of “several crucial senior fundraisers” would inevitably leave the class in “relatively weak” financial circumstances. He continued, noting, “Though [the class] would not be having traditional end of senior year events, we wanted to make sure they had enough funds to afford whatever the class itself decided they wanted, whether it was keepsakes for the whole class or space for an event once social gatherings are allowed.” Therefore, O’Donnell III articulated, the fundraising initiative began on the popular crowdfunding website, GoFundMe, where users can donate electronically, and the fundraiser can be shared on social media websites, such as Facebook.
Wells continued where O’Donnell III left off, explaining how the plan is to “donate one-hundred-percent of the money raised” to the Class of 2020 Student Council, with the primary goal of “easing costs.” Wells concluded, “Although this is a time of uncertainty for everyone, we just wanted to show the senior class that ourselves as well as the community are behind them through this difficult time. It is not an ideal way to remember and spend their senior year, but we hope when it is safe to do so they are able to celebrate many of their accomplishments.”
The emotional connection between alumni and current students still runs strong, be it through sibling or familial bonds, former teammates, or even friendly faces from the cafeteria. Though Samantha Woodman saw her sister “cheated” out of senior activities and “so many nights of just hanging with friends before leaving for college,” she remains hopeful. She explained, “I just wanted my sister to have all the joys of senior year, and hopefully this GoFundMe can return what was taken from her and all other seniors.”
O’Donnell III agreed, lamenting, “My sister aside, I believe every student that passed through Revere High School should have as fond memories of their senior year as I did. I believed it to be my responsibility to help in anyway that I could and several recent Revere High graduates agreed with me.” He concluded, “We understand that the senior year these students were looking forward to for several years is not what they had expected, but us alumni wanted to make sure there were no financial barriers for these seniors to make the most of what they can.”
Current Senior Class President, Jason Acosta, is headed off to Dartmouth College in the fall. Speaking on the behalf of the class, he noted, “We are incredibly thankful for the generosity of our Revere High School alumni as well as the supporters on our GoFundMe page. In difficult times like these, it is inspiring and encouraging to see such kind actions from warm-hearted people.” He continued, explaining, “I think I can speak on behalf of the class and say that senior year did not go as we planned, but we are thankful for all the input and resources provided to help recover what we can.” As for the future, Class of 2020 officers are still hard at work in planning throughout the pandemic. Acosta concluded, “As we continue to look forward to graduation and other events, I want to thank the senior class for their input and involvement over the past few months. I, along with all your class officers, hope to see you again soon.”
At press time, the GoFundMe has raised $5,750, shattering the initial goal of $2,020. Donations can be made at: www.gf.me/u/xyhxvy.