Dear Holly

Dear Holly,

It is crazy to think that I remember the day you were born and now you are becoming a sophomore in high school. As your big sister, it is my duty to help you and give you advice – that is, when you want to hear it, anyways. In a way, I feel like a big sister to a lot of the underclassmen I have connected with in my time as a Link Leader. So to Holly and all underclassmen, this is my high school journey and I want you to understand that sometimes in life, and especially in high school, you have to take a few steps backwards before you can go forward… 

I remember in tenth grade being scared. Link Crew Orientation seems like it was just yesterday. The high school seemed so big and scary. I did not know how I was going to find my way around or how I was going to find friends. I could not fathom the fact that in a little under three years, I would graduate. I remember sitting in the stands listening to Mr. Berger talk about something or other and I began to wonder how I would leave my mark on North Penn before I left. As the year went on, I realized that high school was not so scary. I got used to my schedule and the school and even made friends. I practiced and lifted with the softball team and I decided that was how I wanted to leave my mark at North Penn. In March, I did not make the team. I was crushed. I felt like I wasted my time and could have been doing other things. I became determined that I needed to find my ‘thing’ before I graduated.

I remember in eleventh grade, I finally found my place. I had a knee injury that ended my years playing softball, but as they say, when one door closes a window opens. I found my place with NPTV and Knight Crier. I loved participating in both of these activities. Being on air as an anchor was a thrill, and I loved expressing my thoughts through writing. Both became a therapeutic activity for me. With my spare time, I began touring colleges that had the program I wanted. Turns out, I am pretty picky. My top school during junior year was not the school I ended up committing to. Funny how things work out in unexpected ways. During course selection of my junior year, I made a drastic decision to go to Montgomery County Community College full time for my senior year, becoming one of the first people to ever do so from North Penn. Many people told me not to do it, as I would be missing out on tons of senior year activities and memories, like the pep rally or panoramic photo. Something inside of me told me that taking college classes was what I needed to do. I told myself I would still feel like a senior because of graduation, prom, and other senior events. After enrolling and setting up my new college classes, I frequently began to daydream about the amazing senior year I planned out. 

I remember in twelfth grade that I found my stride. I began college classes in August and quickly found that it was the perfect environment for me. I was able to attend school only three times a week and I had more flexibility on when I could do work. In the meantime, I worked 21 hours per week at my job as a gymnastics teacher while continuing my participation in NPTV and Knight Crier. I was busier than ever, but I also felt truly happy. I felt free of the burden of seven hour school days and tight homework scheduling. The ability to do school work when it was best for me gave me time to do more of what I loved. Not to mention, I was also getting more sleep than I had since elementary school. My days were pure chaos due to driving back and forth between locations, but I did not want it any other way. After applying to seven schools in the summer, I got accepted to all of them in the fall with scholarships. I loved my school, my friends, my job, and truly my whole life. I saw my future ahead of me. I saw myself going to prom, graduating, going college, making lifelong friends, becoming a licensed OT, and helping people for the rest of my life.

I remember in January hearing about COVID-19 for the first time. Honestly, I did not think much of it. I was deep into my projects for the television award show NPTV enters every year as well as returning to college from winter break.

I remember in February, all my friends and I agreed that there was no way it would become a problem in the United States. Time flew by and I still did not think much of it. As cases grew across the nation my confusion grew. Was it like the flu? Was everyone being overdramatic? Is it really that bad? There was so much talk on the news and between people that I could not make my way through all the information. 

I remember in March, whispers began about schools being shut down. I remember our last week clearly. My classes were about to go on spring break and all I wanted was a break to sleep and recoup for the end of the semester and finals. I remember the last time I walked the halls of North Penn High School was Wednesday, March 11th. I went to Knight Crier for the first period and then left for class. I never knew that it would be my last day. 

I remember on March 12th, I went in to work to teach my classes and then left around noon. I went home and sat down to do my work for the next day when I got a flurry of texts from my friends. They all told me that there was an announcement at the high school. They told me that Mr. Nicholson came over the loudspeaker and told everyone they had to take everything home with them that day. Everyone started saying that the schools were being closed but I thought that was crazy. Only half an hour later Governor Tom Wolf held a press conference announcing a shutdown in Montgomery County due to COVID-19. 

I remember on April 9th at 11:15 a.m, my phone began to buzz and buzz and buzz. I got up from doing my homework and walked over to where my phone was: “Governor Wolf has closed schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.” I stared at my phone in disbelief. This was not how my senior year was supposed to go. I walked over to my mom and I cried. Nothing felt right.

Today is Wednesday, May 27th and I only have one week until I graduate. With my time at the high school coming to a close and your time just beginning, here is the advice I have. First, I know you are scared. I can see it in your eyes when we talk about course selection and all the clubs there are at the high school. It is okay and normal to be scared. 

The high school is huge, but the people you will meet will make it feel like home. Of course there will be people you do not like – there is no sugar coating that – but for every person you do not like or does not like you, there are five people who you will love and have an impact on your life. 

First, There will be many times that you feel lost or do not know what to do, but the people you meet will have your back. North Penn will always have your back. 

Second, everyone finds their home within the high school, but do not stress about finding it, as it will find you. I thought I was going to play softball and it was going to be my home, but it turns out there was something even better for me. Whether it is a group of people, a class, or a club, it will be your happy place. Hold this place or people close to your heart, embrace it, and enjoy it, as high school does not last forever. 

Finally, follow your gut. I made the decision to go to college full time and miss out on many senior year activities based on a gut feeling. If I could go back and tell junior year me about COVID-19 and what would happen, I would tell her to do the same exact thing. Trust yourself. If a class is too hard, try switching to a lower level, getting a study group, or talking to the teacher. If something does not feel right, there is no shame in parting from the crowd and doing what is right to you. 

North Penn School District has been my home for the past thirteen years. It has been your home for the past ten years and you still have three more to go. Make your time at North Penn High School enjoyable; these are going to be some of the best years of your life (even if it does not feel that way in the moment). My unique time at North Penn is something I will never forget. North Penn will always be in my heart as well as my character. I have no shame in admitting that there were good and bad times at North Penn; it will be the same for you, too. The good and bad times both have obstacles, big and small. These obstacles that we face build our personalities and create strengths. They also teach us our weaknesses and show us how to work on them. I will forever be in debt to North Penn for showing me this, and now it is your turn to learn. 

To my sister and all underclassmen, the future may not seem clear. The transition to high school can be hard and may be even harder with these circumstances. Just know that North Penn’s staff and students are here for you and here to help you. I know you can do this and I believe in you, but please do not blink, because if you do, your time will be over and you will graduate.


All the love,

Brandi Marlin