Seniors gather for the last time and read senior letters


Seniors playing cornhole

Caitlin McKeand, Co-Editor in Chief

Seniors gathered for one more meeting together this morning. Seniors signed in with their counselors in order to get signed off to graduate as well as played a variety of games, ate from food stalls and received their senior letters.

“I think senior letters were started the first year we opened Vandegrift,” English teacher Kirsten Mulligan said. “I think it was just that we were excited about starting traditions, opening a new school, making it feel like a special place and when you write the senior letter as a freshman, it’s just long enough that you kind of forget about it until suddenly you blink and you’re a senior.”

Written by the students in English class their freshman year, the letters are sorted by name and distributed their senior year.

“Sometimes I have the kids write their home address on the letters and then if they move, I can mail it and it will be forwarded,” Mulligan said. “I’ve had kids email me for the letters. I hang on to them over the summer, but not much after September of next year. I’m gonna be here if they move around all over the world, I’m gonna be in the same spot and I will be until I’m not teaching anymore.”

Mulligan said watching the students read their letters and choose to share them with her is what she loves most.

“I had grown men, who are 18 years old, cry,” Mulligan said. “They kind of went off into the corner and read their letter and cried. I always tell the kids you get more out of it the more personal you are. We don’t read the letters, we invite them to seal them. It’s for them, but many times they don’t want us to read it when they’re a freshman, but when they’re seniors and they realize that we are still here for them and we care about them, they want to share what they wrote.”

Mulligan advises her students to save their letters for the future. She stated it can be fun to reread them no matter where you end up, whether it’s the military, college, or having your first child.

“It seems like it’s a long way away, but you blink and it’s there,” Mulligan said. “So much can happen in four years when you’re a teenager and you go from being 14 years old to 18 years old, that’s a big time in life. Those are formative years. Things happen in families, good things happen, sad things happen and sometimes they’re in the middle of some of those things. I had a student that wrote his letter the year that we had the Steiner fires, and he lost his entire house. I actually had several students who lost everything they had, and they wrote about that and how their parents were handling that. Those are big times, it’s a little piece of history.”

Mulligan stated that the more personal you are, the more meaningful. Senior Keeley Van Allen looked forward to reading her letters because of this.

“Actually, I had my whole family write me letters and I put them in there,” Van Allen said. “My grandma passed away two years ago and she wrote me one, so I’m a little emotional. Been waiting a couple years [to read] this one.”

Van Allen stated she is excited to move on to bigger and better things after the senior gathering. She’s not the only one.

“I’m here to celebrate with my seniors because it’s probably one of the last times that we’ll be together besides graduation,” senior Hannah Collmann said. “It’s kinda sad, but I’m excited to go to college. I’m ready to move on.”

Collmann stated she learned a lot from being at Vandegrift and thought it was fun to see the graduating class together one last time.

“In my four years here I’ve learned how amazing this school is,” Collmann said. “I think that we take for granted the opportunities we’re given. It’s just important to know as a freshman and as a sophomore, take advantage of what you’re given because this really is an amazing school and we’re given a lot of amazing opportunities. Thank you, Vandegrift for allowing me to be the person I am.”

Senior John Clay Richards read his letter at the gathering and reminisced about seeing his senior class there.

“After reading my senior letter, I wish I had better handwriting, but it was really touching to know how much I’ve matured over the past four years,” Richards said. “[As for the gathering] It’s always comforting to be around your friends and I know all my fellow seniors have my back and we’ll remain friends for years to come.”