My move to Ada in third grade is one that changed my life in a way I never could have imagined. Forest Hills Central is truly a special place, and I can’t imagine growing up anywhere else.
From the welcoming arms of Mr. Greer that I needed as a new student to the mentorship of Mr. George and guidance from Mrs. DeMeester in a tough senior year, the teachers in this district care about their students much more than the school side of things; I could seriously write an entire thousand-word story just about how special the teachers at this school are and my personal connections with them.
These past four years, despite the circumstances for the last year and a half, have been the best years of my life. I’ve grown tremendously as a person, played the sport I love for the school I’m so proud to represent, won championships with my best friends, and done countless things I never would have dreamed of as I entered this school four years ago; but the most memorable experiences for me have come because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with at this school. Yes, FHC has some of the latest technology in its classrooms, brand new furniture across the school, and even a new stadium nearing completion, but it is the people in it that make this place so special.
Sports have held a massive part in my entire life, and that love only grew stronger in high school. After playing club soccer in favor of high school my freshman year, I went to the high school ranks as a sophomore. With an entirely new coaching staff entering that same year, I met someone that has become a huge part of my life. Boys soccer coach Paul Kramer has been my coach all three years, and it pains me to correct “has been” in this sentence to “was.” Paul has always been someone for me to count on both on the field and off, whether that was helping me decide to join a new club team or guiding me through my college decision and recruiting process. Off the field, he’s someone I consider a close friend and one of the strongest people I know. Dealing with tough times of his own this past season, he showed up every day with the same unwavering passion and energy as before. His care for his guys is second-to-none, and it has created a culture of closeness within the soccer program as a result. Paul, you are seriously one of the best people I know, and this school and the boys soccer program are unbelievably lucky to have you.
From scoring in double overtime to send our game in Districts to PKs to then having my high school career ended just minutes later, playing soccer at this school has shown me just about every emotion, obstacle, and reward imaginable. I’ll never forget my first high school playoff game against Rockford my sophomore year; coming in as underdogs, we held onto a one-goal lead for most of the game and took down a team that’s been a thorn in our side for years. Or the next year, scoring in the final minute against Portage Northern and pulling results out of nowhere simply because we fought for each other and believed in one another. Or this past year, struggling to put together consistent performances before putting in the best performance of the year when it truly mattered in the playoffs. I could go through the list of every guy I’ve played with and thank them for something specific and recount the many memories I have from being a part of this team, but I’d be writing for hours. Soccer really is the beautiful game, and playing the sport at this school has meant to me more than I can describe.
Similarly, the basketball program holds a special place in my heart. My freshman and JV coach, Kevin Banner, was easily one of the most formative people in my basketball career, and without him taking me on that freshman team, I wouldn’t have the lifelong memories I have today from Rangerball. While my role on the team in basketball might be different than my role on the soccer team, this program has taught me how to be a good teammate in more ways than I could’ve imagined, how to embrace your role, how to be a part of a team full of best friends, and how to lead in ways I hadn’t before. Coach Carhart is the best leader I have met, and I can’t imagine not walking into his classroom and talking sports and about life every day. The entire coaching staff from the freshman to varsity levels are just all-around great people, and the way us players place so much trust in them and develop the relationships we do with each of them is just a testament to the culture coach Carhart and coach George have built with Rangerball.
Onto the biggest constant in my life and what has become the pride and joy of my time in high school: the FHC Sports Report. I remember walking around the school with some of my best friends in Sam Tuori and Jacob Ervin while we were picking our classes for the next year, and we just happened to walk into Room 139. Former editor in chief Molly Donovan gave us her pitch to join, and we were all in right away. If you told me that day what this class would’ve done for my life at this point, I would have called you crazy.
Now, I’m warning you, there are going to be a lot of words and plenty of thanks to the people that have been a part of my life in this class.
There really are no words to describe the impact this class has had on me. My first year on staff was special and, undeniably, it was the closest staff I have seen between both TCT and the Sports Report. With all of us in the same room and a smaller staff on both sides, we talked, sat, and laughed together, and I met and became friends with so many new people as a result. Now, to say thank you to my first editors. To Molly, you taught me so much of what I know about sports writing and completely bloomed my love for the site. Your leadership and effort were second to none, and it inspired me to take on a bigger role and never stop working. While they may have never actually edited one of my stories, the TCT editors of Reena, Susannah, and Nisha made the class an even better time for me. Their positivity, work ethic, leadership, and humor are what started my adoration for the class, and they were so welcoming from the beginning, even to a young sophomore sports writer that they had never met before. This first year created an inseparable bond between Sam, Erv, Tommy Spaletto, and me that has only strengthened to this day, and for that, I can truly say this class gave me my best friends.
Taking on the role of editor with Tommy for my junior year, this is the year where I really started to grow. From covering varsity football for the first time to learning Adobe Photoshop to pump out graphics on social media, I learned so much throughout this year. Once COVID hit us and took away just about everything we write on, Tommy, Mr. George, and I struggled with how to move forward. Besides our already scheduled top fives, Tommy, Sam, and I moved back into the podcast realm that hadn’t been touched since we worked together on it during my and Sam’s sophomore year. It was a crazy time and a crazy year, but I’m just as grateful for this one and to able to lead the staff with one of my best friends. To Tommy, I thank you for your patience with me, your problem-solving, your work ethic and desire to improve, and for always being someone I can count on. You made a lot of stuff throughout that year easier on me, and it is to no surprise to me that you are already finding success in sports journalism at Indiana.
Lastly comes the infamous senior year that took more twists and turns and required more changes from us as a staff than ever before. From not knowing what fall sports would be played, to not knowing if winter sports would be played, to, you guessed it, not knowing when spring sports would be played, the staff stayed on their toes throughout the entire year and never wavered. I think this adversity only brought us closer as a staff, especially throughout the second semester. We gelled together like no group I’ve seen before, and all of that is because of, for one, the culture we have created with the Sports Report, but much more importantly, the people that are a part of it.
To TT, Levi, and Owen, your guys’ humor brings a lot of joy to the classroom, and it would not be the same without you. You guys take the signature underclassmen slander like champs, although it is taking some great restraint stopping me from dropping one last subtle jab at Ojo Smoove (nice Tinder profile). Mac, your jokes and lectures make me laugh every day, but you’ve also turned into a really good writer with an incredible work ethic at improving your skills that goes relatively unnoticed. I appreciate your commitment to what we do, and I have absolutely noticed your buy-in and know you will continue to grow as a writer. Pierson, we got a lot closer this past year through both Sports Report and basketball, and just like with Mac, I noticed how hard you work. On both the court and in the classroom you work every day to improve, and it’s clear to see the progress. I’m going to miss holding each other back on the bench and catching an infinite amount of dubs on the white squad, but I can’t wait to see what you do next year. I want to shy away from continuing to talk about work ethic, but the truth is each of these guys do not stop working and improving. Hop, as you said in your goodbye speech to me, I’ve seen you go from writing some, to be honest, mediocre competitive cheer stories as a beginner to pumping out consistent, top-quality varsity baseball stories. Not only that, but I’ve seen you start to embrace doing the extra stuff too, and that’s what makes me the proudest. Joe, I’m so glad I successfully recruited you here in what seems like so long ago. You make me laugh on a daily basis, you liven up the classroom, and you’re genuinely just a really good dude. We have some really good memories together over the course of our two years, and I’ll miss our banter and really just spending time with you. Lastly, Thomas and Tate, you guys have been an editor’s dream, making Erv and I’s job easier every single day. I was never really sure who would take over at the end of this year until second semester when it became quite clear you guys just had everything you could ask for in an editor. I’m so glad to leave the Sports Report in your guys’ hands (along with Hop), and I cannot wait to see the places you take this site.
Now, to my fellow seniors. I’ve known each of you for quite some time now, and this class has just brought us even closer together. Cam, I will always cherish our late-night Minecraft sessions during quarantine that lasted until either my eyes hurt or we finished part of my arena or your frolf course. Gwen, I appreciate you taking a leap of faith into this class as a junior and sticking with it for both years. You’re someone I can have a conversation about anything with, and your friendship is appreciated more than you know. Sydney, I think it’s fair to say we’ve grown closer each year of high school, and like Gwen, I’m so glad you decided to join us this year. Your subtle jabs and humor and passive-aggressive jokes liven up the classroom, and we all feed off your energy. I’m so happy that you’ve said Sports Report was the highlight of your senior year because I think it epitomizes what this class is about. Sure, we write stories and take that seriously, but the experience is more about the friendships we form; and, I can confidently say, we have formed one throughout high school and especially this year, and I can’t wait to see the big things you do at Wisconsin (hope to see Ojo there with you too). Zoe, you truly are the biggest ball of energy I’ve ever met. The real Sports Report OG, I will one day finally teach you independent and dependent clauses and how to use a comma correctly. You’ve always been there for me, especially during the tough times, and I hope I have returned the favor at least once or twice. Your honesty, your work ethic, and your pride and love for this school is something I admire and aspire to replicate. Mason, you’ve been a brother to me these last three years. We became so close after I convinced you to play soccer sophomore year, and we’ve certainly been through some stuff together. You are the strongest and most determined person I know, and I admire you so much for more reasons than you know. I’m glad to call you one of my best friends, even if you did almost sell me out in senior assassination. Lastly, my fellow editor-in-chief, Jacob Ervin. Without a doubt one of my closest friends, that friendship has grown so much through both the Sports Report and basketball. From going crazy together listening to a buzzer-beater on the radio in the Freddy’s parking lot with Sam and Tommy to celebrating the conference championship last year to our rounds of golf to our afterschool lifts, we have so many memories together that stretch far beyond the Sports Report that I will cherish forever.
I don’t even know how to write this final paragraph because I know whatever I say will not do the impact this man has had on my life justice. You know that growth I talked about earlier? I attribute so much of that to Mr. George. I came into his Honors 10 class as an average writer and public speaker, and within months of being in his class, he forced me out of my comfort zone to push me to grow. I still remember giving my first presentation in his class where we had to memorize a poem; I was so nervous, my posture while presenting was horrible, and I struggled to get through it. Fast forward some months, and I was confidently giving a Ted Talk in a lecture hall packed with people. Move forward another month, and I was doing the same in front of a packed auditorium. Fast forward to now, and I am speaking at graduation in less than a week. My growth as a public speaker is just one small example of the way Mr. George has shaped my life, and I’m not the only one with this story. Besides my parents, he has easily had the biggest impact on my life of any adult. So, Mr. George, I thank you for everything: for the communication skills, for giving me the opportunity to lead this group, and for showing me what kind of leader I should aspire to be. For the pep talks, for the hours of advice given, and for all the life lessons you’ve taught me. I know our paths will cross many times in the future, but this farewell and thinking about not coming into Room 139 every day hits me right in the chest.
As I think is pretty clear by the end of this 2500+ word farewell (I commend you if you’re still reading at this point), I love Ranger Country. FHC and the people within the community are special, and this Sports Report family is just one of many at this school. To FHC, thank you. Thank you for the laughs, tears, and memories. But most importantly, thank you for friendships that will last a lifetime.