Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

November 2015

Nobles Parents' Newsletter November 2015

The Long Weekend by Dean of Students Marcela Maldonado



By any measure, these have been very difficult yet remarkable days around here. Nothing can prepare you for the death of a student, and Casey Dunne’s sudden and tragic passing galvanized this community as we faced uncharted waters together. As was true in the wake of September 11, 2001 and after the loss of adult members of this community, students look around them for direction for how to process powerful events in their lives. In light of Casey’s death, the adults in this community had to work quickly, effectively, and certainly delicately to marshal the school through its most difficult moment. Simply put, kids take their cues from us and meeting their needs is our primary role and purpose.  While we were not without the help of outside professionals, nonetheless faculty and staff had to come together in common purpose, as we shouldered the responsibility of assuaging the confusion and vulnerability felt by so many.

But the very timing of this tragedy, on a Friday evening, over a long holiday weekend, also forced our student body to lean on each other in ways they never have before. Though we spent brief yet concentrated time together on Saturday afternoon to begin to process, and even as the faculty and staff met later that weekend to prepare for the arrival of students on Tuesday morning, kids took very good care of each other along the way. I have heard countless tales from students about how they communicated and gathered together that weekend, in groups big and small, and how they spent very intentional time with their own families, baking cookies, going for long walks, or just slowing down. My advisees reminded me of the power of social media in moments like this - how students were reaching out to make sure others were ok, sharing their love and support with each other, posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram, and sharing their stories of Casey. As one sophomore advisee wrote to me that weekend “We are all in shock and emotionally drained, but a lot of love is spreading for Casey, her family, and for one another.”

Whether they knew her personally or not, some of the best conversations I’ve had in the last couple of weeks with students has been about what Casey’s life represented for them.  By all accounts, she was pure joy, a wonderful and caring young woman, whose net was cast widely in the world of kids. The degree to which her influence was felt transcended so many cliques and tight circles, considered regular domain in the life of teenagers. She was open and giving in her relationships, and her life was not owned by any one person or particular group. Indeed the very measure of who Casey was and what she represented is found in the number of places she touched and the various groups of people who were touched by her. And in wonderful fashion, students took the time in those first few days to honor her and to honor their relationships with each other as they began their grieving process together.

This moment shook people, young people especially, because it was so sudden and unpredictable. But the time apart that long weekend from the collective response that would have derived from a regular school day allowed for students to tap into their own resiliency, manage a bit of their own sense of immortality and invincibility, and have many families talk about things they never have before. As we came in that Tuesday morning, you could still see the shock on people’s faces, but instead of this being a place of sadness, the Nobles campus was precisely where our kids wanted to be, surrounded by the safe and the familiar. Our students leaned on each other and on family, and ultimately on this school and its faculty and staff, for a sense of purpose and understanding for what had just taken place. As adults we can’t take away their pain, but we can hold them and model for them what it means to be a community of strength and solidarity. That long weekend was merely the beginning of a process that will continue for some time to come, but it told us a lot about our students, what they have learned along the way from all of us, and how very proud they continue to make us.
 

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If you have questions, comments or suggestions for this newsletter, email Kim Neal at kim_neal@nobles.edu.