The Middle School Years None of Us Will Forget

“525,600 minutes, 525,600 moments so dear, 525,600 minutes, How do you measure? Measure a year?”


Dear Panthers,

     The time has come for me to hand over the Editor-In-Chief torch. I have loved working with Mrs. Halstead, and our talented team of journalists for the last two years. It has left me with not only experiences and memories that am I proud of, but will take with me for a lifetime. I can say with all my heart that this has been one of my greatest accomplishments. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, and I think we should all be very proud of ourselves and what we have all learned, created, overcame, and were forced to acclimate to since that dreaded Friday on March 13, 2020.

Then it got me thinking…

     I hope to share with you over the next few minutes why our time at Parks Junior High School was so special. No doubt that it was an exceptional time we will collectively never forget as we all move forward to begin the next chapter of our lives.

     For those who do not know me personally, there is only one thing I love more than music, and that is literature. It was in 6th grade that I first picked up a book that would change my life forever. I had no idea at the time it would have that type of profound effect on me, but if I’m being honest, I actually hated every single word and every minute of it. Then something happened. I watched the characters come to life in the movie version and the book took on a new meaning. That book was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.

The Cast of The Outsiders
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

     When I sat down at my keyboard and reflected upon our last two years, I was flooded by so many emotions. Happy, sad, confused, scared, nervous, excited, and every other feeling you could muster up, but, I kept returning to the same thought.  Regardless of how different we may all look, act, or think,  just like Pony Boy said, we all “see the same sunset.” So we are not as different as we tend to believe. We can all find a common denominator in each other if we look close enough. 

     See, one of life’s biggest gifts often occurs in those rare moments when you find yourself truly enjoying something you never really liked or appreciated. The very same book I dreaded with every fiber of my DNA, I now read religiously every few months because as each passing day goes by and I experience new things, I find myself connecting deeply to a different character in this book for a whole new reason. And usually, the reason is life-changing and significant.

     This couldn’t have been more true than on Friday, March 13th, 2020 when life threw us a curveball. Without notice, I, along with many others, was left to my own devices for an unspecified amount of time trying to figure out what was going to happen next. In the blink of an eye, I was stranded within the four walls of my bedroom faced with nothing other than my thoughts going wild. Growing up is difficult to begin with, but during that period, it was downright maddening trying to figure out how to navigate the unexpected. Thankfully, I instinctively knew there was a crew I could turn to when I needed to escape. That motley crew consisted of Pony Boy, Dallas, Sodapop, Darry, Steve Randle, and Two-Bit Matthews. So at least I was never really alone. 

Then days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and the months felt like years. 

     So I promptly dusted off my favorite hardbound version of The Outsiders and since all I had now was time, I reflected on precisely how each one of the characters related to life, people I knew, and my time here at Parks. While some more than others, that group of “Outsiders” taught me lessons over the summer that I will take with me to high school and beyond.  

I learned we were each a lot like…

  • PonyBoy Curtis: Who embraced loyalty. Not only to his brothers and friends, but the revelation and forgiveness he had regarding the rivalry between the “Socs” and the “Greasers.”
  • Johnny Cade: the seeker of forgiveness. In our darkest moments, we should embrace forgiveness as well as return it.
  • Sodapop: Exuded trust just like our teachers at Parks. He was the glue that held us together in a nurturing and gentle way.
  • Darry: Embodied love and protection. Darry, the father figure, was stern and demanding, but loved with his entire being. 
  • Two-Bit: lighthearted, reckless, and the joker of the bunch, Two-Bit never risked his integrity no matter how crazy he could be.

     Like The Outsiders, Parks taught us how to persevere, overcome, and move forward. Suddenly, the unexpected isn’t so frightening. However, like anything new in life, the first steps into the unknown are always the scariest. So don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Now the unexpected does not seem so frightening anymore, but just in case, remember these few things when you walk down those halls come August:

  • In times of uncertainty, if you make yourself smile, you will automatically feel happier. 
  • Always trust your gut. It will never steer you wrong. And when you make a mistake, own it, ask for forgiveness, and press on.
  • Most importantly, choose your friends wisely. There is a saying, “Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future,” and it’s true. Surround yourself with those who want you to succeed and be happy. Notice those who are cheering when you win. Because those are your “lifers.”

     Finally, find “your voice” and make your dreams a reality. ‘Cherish your voice. Respect it. Stretch it and scream until it’s gone.’ Embrace the good and become someone’s hero. Be the reason others smile, because you could change the world without even knowing it.

But most of all…

Stay Gold

Courtney “Coco” Standley
Editor-In-Chief, Spring 2021

    Congratulations, We Made It!