The Class of 2020 has been at East for four long years, and now that they are graduating, is sharing their stories and experiences from their time at East. (Illustration by Eli Weitzman ('20))
The Class of 2020 has been at East for four long years, and now that they are graduating, is sharing their stories and experiences from their time at East.

Illustration by Eli Weitzman ('20)

Senior Perspectives: Class of 2020

June 4, 2020

Although the Class of 2020’s senior year has been cut short due to the coronavirus, they’re finding new ways to stay connected with East and each other. Whether it’s through birthday drive-bys, door decorating or visits from Crimson the Cougar, East seniors are maintaining their pride for their school and each other. As all members of the Class of 2020 look back on their past four years at East, here are some seniors’ final perspectives about their times at East and all that they gained despite what they lost.

Additionally, Class of 2020 superlative winners are featured in videos ranging from the most artistic to the most opinionated. Check out the stories and videos below to get a glimpse into the final moments of the Class of 2020.

Humza Hussain (’20)

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Courtesy of Humza Hussain ('20)

I still remember telling myself in eighth grade that highschool was “gonna be a breeze.” Feeling at the top of my educational career, I thought I could continue this streak of success at East. Man was I wrong. It turns out there were many dips I had to face … many, many dips, before I could reap the joys of success. Despite the struggles I faced, East offered a competitive and enjoyable atmosphere that motivated me to keep going and strive for more.

Freshman year was a social learning curve. Coming from Carusi, I left most of my friends from the West side to go to East. As an unsuspecting freshman, I had a memorable welcome into East’s friendly environment. I played with a succesful 17-3 freshman basketball team (after accidentally being placed on JV) making countless memories with my teammates. I ventured into D-wing and joined the orchestra where I learned that I wasn’t well suited to be a violinist.

Sophomore year was quite an interesting year. This year, for me, embodied the words of T.H. White in The Once and Future King, that “education is experience.” From brewing a secret concoction of random chemicals in Chemistry (which actually dissolved a staple at one point) to participating in school wide walkouts, I learned lessons of self reliance as well as unity. East encouraged me to be ambitious, so I took AP Physics which taught me how to break through walls, literally and figuratively, that tried to impede my educational journey.

Junior year was a serious year. With the stress of the SATs and the heavy load of classes I needed to become diligent, organized and plan out my everyday schedule. In a perfect world that would’ve happened. Junior year became part of the foundation I needed to apply for college. My advice to future Juniors is to make sure to find time to destress and have fun. East has provided many opportunities and clubs that cater to the interests of everyone. Take advantage of them.

Senior year, the culmination of highschool. Although we don’t have the ideal ending, it’s important to look at the great times we’ve had prior to these unprecedented times. Graduation may be upon us, but we will all continue to grow and stay connected through our memories and friendships made at East. One can even say that there are still many more memories to be made. As Winston Churchill said, this is perhaps “the end of a beginning.”

Grace Yoon (’20)

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Courtesy of Grace Yoon ('20)

In the movie “Up,” Russell goes on the adventure of a lifetime with Mr. Frederickson. Yet, his memories of doing ordinary things are what he holds closest to his heart. In describing these moments, Russell says: “that might sound boring, but I think the boring stuff is the stuff I remember most.” I cannot agree with this quote more. While I do not consider my high school experience to have been defined by this unusual end to our school year, I would be remiss if I did not discuss what it has allowed me to realize. Although the class of 2020 has missed out on some of the most traditional events of high school, I still consider our high school experience to be very, very full. While the big moments are quick to come to mind when thinking about the high school experience, I do not believe that they define high school. For me, the small everyday moments—walking to class with a new friend or even sitting in class taking notes—have evolved to become invaluable memories such as laughing with my best friends between classes and discovering what passions I have. In the end, these seemingly meaningless moments are what hold the most value.

If I could go back in time and give my freshman self some advice, I would quote Maya Angelou in saying “be present in all things, and thankful for all things.” High school goes by fast and it’s easy to miss what is right in front of you. Although I wish I could walk through the halls one more time as an East student, I am thankful for these wonderfully ordinary experiences that East has given me and will carry them with me beyond my years at East. One final quote I’d like to leave with you is again from the movie Up: “Adventure is out there.” My hope is that you will be able to see it in its everyday form.

Nicole Benson (’20)

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Courtesy of Nicole Benson ('20)

Ever since I was little, I always enjoyed school. I love learning new skills in all aspects of life and I love being surrounded by other students, teachers, and peers. However, my years at East for sure changed my life. Little did I know my four years would be cut to three and a half. Throughout these years, I have faced days where I dread getting up, begged to stay home, and stressed over homework or tests, but I mean it when I say it was worth it.

I can proudly say that I have made the most of my high school experience.”

— Nicole Benson ('20)

I can proudly say that I have made the most of my high school experience. Some years I for sure wish I did more clubs or took different classes, but my best and worst decisions made me who I am today. This first club I joined as a freshman, Interact club, gave me the chance to help my community while meeting so many amazing students and adults. I then took advantage of my chance to interview for blood drive chairperson as a shy sophomore. Blood drive helped me embrace my passion for helping people in need while learning so many new leadership and medical skills. Joining DECA as a junior, clueless of what I was getting myself into, led me to my passion for business and a second place trophy for a 20 page business plan. Running for SGA representative led me to two amazing years of planning events and creating unforgettable memories with my class. I joined these clubs (and more) not only because they were a fun way to meet new students, but because I felt that I was making a difference in my life, other lives, and the East Community.

Some advice an upperclassman gave me going into senior year: “Please cherish every moment next year, never say no to plans, go to as many school events as possible, and do whatever it takes to slow down time, do not rush, because it moves too fast.” I cannot emphasize this enough, especially with our senior year ending in the blink of an eye with no formal goodbyes. I am thankful for making memories that I will laugh, smile, and cry over for the rest of my life. I certainly was not ready for Friday, March 13th to be my last day of high school. Even though this chapter of our lives was not supposed to end this way, it sure does make for an unforgettable crazy ending. Thank you for everything East.

Video: Interviewing the Most Opinionated

Sean Coen (’20)

In a year marked by disappointments and “what ifs,” being appreciative of the time we had at Cherry Hill East is vital for staying sane. Entering a school like East as a freshman can be daunting. I remember walking in on my first day and feeling like I was on a busy city street with students and staff darting by on their way to class. However, high school was always something so fascinating to me. I’d seen so many movies about seizing every day and how high school was supposed to be the best four years of your life. I imagined a packed gym at basketball games, dying of laughter in the cafeteria and making memories that would last a lifetime. Although we never got to finish the way we anticipated, East gave me all I wanted and more.

Looking back, it definitely was not the classic high school movie I hoped for. We never beat West on Thanksgiving and I missed half my sports career at East because of a knee injury. At East, I realized that high school wasn’t going to be that classic movie. It was my own story that made me who I am today. All the “what ifs” started to not matter as much when I realized that everything that happened got me to where I am today. East didn’t give me everything, and it didn’t have to. It gave me what I needed to take me to the next step in my life.

East, and high school in general, has a way of showing yourself who you are and allowing you to express yourself in whatever way you choose”

— Sean Coen ('20)

East, and high school in general, has a way of showing yourself who you are and allowing you to express yourself in whatever way you choose. I was able to grow as a leader through SGA and student government day, and put the lessons I learned to the test by attending New Jersey’s Boys State. I was able to pursue my passions on the football and lacrosse field with guys I would now call brothers. I was able to show my school spirit by getting covered in body paint and screaming my head off at sports events.

With that being said, my experience at East would not be the same without the people that helped make it possible. As more and more time went on, the more people I came to know created more friendships that I will have forever. Some of my best friends are people that I had never even met before stepping into the halls of East. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a group of guys, collectively known as “Ethel’s Bois,” that defined my East experience and made every single moment along the way that much better.

If I were to leave any advice for people entering high school I would say this. High school is only the best four years of your life if you make it that way. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to be the one to step up and don’t be afraid to get involved. Thank you East for the best four years of my life. Roll Cougs now and forever.

Lucas Tran (’20)

In 6th grade, I had this idea that high school would be parties every weekend and like making out with chicks on the daily. It was not like that for me.
Freshman year was weird; I was so lost (quite literally) every day. The breezeway connecting C-wing intersection to the library was blocked off too. That detour made it a lot harder to get around, especially with my poor navigation skills. It also made traffic in the halls like 3 times worse. I didn’t know how to navigate Cherry Hill High School East until sophomore year.

There was also this thing called “homeroom.” I don’t know whatever happened to that, but during my time there when it existed, I remember tending to stick to the people I knew from Rosa. As time went on, the wall that separated the Beck kids from the Rosa kids and the Carusi kids, slowly collapsed. It’s interesting to see the people that I know so well now I used to be timid around 4 years ago.

Freshman year overall felt like a big goof.”

— Lucas Tran ('20)

I also got a 17% on the dreaded fruit fly lab that year. That was my most fond memory because I remember my teacher mentioning to the entire class that she had to take a walk in the midst of grading the labs. I knew that I was the exact reason why she had to take a walk. Freshman year overall felt like a big goof.

When second-year came around, I still felt like a freshman. This year went by the fastest for some reason and I don’t really remember too much about it. This was also the year they started to lock up the bathrooms during lunch. I don’t understand why only the boy’s bathrooms got locked, like, girls definitely vape in their bathrooms too. I had an absolute emergency one time on the third floor and the boy’s bathroom was locked so I used the girl’s bathroom instinctively.

A lot of upperclassmen told me junior year is the hardest. I think otherwise because that was the best year. This was the meat and potatoes of my time at East. This was the year that I eased up and knew what I was doing for the most part. I also put a bunch of googly eyes all over the place.

Every day that went by was a day closer to the end of a free trial.”

— Lucas Tran ('20)

I also took history online so I could have an extra space open for another class. History online was not really that effective; the only thing I remember from that course was that the bikini was invented during WWII due to rationing of supplies.

Senior year rolled in. I never thought that this year would come so soon. Seeing the days pass was nerve-wracking. Every day that went by was a day closer to the end of a free trial. It was scary to know that I would have to start paying for my own subscription soon. This year was the hardest but it was also the most balanced because so much fun came with it. I really pushed boundaries this year when it came to my shenanigans because I was the most comfortable I’ve ever been. During my final year, I went to the principal’s office for the first time, and that was because I was wearing a hazmat suit. I’m surprised that I wasn’t there more often for other reasons.

I enjoyed being at school. It took me some time, but I felt like I belonged there and I looked forward to going every day. I love my teachers, coaches, and friends; the insight I gained from all of them is priceless. This virus made me shed tears for the first time over anything school related. Cherish every minute you have in high school. The class of 2020’s high school experience was cut short. I would have had more to write about but I don’t.

Oliver Adler (’20)

I have nothing but gratitude for my time at East. I have been surrounded by countless incredible people over these past few years, and I think it’s important that, before anything else, I recognize the people at East who have made my experience so gratifying.

I would not look back so fondly upon my time at East without my peers, who made me want to go to class and stay after school every day. Moments like the Spirit Week Dance this past November and the boys’ basketball sectional semi-final game in DiBart were awesome moments because they were spent with people who cared so much about something. Spending a class period debating over the impact of decisions made by European monarchs hundreds of years ago was so electric because my classmates were so competitive. I would come back to East at 7:00 at night for Back to School Night once a year and see members of East’s theater program still practicing, hours after the final bell had sounded.

This passion did not just exist among the students though, which is something that evidently became more clear during a worldwide pandemic. I’m not surprised – but still amazed – by a teacher of mine who posted tutorials of material that extend beyond the timeframe available to us to learn, but would nonetheless benefit us as students in our college careers.

the people of Cherry Hill East have passion, and Cherry Hill East is an environment that welcomes and encourages it.”

— Oliver Adler ('20)

There are many examples to use that share the same message: the people of Cherry Hill East have passion, and Cherry Hill East is an environment that welcomes and encourages it. I’m so appreciative that I was able to pursue some of my passions inside and outside of the classroom. I want to thank my teachers, student government advisors, and coaches who helped me in chasing these passions. Constantly surrounded by individuals who spent their time doing the things that mattered to them inspired me to follow my own goals in student government and athletics. It made me want to come into the building every day. As it does now, it will certainly make me miss the Cherry Hill East community next year.

Waliya Rahman (’20)

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Courtesy of Waliya Rahman ('20)

The night before starting high school, I remember being very restless. I could not go to sleep because of my different emotions in regards to starting high school. I was excited to embark on a new journey but I was also extremely nervous. And it was not the usual nervousness that most students have about high school such as the stress from schoolwork, or building up resumes for college or worrying about SAT scores. NO, that’s not what made me nervous. I was nervous to face the “big kids” in school, meaning the upperclassmen and how they would treat a naive freshman like myself. This was because upon coming to East, I was a timid girl, who was full of insecurities and had a hard time facing other teenagers. So boy was I nervous! I did not know back then, as I walked to Mrs. Sassinsky’s Biology 2H class, that this school which I had entered would transform me.

The past four years changed me from a shy, insecure freshman to a confident, proud-to-be-me type of senior and I truly have East to thank for this transformation. Freshman year I hid behind a persona that I had carried with me from middle school as the “shy girl” but senior year I broke down my walls and let people see the sarcastic, witty and dare I say crazier side of myself. I was given opportunities to participate in so many leadership positions such as being President of MSA for two consecutive years, President of the Spanish Honor Society, Vice President of Cum Laude and many more. These were positions that I never thought I could take on but I found a hidden leader within myself while being at East. I loved using my voice to share my experiences during Unity Day, and being a representation for other Muslim students as I walked the halls of East wearing my hijab like a crown on my head.

I liked participating in things that were outside of my comfort zone like deciding to play PowderPuff (which honestly was so much fun). I did not have many friends on the team but I felt great playing because I did something because I wanted to do it despite whether or not my friends did it. This is one of the biggest changes I see as I look at the person in the mirror today. I no longer worry about doing things only if my friends do it too but rather do what I want to do because I want to do it! I would like to thank the teachers and administrators of East who created a place where a student can not only participate in a single passion but pursue many different passions throughout their four years! East has changed me and allowed me to explore my hidden identity and for that I will be forever grateful.

Paul Bruce (’20)

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Courtesy of Paul Bruce ('20)

My cross country coach here at East, Coach Corey, told me freshman year that if there was any doubt in my mind as to whether I tried my best, then I had let myself down. I always remembered these words throughout my four years at East, as I prepared for June 2020, when I hoped to leave this school and cross my very last finish line with nothing left in the tank. In less than two weeks after graduation, I will leave these fond memories behind and begin a new chapter of my life as a cadet at the United States Military Academy. Going to West Point was not a clear-cut goal of mine four years ago nor has it always been my dream to join the Army. Rather, I acquired this sense of purpose through the selfless role models that are my track and cross country coaches and the priceless instruction of my teachers and advisors; all of which I would never have met if I hadn’t taken a few risks (and lost more than a few SGA elections along the way). For all the underclassmen still searching for what they want to do or who they want to become when they leave these halls behind, look no further and start taking advantage of everything around you. You will never regret being part of something bigger than yourself, no matter how hard it seems. I cherish the times when I was bogged down with homework, when I did not give up when the race got hard, or when I stayed up late studying for a test simply because one day, I would wish that I had done more and not be able to change that. Now, with my last few months of school and my last track season cut short, I often wish I could be back on that starting line, in my spikes and in my white jersey, or even just having the chance to put on one last SGA event. I think I can speak for my entire class when I say that the end wasn’t the freedom we were hoping for, but I think that lets us appreciate the journey more. I am content waving goodbye this summer knowing that I left my mark here, even if it’s only half the size of the mark East has left on me.

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