A Letter To Students: I Salute You

Photo Credit/ ESU website

Bill Broun is a professor of English. He’s a faculty advisor for the Stroud Courier. 

When this is all over, I suggest a party at ESU. A crowded, sloppy gathering with the exact opposite of social distancing taking place. Hugs will be hugged, hand-holdings held, and endless libations of Warrior Punch imbibed. We’ll meet face to face in classes again, Zoom will be banned, and COVID-19 will be that Awful Thing that happened a lifetime ago. 

That’s where that painful story will end, I hope. 

But until that day comes, until a vaccine is found, until we can breathe near each other again without mortal fear, I want to share another COVID-19 story. This one’s about unbelievable strength, heart, and a determination to suit up and show up. 

The main protagonists are ESU students, and the antagonists the cruel disease and the various kinds of incompetence that have enabled and spread it. 

I have witnessed in the last two weeks levels of large-scale heroism on the part of my students that I never imagined. 

I want, simply, to salute ESU’s brave students.  

As ever, when trouble hits our community, students and their families seem to stand on the leading edge of pain and suffering. They’re nursing sick and, inevitably, some dying family members. They’re losing jobs and side hustles and struggling to cobble together enough money to buy a bag of potatoes. Some of them, without question, are going to become sick. They’re watching little siblings, who are themselves scared and confused. They’re moving from dorm rooms to sofas in relatives’ houses while enduring the loss of long-anticipated milestones and dreams. They’ve lost graduation, chances to hang out with friends at bagel shops and bars, celebrations of their academic prowess, and games and matches they’ve trained half their lives for. Even this newspaper you’re reading now is a product of ESU working, under duress, to inform you. 

Yet they are showing up for online classes, eager to learn. They’re adapting quickly and working to help their peers do the same.

Even in the face of extreme grief and pain, they keep logging on, uploading completed essays and exercises, working to perfect projects, patiently accepting their professors’ own struggles to deal with the New Normal.

In many cases, my students aren’t just teaching me about what it means to be a great student. They’re modeling the very essence of what it means to be human. 

And I hear very, very few complaints. Indeed, there are times when I almost wish my students would kvetch, weep, and howl in sadness more often. Howling in anguish, after all, is fully justified. 

I have always felt a fondness for my students at ESU. I’ve always felt warm towards them, even on my grumpy days. But in the last two weeks, I can now say that what I feel towards them is real love. For whatever the future may bring, I want it to be known that I love my students and admire them to no end. They’ve made me a better person. And if the words “Warrior Strong” used to be just marketing words to me, I can definitively say that they are no longer just words.