1,971,360 minutes

Reflections on four years at East.


photo by Ella Gray

Jonathan Dumois

I want to ask you a question, what was it like when you stepped into the hallways of East High School for the very first time?

For me, it was before freshman year. My registration packet never came in the mail, so we had to go to the school and register. The hallways were dark, and obviously not knowing the layout of the school, I was scared. In fact, that was how I ended my first day of High School, scared and afraid. I was so excited that morning that I stayed up all night to prepare. After I got home, all I wanted to do was cry. I didn’t attend school the next day.

This is an experience that a current freshman has experienced on their first day here. Aumiya Powers, class of 2025, said that upon entering the school for the first time, it wasn’t anything like she expected.

“It wasn’t what I thought it would be,” Powers said.

I write this, four years after stepping foot into this school for the first time, about to step foot out of this school for the last time in quite a while. These past four years have taught me a lot, not only the required stuff, but who I am and what I want to be. When I entered as a freshman, I was a bossy person with a serious yet immature attitude, wanting to be a politician and enter that field. Now, as a senior, I have loosened up, became mature, allowed others to lead, and now I am preparing to study Journalism at Northern Illinois University with tuition being paid for via a program that nobody knew about when I started here. 

That program is the Rockford Promise, which offers free tuition (everything except your dorm room and textbooks) for your four years at any of its partnering colleges, including NIU.

One other person who has this scholarship is senior Tony Fiorenza, who said that the scholarship is a game changer for him, as with many other scholarship recipients. 

“Feels pretty good” Fiorenza said when I asked about the prospect of going to college for free.

I never was the person that had school spirit. I always would find excuses to skip a pep rally, I would never go to any of the games, I only attended one club in my entire four years here. In essence, I wasn’t involved in anything here other than my studies, something that I now deeply regret. It was only in my senior year that I wanted to get involved, only to never act on that want. 

The friends I had all came and went. The people who I knew from Flinn came here, and we were really good friends, but the pandemic separated all of us apart, even to this day. I still see these people every day, but we don’t talk much anymore. 

But where I lacked friends, the teachers made up for it. All of them, every single one of them, from the IM1 teacher that first greeted me, to the adviser for the Highlights that inspired me to pursue a career in journalism, all of my teachers gave me opportunities I would’ve never had anywhere else. Thank you, really, I couldn’t have done all of this without you.

When this article is published, I will have left East High School for good. Four years of memories, development, learning, and good times are all behind me, and will soon be behind you too. 

There’s this quote from The Office that was said at the finale by Darryl Philbin (played by Craig Robinson) that I personally relate to:

“Every day when I came to work, all I wanted to do was leave. So why in the world does it feel so hard to leave right now?”

That is exactly how I feel. Many times, these past few years I looked forward to the end of the school day, and the end of the school year once that time came. Now that I am about to leave for real, it honestly feels so hard to leave this almost 80-year-old building on the hilltop. 

To wrap this all up, I have some thank yous to give out:

To all my teachers, past and present, thank you for enriching me with your knowledge. Regardless of how much I might’ve hated (or loved) your subject, you made it tolerable. 

To my case manager, Ms. Gehrke, thank you for guiding me through this difficult path of high school. I remember the first time we met, in the main office, and I was upset that you changed me out of A.P. World History for a much easier class. I forgive you now, after all these years. I’ll never forget everything you did for me. 

To the dozens of administration officials, security team, the lunch ladies, the custodians, “the little people” that work behind the scenes to ensure that this school runs well, thank you for all you do. Your work hasn’t gone unnoticed, and I truly appreciate your work.

To my social worker, Mrs. Aldrich, thank you for guiding me through the many mental health and school struggles that I’ve had these past four years. You are really an amazing person and someone that I consider a close friend of mine. No matter the psychologist or therapist that I will go to talk to, there will never be another person like you. Thank you very much for your services. 

To Mrs. Glidden, the adviser for the Highlights, let it be known that you have been my sole driving factor and inspiration to continue to pursue journalism after high school. It is because of you, and you alone, that I will be attending NIU to get a journalism degree. Your impact on my life has been monumental, and it is a debt that I will never be able to repay. If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know where my life would’ve taken me. You are truly, and I don’t say this lightly, my hero. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for everything.

To the classes that follow, both in the immediate future and the distant future, to those who will teach the classes that follow, I wish you all the best in your studies and successes. Cherish the good times before you leave them, because you are in those good times, and you might not even know it. 

To the current Highlights team, thank you so much for this wonderful year. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your news director. I wish you all the best.

To the future Highlights team, I wish you great success in your quest to inform the E-Rab community of whatever is going on in our school and beyond. I will definitely be a reader.

And finally, to you. Thank you for reading my articles, every single one of them. I consider it an honor to have informed you this past school year. You are why I did it.

I’ve always thought that the phrase “Once an E-Rab, Always an E-Rab” was a ridiculous term, but as I now leave this school, I now realize what it means, and that phrase will be a central part of my life for many years to come, as with many alumni that have once roamed these very halls. I just really wished I had embraced being an E-Rab during the 1,971,360 minutes that I’ve been a student here at East. 

Also, kudos to those who have understood the various references to The Office that I’ve placed throughout the article.

I’ll see you tomorrow at lunch.