What does being a Kennedy Eagle mean? That’s a question that for a long time, I didn’t answer. That’s because my journey to the point I’m at now, providing you all coverage of our alma mater, Kennedy High School, has been a unique, if not unlikely one. It’s become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I’m not going to pretend that my time in high school was perfect. In fact, a great way to describe my experience during my time as a student at Kennedy could be best summed up using the first two sentences of the Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” You see, for those of you who don’t know, I didn’t play any sports at Kennedy. Others tended to characterize me as a nerd or smart kid, the latter of which I preferred obviously. As you would expect, I was the target of a number of bullies, several of whom I was able to stand up to. However, I was also pretty well connected to where I knew at least a few people from virtually every click, the metal heads, the grunge crowd, the band members, the cheerleaders, and even a couple athletes here and there. I even represented Kennedy on the quiz bowl team my senior year.
When I enlisted in the Air Force in 2002, a year after I graduated from Kennedy, I didn’t look back, not for a long time. Then around 2007, I began to gradually reconnect with friends from my school years, through Myspace and then Facebook. During this process though, I received a major shock when I learned that a dear friend of mine, Lisa Radtke, had been killed by her mother in 2006, but I didn’t find out until January 2010. I would need a separate post to tell you all how this affected me and what she meant to me. What I can tell you though is that moment showed me that it wasn’t good for me to turn my back on my past, no matter how painful certain aspects of it were.
A year later, and one year after returning to civilian life, I attended my 10-year class reunion at Mallies. I actually had a great time revisiting with old friends and being able to come face to face with some of the people that I had considered enemies in the past, and not have any desire for vengeance against them. This wouldn’t had been true just a few years, or even a few months beforehand. I thank God for softening my heart.
Fast forward to this year. I like everyone else was shocked to hear the news that Kennedy was going to be closing down. This also provided me an opportunity though, to be able to interview some of my fellow alumni about their thoughts. Many of you read that story from April, but if you haven’t seen it yet, then you can read it here.
Then came a monumental decision concerning my fall sports coverage. Many people had asked me to expand it to include high school sports, not just college. I live in West Bloomfield now, so there are many schools that I’m now in much closer proximity to than Kennedy. Plus, I’d been exposed to some of the top high school teams in Oakland County from my internship at MLive, covering the 2012 season. I could had chosen West Bloomfield High, Bloomfield Hills High, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, or any of those other “elite” schools, but I chose my alma mater. I chose Kennedy. I already had a built-in audience for Kennedy, but I had no idea how this decision would affect me over the next few months.
About a month before the walkthrough, I came through Kennedy and reconnected with assistant principal Ms. Loomis, who once upon a time was my Spanish teacher, Ms. Lychuck. I had a very surreal moment as I went through the halls. It was as if I had traveled back in time to my time as a student, picturing the times past where the halls were filled with faces I remembered from back then.
Then there’s my coverage of the football season. Of course, the team has its struggles on the field, but I can’t even begin to imagine the tremendous weight they have on their shoulders of being the final football team ever at Kennedy. They appear to be handling it the best the way possible and a couple have even come up to me while I’m on the sideline and asked me how’s it going once they’ve gotten used to seeing me.
The head coach, Steve Rusnak has also been very welcoming to me. One of the first things he told me was how good it was for the team to be covered by an alum. I didn’t quite expect to receive that great of a reception from him, plus, he was the one that first alerted me of the great story that was Conner Zschunke’s struggles and triumphs, which you now know about.
You all as my fellow alumni have expressed to me your appreciation of my coverage of Kennedy since we all heard that the school will be closing. This is something that I don’t take lightly, and I very much appreciate all of your support, so thank you all.
This brings us to last week’s walkthrough and homecoming game. There were a few folks that I announced myself to as “the guy writing all of the stories,” but aside from this and a few people that I interviewed, I wanted to also take some time to take in the moment myself.
The homecoming game was truly a memorable experience. There were times where I could had taken photos, but I ended up getting caught into the moment myself. Never before had I seen so many blue varsity jackets, from the seats all the way to the concession stands. Looking at the years of the jackets, virtually all eras were represented, whether it was ’72, ’84, ’86, ’89, ’93, ’96, ’99, ’02, ’06, ’10, ’15, or even ’17. This was truly a sight to behold, and there are several other years that I saw as well that aren’t mentioned here.
Perhaps the greatest example to me of how I felt was watching the alumni cheerleaders cheering along with the current cheerleaders. Here we all were, Kennedy Eagles from various eras, all here, all now, all taking part in something that was bigger than all of us.
This brings us all back to my original question, what does being a Kennedy Eagle mean? More precisely in this case, what does being a Kennedy Eagle mean to me? For me, it means coming to terms with this part of my past, being able to look back at it, and embrace it right along with my time at Racho Elementary, Brake Middle School, Wayne State University, the U.S. Air Force, Oakland University, and Specs Howard School of Media Arts. Being a Kennedy Eagle means,for me, allowing myself to be reconnected to this school, especially before it closes it’s doors for good. It means reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen in years. It means not just focusing on the bad times, but also remembering the good times. Finally, it means being able to play a small part in helping all of you remember Kennedy, by providing snap shots here and there. With that, I will end this in the most fitting way how, by saying, you heard it from me, Seth Walker.