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Whether we are parents, teachers, staff, or school leaders, we all are pulling in the same direction and we will tackle this new outbreak as one. 

My favorite professor at Assumption College, Thomas Puchalsky, taught American and European Literature. The most engaging and inspiring teacher I’ve ever had, on weekends he’d host soirees where we cooked collective meals, read poetry in a variety of languages, and listened to opera. As we parted ways after such events, Tom would invariably say, “Onward and upward!” as his exuberant form of goodbye. It was his way of saying: stay curious and courageous and keep marching forward to be the best person you can be.

Tom became a lifelong friend, and he was always so proud of what I had chosen to do with my life. From the beginning, he was a major supporter of Oneness-Family School. He saw the school as a place where students could develop their minds and hearts, and discover the passions that would fuel their lives. When Tom became very sick with a type of ALS, I went to visit him before he passed. It took tremendous effort for him to even utter a few words, but he wanted to know how the school was doing. His final words to me were: “You keep that school going!” With a lump in my throat, but with a smile, I replied “Onward and upward.”

I have thought of my dear friend Tom often over the years, and have taken to saying “onward and upward” myself in signing off meetings or when leaving gatherings of friends. I think of Tom especially during the tough times, such as the one we are going through right now with the Omicron virus. The next few weeks will be challenging for all of us as we try to carry on with work and school during the Omicron spike. If we remain faithful to protocols, keep each other informed, and offer each other grace and patience, I am certain we will be able to soon put this difficult period behind us.

When I have faced difficulties in my life or challenges at our school, I remember people like Tom Puchalsky and how much he believed in me and in the mission of the school. It always brings me strength to recall his face and to hear his words, and I know I have to carry on and take the next step forward. I’m sure you have had people in your life you recall at times like these, from whom you draw inspiration and perspective. It’s a good time to bring their memories forward if they have passed or to connect with them if they are still here.

At the same time, we can be sources of support for each other too. Whether we are parents, teachers, staff, or school leaders, we all are pulling in the same direction and we will tackle this new outbreak as one. A wonderful hallmark of our school community over the decades has been the caring attitude and common purpose we have shared. And I feel certain that those things will sustain us once again, as we try to take one day at a time over the next couple of weeks, even as we look forward to brighter days this spring.