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Observer Editorial: This place will always be your home

| Friday, May 7, 2021

The end of a school year is always bittersweet. Everyone knows at least one senior who will graduate this spring. But while we hate to see them go, we can’t wait to see them thrive. This year, the class of 2021 at Holy Cross, Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame has gone through the unimaginable: They have finished a degree in the midst of a global pandemic and led by example through incredibly turbulent times.

Seniors from the tri-campus community: You have truly embraced this “new normal” with a mindset that has enabled you to arrive where you are today. You continued to adapt to the new challenges of the past three semesters. After the pandemic upended the 2020 spring semester, you made the most of this atypical year. That perseverance is something to look back on and be proud of.

Since this is our final editorial of the school year, we would like to especially recognize the graduating seniors of The Observer. In a year full of tragedy, isolation and political division, you all have inspired us with your dedication and hard work.

To the seniors of our 2020-2021 Editorial Board: Thank you for everything. Throughout your college careers and especially in the last year, you have led The Observer with unparalleled grace and dignity. The impacts of your leadership will continue to guide the tri-campus newspaper for years to come.

Your leadership was recognized this April when The Observer won 30 Indiana Collegiate Press Awards. This speaks volumes to the quality and depth of the journalism the 2020-2021 Editorial Board oversaw during a year heavy with loss, strife and historic events. Here is some of the impactful, important journalistic work our mentors and friends took on this year:

Former Editor-in-Chief Maria Leontaras chronicled stories of students stuck in quarantine and isolation at the beginning of a new, unprecedented school year and gathered mixed reactions on the storming of the field after Notre Dame football’s historic win over Clemson.

Over the summer, former Managing Editor Mariah Rush wrote about the experiences of international students in dealing with COVID-19 travel regulations and joined former Notre Dame News Editor Serena Zacharias in interviewing students protesting for Black Lives Matter across the U.S.

In the fall, Mariah covered a protest against Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and wrote a heartwarming tribute to Valeria Espinel, one of the Notre Dame students who tragically passed away after being hit by a car in October. Serena and graduating Talent & Inclusion Manager Maria Luisa Paul wrote a parallel tribute to Olivia Rojas, who also died in the crash.

Former Assistant Managing Editor Claire Rafford covered the outpouring of support in the aftermath of the accident at a prayer service held that same night. She also reported on viral open letters penned by Notre Dame professors in both opposition and support of Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination.

At the beginning of the pandemic, as students scattered across the globe sought to return home, former Assistant Managing Editor Maeve Filbin shared the story of two Saint Mary’s students who opted to remain in Rome and had to live under lockdown. After returning to campus in the fall, she wrote about the impact of COVID-19 on local bars.

Former Assistant Managing Editor Sara Schlecht contributed to important coverage of initial academic changes due to COVID-19, writing a story about the College’s adjustment to virtual instruction at the end of March 2020.

Former Saint Mary’s News Editor Mia Marroquin covered the ever-changing state of the pandemic and related guidelines at Saint Mary’s and bravely shared her testimony as one of the first members of the tri-campus community to test positive for COVID-19.

As Notre Dame News Editor, Serena Zacharias spearheaded the launch of the weekly news podcast, “The Recap.” In November 2020, Serena and Mia led the news department in covering the presidential election and how its impacts were felt on the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s campuses.

However, in the midst of a turbulent year, our seniors also utilized journalism to uplift our tri-campus community. Maria Luisa Paul covered the Notre Dame Jewish Club’s story of unity during Antisemitism Awareness Week and highlighted our campus’ diverse voices through her weekly Tri-Campus Tuesday series.

Former Sports Editor Hayden Adams covered Notre Dame football’s electric victory over Clemson last November. Former Graphics Editor Diane Park ensured our stories were always accompanied by and enhanced with beautiful, eye-catching, creative graphics.

Former Scene Editor Ryan Israel triggered entertaining conspiracies among students with his investigative Scene piece linking Notre Dame to Taylor Swift’s “champagne problems.” And our three graduating Viewpoint columnists — Clark Bowden, Vince Mallet and Gabriel Niforatos — fostered constructive dialogue across the tri-campus through their authentic, thought-provoking columns.

We’d also like to thank our graduating Systems Administrator, Stephen Hannon, for keeping our website running, helping us through our printer problems and for doing everything else in and beyond his job description. We truly don’t know where we’d be without him.

Finally, we’d like to extend our gratitude to the entire Editorial Board for consistently putting out open and honest editorials, calling for accountability and transparency from our tri-campus administrations and holding all members of our community to a higher standard.

But our graduating staff contributed so much more than just the groundbreaking content they produced — we’d also like to thank the seniors of the 2020-2021 Editorial Board for their guidance and friendship. Their yearlong term began in March 2020, just as the pandemic shuttered our campuses and sent students home, but their strong leadership and unending care for their staff persisted throughout an unimaginably challenging year. Thank you for making The Observer a home for us, and we hope that it will continue to be a home for you — because you’ll always be welcome in the basement of South Dining Hall.

This is what makes our time in college so special: Each and every one of us ends up finding a home in some corner of our campus. To the seniors of our tri-campus community: Even as you walk across the stage and receive your diploma, remember that this place will remain your home — and if you ever find yourself back in South Bend, Indiana, your campus community will welcome you with open arms.

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