COUGAR VALUES SPOTLIGHT: NRWMS Students Honor Friends at Veterans Day Assembly
The North Rose-Wolcott Middle School community came together in November to honor the memories of two of their peers, creating an award that will celebrate their qualities for years to come.
In the fall of 2022, members of NRWMS’ National Junior Honor Society considered ways they could remember their classmates Christopher Anaya-Hernandez, who passed away in 2020, and Scott Barnes, who passed away in 2022. Working with NJHS advisor Mr. Tubolino, the group came up with the idea to establish the Scott Barnes-Christopher Anaya-Hernandez Memorial Award. The honor would be given out each Veterans Day to those who exemplify the qualities shown by Scott and Christopher, which line up with the traits demonstrated by many veterans - among them respect, honesty, leadership, perseverance, and work ethic.
To introduce the award, two students close to the students courageously stepped up to write speeches about Christopher and Scott to read at this November’s Veterans Day assembly. Seventh-grade student Reagan Wadsworth grew up with Scott, and eighth grader Abigayle Bates is Christopher’s stepsister.
Writing comes naturally to Reagan, so her first draft about Scott came together quickly and stayed largely unchanged. She enlisted the help of her teachers and friends to add key details about who Scott was and what he liked to do. Meanwhile, Abi’s family helped her practice her speech about Christopher. Her father, who has given a speech before, gave her some pointers.
“We were all crying while I was practicing it,” Abi said. “I wanted to make sure people knew what Chris liked and what made Chris, Chris.”
Classmates and teachers helped the two revise their speeches, and Abi and Reagan helped each other as well.
The day of the assembly, Reagan and Abi were both nervous to read their speeches in front of their classmates, staff members, local veterans and the community. However, they felt supported by their peers and fellow NJHS members. They also knew Christopher’s and Scott’s families were in the crowd, as the inaugural award was being given to their families on their behalf.
“I was so freaked out because I didn’t know what people would think. I was shaking a lot,” Abi said. She focused on her speech and made sure she spoke clearly so the crowd could understand the things she had to say about Christopher.
“As Christopher showed his love through kindness and respect, we owe it to him to ensure that we do our best each and every day to respect one another and show that same level of kindness,” Abi wrote in her speech.
“I was initially very nervous, not because of the crowd but because it was in front of his parents. I was very nervous, butterflies in my stomach and all,” Reagan said. “I choked up at first, but it became a lot easier. It was like the words were spilling out of my mouth.” She envisioned Scott in the crowd and knew he would be proud.
“Scott did leave behind a legacy, even if there is so much more he could have done,” Reagan said.
While it was a sad and emotional day, Reagan and Abi said it gave them the opportunity to learn the importance of community and supporting one another through hard times.
“I’ve never seen that many people cry in a school before… the staff wanted to make us feel comforted, supported and all together,” Abi said. People were checking in on one another and talking to each other even if they hadn’t spoken before, she added. “It became such a good thing,” Abi said.
“The main thing I learned was, as much as we would like to change the outcome of that day, we can’t go back and change the past like that,” Reagan said. “It hurts…but I think the best thing is to be a community and be there for each other.”