Congratulations to Rhyleigh Russell for being selected by the English Department as the Rotary Student of the Month. On October 12, Rhyleigh was honored at the Rotary Student of the Month Breakfast along with honorees from Old Saybrook and Westbrook High Schools. Mrs . Cleveland shared her remarks below explaining why Rhylegih stands out among her peers.
By Elizabeth Cleveland
Rhyleigh was an easy choice for the English Department to make as Rotary Student of the Month. She represents all that we value in the department: she appreciates subtleties in literature, as is apparent in her thoughtful participation in class discussion, the lines in her essays that stay with you long after you teach her, and in the way she has crafted her own literature as an author. “Even doomed souls dream.” This sentence hangs on my classroom wall today, the theme that Rhyleigh crafted after finishing Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men sophomore year, and a piece of wisdom that comes from someone who grasps the at once hopeful and despairing truth revealed in this heartbreaking story. Not only does Rhyleigh exemplify the kind of literary student that enrich the classroom, but she also enlivens the creative writing classroom with her passion for stories and poems and her unrelenting work ethic. She was a part of my first creative writing class when halfway through the semester, we went home to endure the pandemic lockdown. Rhyleigh was one of the students who continued to attend an optional weekly creative writing zoom meeting to share our writing pieces, critique others, and create writing together. However, haphazard, I will remember that group fondly, as they created a class poem that was cohesive and beautiful from their separate lives at home. In this poem, Rhyleigh wrote:
It’s hard to recall a time
Of peace in the olive trees
or bittersweet reveries.
For so long, I’ve longed
to rest, but the world does not stop spinning,
This stanza really gives voice to the feeling that we all shared during the lockdown. I could talk for hours about my enthusiasm in honoring Rhyleigh with this award, but I will end by saying that it’s been a joy to have been able to watch Rhyleigh evolve as a student and artist over these years and she is most deserving of this honor.
WAY TO GO RHYLEIGH!
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