As I reflect on the idea of Thanksgiving, one thing that I am thankful for is Hillel Day School and all of the memories I’ve created there. This year is my 12th at Hillel and I cannot imagine going anywhere else. We are the first “lifers” in Hillel’s history, starting from the twos all the way to eighth grade.

In my time at Hillel, I have made some of my closest friends and have had the privilege of learning with amazing educators. They are the sort of teachers you see in the movies, always there to help and support you, with a relationship that doesn’t end when you leave the classroom. In fact, I am still close with the teachers that I had when I was two, three and four. It is a very special feeling to walk the halls and still receive a hug or high five from a preschool or elementary teacher.

Another special aspect about Hillel is the small community that connects kids of all ages; my relationships extend beyond my 8th-grade peers. I have friends in many different grades. Two of my closest friends are in a grade younger than I am and we talk to each other all the time. Over the summer at Hillel’s ECC camp, I formed close relationships with so many younger kids; now I hear preschoolers say “Hi Mia!” with their sweet little voices echoing down the hall.

Hillel provides wonderful experiences for its students. Last month, my class traveled to Washington DC. After a year postponed due to Covid, we all truly appreciated the trip, bringing me so much closer with my friends and even got close with people that I don’t usually hang out with. One of the best memories of that trip was the bus ride from Gettysburg to DC. Everyone was laughing and talking to each other. Even with all the issues from the pandemic and the serious subject matter of the trip, that ride was a safe space for us to leave our problems outside.

My final year at Hillel is becoming bittersweet. While I am excited about high school and I know that I am ready for it, I am really going to miss Hillel’s loving and caring atmosphere. There will be many more lifers in the school's future, and I am proud to be among the first. I can leave Hillel with a full heart knowing that I had amazing experiences here and that I am prepared for the next chapter in my life. I know that no matter how long I am away, I will always look forward to my visits and returning to a place that I call home.