#GreatFaith: Riley Wick ’20

Friday, July 31, 2020
Riley Wick ’20

“During spring break, I was scheduled to go to her house. Then COVID-19 hit and she generously allowed me to stay with her for as long as I needed. I had nowhere to go and she took me under her wing. Even after I left to fly home, she continued to FaceTime me and keep in touch to make sure I was alright. She was also doing this while she was away from home, as she decided to move to a different state away from her family to help her aunt to take care of her cousins. She has been really good at trying to keep a positive attitude and help others whenever she can with how they are feeling.” —Zoe Gooch ’20

For Riley Wick ’20, spring break started with a flourish of activity. At the end of Irving-Marshall Week in February, Wick attended the National High School Dance Festival in Pittsburgh, and then she flew straight to New York City to audition for the dance program at Juilliard. Through all of this, she was also committed to helping her friend, Zoe Gooch ’20: “I knew that Zoe wasn’t going to be able to go home [to the United Kingdom] over spring break, and our friend group was like, ‘OK, let’s work this out.’” They arranged for Gooch to stay with Clarissa Thompson ’20 and her family in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, for the start of spring break, and then Thompson and Gooch came to stay with Wick in Middleburg, Virginia, for the second part of spring break. All three were eager to enjoy their last high school break and return to Mercersburg together for the spring.

Then everything changed. When COVID-19 forced a two-week delay in the return to campus, Thompson returned home, and Wick and her family encouraged Gooch to stay. They adjusted Wick’s room to fit two beds, and they “got into the groove of doing virtual classes,” Wick says.

As time went on and the return to campus was delayed again, Wick continued to assure Gooch that she could stay for as long as she needed. “There was a really big fear for her that if she went home, and we were somehow able to pull off an in-person graduation, that she wouldn’t be able to get back into the country,” Wick says. Ultimately, however, Gooch did go home, and Wick and her family helped Gooch retrieve her passport from Mercersburg and secure a seat on one of the last flights out of Dulles International Airport.

“It was really great having Zoe here because through that time, it wasn’t easy on any of the seniors, so having one of my best friends here to get me through and keep me company was super helpful,” Wick says. “We kept doing things and keeping ourselves busy.” Wick credits Gooch with helping her stay mentally sane through all the uncertainty.

Wick is also a bit surprised and grateful that she was able to be such a positive light for Gooch during this time. “Zoe and Clarissa are the sunshine in our friend group,” says Wick. “They radiate the positive energy. Zoe and Clarissa have been my positivity teachers. It’s really nice to see that she says I’ve been really positive. That’s what I’ve been aiming to be, but it’s definitely taken me a while to get there, but I’m glad that it’s helping other people.”

Two days after Gooch flew home, Wick carried her newfound positive attitude to North Carolina to care for her cousins. Her aunt and uncle are both healthcare workers, and Wick became a live-in nanny for their three young children. She balanced her school work and her childcare duties and was able to physically be with her parents, aunt, uncle, and cousins to participate in her virtual Commencement ceremony before returning home to Virginia. “I just learned how to make life work in the hardest of situations because this is probably one of the hardest things the seniors have had to go through,” says Wick. “So, being able to make the best out of it and be genuinely happy with what’s going on was the best part but also one of the hardest parts.”

This fall Wick looks forward to pursuing her passion for dance at the University of South Florida. “It’s so hard right now to plan what’s coming next because of the uncertainty of it all, but I’m hoping that as a dance major, I will be able to get back in there because I need to be in the studio, surrounded by people dancing, so I guess it’s just having a little bit of faith that it will work out. Even if the fall does get canceled or goes online, maybe I push my general education credits to this fall and try to get that done. I’ve been living through the motto that everything happens for a reason, so even though I have no clue what’s going to happen in the fall, I know that it will all work out the way it is supposed to.”

Editor’s note: Mercersburg Academy extends a huge thank-you to every student who hosted their peers during this spring term. As Riley Wick’s story illustrates, it really has made a difference.