SOUTHWICK – Although the intent of the “Senior Drive Around” June 4 was to honor the Southwick Regional School Class of 2021, Police Chief Kevin Bishop ended up being recognized.
Bishop, who will retire at the end of this month, helped organize and lead the car parade for the second consecutive year with the goal of making the seniors feel special after a particularly difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when he arrived at the school he was greeted with a message on the front fence of the school –“Thanks Chief Bishop” was “written” in cups in the fence. At the event, Bishop did a solo lap amongst the parade participants with all the students and staff of SRS standing outside of their vehicles, some holding signs while giving Bishop a standing ovation.
“It really meant a lot to me, especially this year leading the drive around event,” Bishop said following the event. “I thought a lot about the kids this past year of what they’ve been through and how they met the challenges and conquered them. The timing also meant a lot to me. This class . . . I look at them as starting a new chapter in life and it really made me reflect on myself as I close out another chapter of my life. I just hope and pray each and every one of them will be blessed with the good times like I have had and to hopefully find a profession that they all will love.”
Throughout the pandemic, Bishop sent messages to students to encourage them and let them know he was there to support them in this difficult time. He organized the 2020 Senior Drive Around and wanted to once again show his support after all that students endured. He said what all students went through has weighed heavy on his mind.
Bishop recently sent a message to the Class of 2021, noting that he was proud of them and that as they prepare for a new chapter in life, he is also starting a new journey in retirement.
“I am very proud of all of you because you have been faced with so much uncertainty and other challenges this past year, but you faced them all and you conquered them all,” he stated. “Some of you may be aware that I am also starting the next chapter of my life when I retire on June 30th after 37 years with the Southwick Police Department. This has caused me to think a lot about my life over the years since I walked down the High School hill on graduation night way back in 1978.”
Bishop said that like many of today’s graduates, he, too, did not know what the future held.
“Many of you may have no idea where the future will take you or the challenges you may be faced with. Because I know I did not know what the future held for me. I must admit there have been many challenges and bumps along the way for me, but I feel all of you are ready for those challenges,” he wrote. “So, I guess I will give you all your first challenge for the future and that challenge is to never give up. Never be beaten down by the tough times you may be faced with because there is always tomorrow and none of us know what tomorrow may bring. Face the challenges head-on and keep a positive attitude do not listen to what the nay sayers may have to say but feed off the negativity and show them that you are the best of the best.”
Bishop said the graduates would also have many, many good times and encouraged them to savor them and be thankful. He also told them to take good care of themselves and others
“Treat yourself well and know that each one of you is a very important part of the future of our society,” he said. “I hope and pray that this class of 2021 will be part of the change that we as a nation need for the future. Treat others with respect and kindness because none of us know what the person you are sitting next to is facing in life and sometimes just a simple hello or a smile can make a huge difference in a person’s life.”
Bishop said as e begins his next adventure, he will think often of the Class of 2021 as they start theirs.
Bishop ended his note with a wish for the students: “May you all be blessed with health and happiness. Stay Safe, Stay Strong, God Bless.”