This past year has been hard on everyone in different ways. As I look at how it has affected me, I realize that one of the most important things that helped me survive and adjust to all of the changes is the support of the communities that I am a part of.

The RA Community has provided me with some of the best friends I could ask for. Friends that are there for me in good times and in bad, and friends that challenge me and make me think about things in different ways. Being able to see them every day at school this past year has made me even more grateful for being a part of the RA community. My teachers have also been a constant help to me and my classmates making things as normal as possible.

It's during the hardest times that you need the community around you the most. Four weeks ago my hockey coach's wife had a brain aneurysm. She was rushed to the hospital and put into a coma. During this time, my team came together and bought Christmas presents for their son because this tragedy happened just before the holidays. The hockey community also helped raise money to bring a family member over from Poland to help her during her recovery. My coach took time off from the rink and focused on his son and the health of his wife. She is out of the hospital and back home continuing her recovery.

The hockey community has rallied to help families during tough times. A few years ago a friend of mine passed away suddenly. My teammates and players who never met the family were able to help by raising money, cooking meals, and being there to support the family. When things like this happen, whether I know them or not, I feel that pain, and I want to help, knowing I am a part of that same community. Another time the hockey community came together to support a player was over the summer. I had recently played against him and a few days later he was hit with a puck in practice and tragically died. Although we were not physically there, our community rallied online to support the family. There were Go Fund Me pages set up to spread awareness to others and help provide some comfort to the family. Even during difficult times like the pandemic when gathering and normal interactions are more limited, it did not stop the community from coming together, supporting the family and each other. There are many positive things that happen in hockey - like when a friend scores a goal or their team wins a big tournament. I know and understand the work it takes to get there and I know that my hockey friends and I share their success.

Communities can be small or big, they are diverse but have a common focus - they can be centered around education, sports, religion, music, or many other things. Having a community of people that cares has definitely had a positive impact on my life, and I have learned that being part of a community makes me feel included, connects me to other people, makes me willing to take risks, and opens me to new opportunities. I know I am in a community when I feel good about the accomplishments of others and feel a duty to help those who have had a misfortune. Both RA and my hockey community have helped me to take risks and feel connected with others.