Jeremy Bender named 2020 salutatorian at Eastern Regional

Student reflects on a senior year marred by pandemic

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: Eastern Regional class of 2020 salutatorian Jeremy Bender plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania next year.

For many students, high school is an opportunity for students to find themselves and develop who they’ll become for the rest of their lives. It’s a time when young adults first begin to face challenges on their own and learn to adapt and overcome obstacles.

Jeremy Bender, this year’s salutatorian at Eastern Regional, feels he certainly came out of his comfort zone during high school. While he didn’t participate in many clubs or activities his first year or two, he got a lot more involved as the years went by.

“Those first two years I wasn’t too involved, but as I got older I got involved in a few different honors societies, the Escape Club (which deals with environmental awareness) and academic challenge,” Bender said.

“I felt like eventually I hit a point where I knew I wanted to make the most of the time I had and find different things that really interested me. I saw friends and other people in these clubs doing great things and having fun, and I didn’t want to miss out on that.”

By the time he was a senior, Bender had served as an officer in the History and Spanish Honors Society, with a leading role in the Escape Club as well. While he got involved with different clubs and activities to see what he enjoyed most, a friend who was directing a one-act play convinced Bender and another friend to help fulfill a need for more boys in the production.

“At first I really hated it because it didn’t feel like my thing. I’d never done theater before and I was kind of shy,” Bender recalled.

But he stuck with the show after the initial production because it helped get him out of his comfort zone and grow as a person. Bender continued to help out during his years at Eastern, albeit in small roles or parts.

“It was fun to try and be with friends after school, but most importantly, I was proud of myself afterwards for having done that and I feel like it helped break me out of my comfort zone more,” he said.

Looking back on his Eastern classes, Bender said he enjoyed those that allowed for discussion and conversation on world events. 

“In both AP U.S. History II and Environmental Biology, we had a lot of discussions, whether it be with current politics or the world around us,” he noted. “I feel like I got a better understanding of what’s going on and was better equipped to understand things.”

Outside of Eastern, Bender volunteered frequently at Lion’s Gate in Voorhees, working on the dementia and Alzheimer’s floor. He and his family also volunteered time at the Animal Welfare Association.

The organization he probably spent the most time with outside of Eastern was  BBYO, a Jewish youth group organization, where he would help organize events and recruit other members.

Having gone through remote learning for much of the last three months, Bender said it felt slightly difficult at times to even remember learning was still going on while the COVID-19 pandemic kept schools closed.

As he and some of his fellow classmates prepare for the next chapter of their  lives with college, Bender hopes his class can take what they learned at Eastern and apply it in the real world, not just in the classroom but also in life. 

“I hope we can take what we learned at Eastern and apply it to the real world once the world gets back to normal after COVID-19, because it might not be the same normal that we were used to before this,” Bender said.

“It’s kind of the challenge of our generation to work through that and reshape society for the better.”

Bender plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania and study economics.