Can high school sweethearts pass the test of time?

Zack Dingwall and Meagan Secord in 2018. Photo credit: Colette Secord

First loves.

Butterflies in your belly, holding hands in the hallways, first kisses, these memories fade but before pushing the idea of first love into a box labeled high school sweetheart, consider these stories.

Daniela Acosta met Humberto Acosta, her partner of 29 years, in Venezuela when she was 14. They began dating when she was 17 and were married in 1996 when she was 24.

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Humberto and Daniela Acosta in 1992 at the age of 18. Photo credit: Courtesy of Valentina Acosta
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Humberto and Daniela Acosta in 2018. Photo credit: Courtesy of Valentina Acosta

“It’s not easy,” says Daniela. “But when you have trust and you have love, you can face everything.”

After getting married, they had their first child, Valentina, before moving from Venezuela to Orlando, Florida. In 2005, Thomas was born and the family moved to Canada four years later.

Daniela says her advice to younger generations would be to never stop dating. Trust is everything, she says, and advises young people to take life daybyday.

Life isn’t going to be a fairy tale all the time,” says Daniela Acosta.

Her love story has stuck with her daughter, Valentina Acosta. My parents went to America with very little. My dad told me that when I was a baby, they would use food stamps from the church to feed me,” says Valentina. “They went through so much and they’re still here, together, and that’s so empowering for me.”

Valentina and Glenn Stapleton started dating in Gr. 10 at the age of 15. They met at St. Stephens Catholic Secondary School in Bowmanville.

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Glenn Stapleton and Valentina Acosta in 2015. Photo credit: Courtesy of Valentina Acosta
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Glenn Stapleton and Valentina Acosta in 2018. Photo credit: Courtesy of Valentina Acosta

Valentina says growing together has “helped us more than the relationship.”

“He challenges me in a way that no one else does, so he always makes me want to be a better person,” she says. “He gives me a drive, I want to be the person he sees me to be.”

The road isn’t always smooth, however.

Glenn and Valentina have broken up twice since they started dating. The short time they were apart, she says, made her appreciate the time they were together.

However, Valentina remembers the number one thing her mother told her about love: “if you truly love each other and that person truly loves you, you can get through anything.”

Much like high school sweethearts Chuck and Jennifer Clark.

The Clarks both work at St. Stephens, the high school they met at in 1993 when they were in Gr. 9.

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16-year-old Chuck and Jennifer Clark. Photo taken in 1995.
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Chuck and Jennifer Clark in 2018.

“We went through all the transitions in life together,” says Jennifer. “We’ve done everything at the same time which gives us that understanding of what the other person is going through.”

The Clarks were married in 2005 and now have two children.

“I don’t think that any strong relationship is easy per se, you’ve gotta work at it and not take the other person for granted,” says Jennifer Clark.

The advice the Clark’s would give the younger generations is, “You have to find someone that you view as your best friend.” But that’s not all. “Whatever will be, will be.”

Jennifer says, “I always look at the students in my Gr. 9 class who are kind of dating each other and have to think, I wonder if these two are going to stay together for the long haul.”

This is exactly what high school sweethearts Mathew Eyers and Justine Walsh did when they met in Jennifer Clark’s Gr. 9 class at St. Stephens. The 21-year-old pair is soon to be married and have an 11-month old daughter.

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Mathew Eyers and Justine Walsh in 2012 when they were 14. Photo credit: courtesy of Justine Walsh
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Mathew Eyers and Justine Walsh with their daughter Maci in 2018 Photo credit: courtesy of Justine Walsh

“It was so early on in high school that everyone just knew us as a thing,” says Justine.

The pair says it wasn’t easy being together all of  high school.

According to Justine, people would assume that as a couple, they had to do everything together.

“We’d been dating for so long that everyone just  sort  of took us as a package deal,” she says. “I was in a friend group but I  was never invited  places, just the girls because they thought I was always with Matt.”

Mathew’s advice to younger generations is to “step outside of your comfort zone.” But mostly, do not listen to people who say the long run is not possible.

Something I agree with completely.

I was in Gr. 9 at St. Stephens when I met my boyfriend of almost four years, Zack Dingwall. We started dating in Gr. 10 and have been through a lot together, including two breakups of our own.

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Zack Dingwall and Meagan Secord at the pumpkin patch in 2015, the first year they were dating. Photo credit: Colette Secord
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Zack Dingwall and Meagan Secord at the pumpkin patch in 2017. Photo credit: Colette Secord

If there was one thing I could say about falling in love in high school, it would be that it is not easy.

People are going to doubt your partnership and so are you. You’re going to have thoughts such as, ‘can we make it?’ or ‘should I go into the next phase of my life single?’

The answer to those questions is up to you.

If the stories throughout this article prove anything, it’s that Bowmanville is indeed one of the most romantic cities in Ontario.

But seriously, whether you meet when you’re young or old, you really have to work to stay in love.

So I will leave this thought for any present, or future high school sweethearts:

“The most beautiful thing about young love is the truth in our hearts that it will forever last.” ~ Atticus

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