As the coronavirus pandemic started affecting everyday life, including the cancellation of in-person school before spring break, we asked high school journalists to share their perspectives and experiences.
None of us knew yet that the rest of the school year would be moved online, with milestone events canceled or drastically altered. Our high school journalists considered these questions: What events were you looking forward to enjoying during your senior year? How has this changed the way you live? How do you communicate with your friends during this time? What are you most concerned about? Are there any positives that you see in this experience? Any positives that you see in the future? Are you and your friends planning to do anything to celebrate the monumental events that were canceled?
Here, we share excerpts from the responses — thoughtful, sweet, sad, optimistic — we received. Read them in full at austin360.com.
'This virus hurts me to my core’
There is a newspaper sitting on our coffee table with a COVID-19 headline plastered across the front page. I am stuck in my house and my family is beginning to go stir-crazy. I haven’t been to school in what feels like months but is only weeks, and this morning, I slept in later than my parents knew was possible.
My dad bought a Nintendo Switch last week, thinking we would donate it to a charity when things went back to normal, but I am beginning to think we are going to be quarantined forever. We will continue to sit in our houses eating the bulk pasta we bought from Costco before there were lines out the doors, climbing up the ranks in Mario Kart. It is a good thing that it’s our ranks climbing and not our fevers.
At some point, I’m going to run out of anxiety medication, but whether our pharmacy is safe, I don’t know. To stand in line and hear the person behind us coughing has become one of our greatest fears, and it’s allergy season, so everyone is coughing. My therapist always tells me to expose myself to my anxieties but this virus does enough of that on its own.
A close family friend is coughing and having shortness of breath, and I've never seen my mother more scared in my life. She has been behind closed doors talking on the phone with family members and friends trying to secure a test and emergency procedures since she got the call. Her phone is always by her side. She would fly to California to help in person if she could, but California is on government-mandated lockdown, and airports are too risky, anyway.
AISD recommends that 10th graders read “Little Women” until we get back to school, but if I read that book one more time, I’m going to have it memorized. I’m running out of books in my room to read, and since the library is closed, my language arts schedule is going to be a little bit messy until school starts back up again.
I miss my friends. I joke with my boyfriend about breaking the coronavirus quarantine, but the DPS is closed and he can’t get his driver’s license. Not to mention we’re both scared of infecting each other, even though neither of us have left our houses in days. We had our one year anniversary the weekend before quarantine started, and seeing as we’re foolish teenagers, we want nothing more than to see each other.
When we go on walks as a family, we wait by the side of the path while people run past us. The CDC recommends we remain 6 feet away from others. I can smell the runner’s perfume, which means I must be too close, but if I edge another step to the right I’m going to fall into the creek.
This virus hurts me to my core. I miss my routine, and I miss school. But this is not the apocalypse, although it may feel like it. The risk of infection is intensely anxiety-inducing in a variety of ways, but I need to remember that we will heal from this. We will be weathered and we will be calloused, and we will even be mourning. But even if this becomes the new normal, I am confident that the anxiety will fade. And I’m sure that my parents will be able to find a charity we can donate our Nintendo to, virus or not.
— Zoe Klein, Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy sophomore
'A sliver of light’
My name is Heba Dalu, and I am a 16-year-old sophomore at Akins Early College High School. I am the incoming In-Depth Editor for the Eagle’s Eye.
The coronavirus outbreak and the resulting spread of COVID-19 have canceled or postponed many events that I was looking forward to enjoying this year, like nearly all other high school students.
One of these events is AkinsTHON, a student-led group that works in collaboration with the University of Texas to raise awareness and funds for Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, which is a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital that serves a 46-county area. For the entirety of the school year, a group of peers and I have stayed after school for countless hours to plan this event. It’s a six-hour dance marathon with other activities, like performances from Akins Ballet Folklorico and the Dare-to-Dream dance group. Initially, the date for AkinsTHON was set for March 27; however, the future date remains uncertain. It saddens me to my core that this event will not happen as planned, not for all of the hard work that we’ve put into organizing it, but for the kids that it would have benefited.
COVID-19 has significantly changed the way I live. I’m usually always out doing something — exploring the city, hanging out with friends, and working at my job. Now, I feel like a prisoner in my own home, staring at these four blank walls that would stay silent even if they could talk. Most places are closed and my mom is wary about me visiting my friends’ homes, so I often find myself feeling jailed. Most importantly, my life as a student that loves to go to school has been notably altered. The fact that school has shifted to distance learning brings me great sorrow as I desperately crave to see my friends, teachers, and participate in extracurriculars. Although I know that learning doesn’t have to stop just because we’re not in buildings, we all know that it’s not the same high school experience that many, including myself, were hoping to have.
During these trying times, the way I communicate with my friends is slightly different. I’ve always used social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram to stay in touch with my friends, but they play a more prominent role in my life now. Most days are bleak and monotonous, but it adds a pop of color to my life when I see that my friends have sent me a funny post or reminded me of an inside joke. It gives me hope that they can still manage to put a smile on my face even when we’re apart.
When I’m missing my friends the most, we turn to video calling platforms like FaceTime, which allows us all to simultaneously reconvene. We FaceTime for hours at a time to make up the time that we’ve lost. Rather than the term “social distancing,” I prefer “physical distancing” because I am still able to be social online. Thanks to this modern luxury, we can stay social, sane and safe.
I am concerned about many other matters, predominantly academics. I love to learn, so it’s alarming to hear that we may not get to learn new things. I’m also not sure about how I’ll get to accept my college credit through OnRamps (dual-enrollment courses in partnership with UT Austin) as I know many college students are reverting to pass/fail. I’m trepidatious as to whether or not I’ll still get to accept my letter grade as is. Lastly, with the stay-at-home order expiring, I’m uneasy about the possibility of the virus spreading at an even faster rate, which may cause an even longer, exacerbated quarantine.
In even the darkest of skies, there’s a sliver of light. There are numerous positives that I see from this experience. Currently, this gives people time off to recuperate and practice self-care. Even though things aren’t exactly looking up at the present moment, there will be far more benefits in terms of the future. People will be more mindful of hygiene such as washing hands, staying home when sick, and covering their mouths when coughing/sneezing. I also think this will allow teenagers to truly appreciate going to school and not take it for granted. Teleworking will help with carbon emissions and preparedness for future crises. Additionally, there’s the positive of more focus on having financial stability because people now see the importance of having an emergency fund and limiting debt to guard for unforeseen circumstances like this.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected my life as a high school student. There are both positives and negatives from this experience, but ultimately, I believe it’s a wake-up call. We should learn from this for the sake of the pandemic and other unexpected scenarios.
— Heba Dalu, Akins Early College High School sophomore
What we’ve lost
When I woke up on March 12, I had no idea that it would be my last day in school for a long time. Of course I knew about the virus; it was dominating conversations in almost all of my classes. I expected that there would be school cancellation after the break. I was even a little excited. But I didn't expect our break to come so suddenly. Even when school was canceled a day early on March 13, it still didn’t seem real. It felt like nothing in our lives would actually change, and that all of this virus stuff was merely a formality to calm people who were nervous about it. My image of a “corona-cation” (as some have called it) looked like doing online school at the local coffee shop with my friends or sitting in my bed blasting music while I write my history paper. Little did I know it would look like bottles on bottles of hand sanitizer, not seeing my friends for days, and facing the possibility of losing the rest of my junior year.
It's a stark contrast to go from seeing all your friends every day to suddenly seeing none of them at all. It's a tough change, too, especially when you consider the importance of social connection to the high school environment. Now, the way to get in touch with your friends is via technology: Snapchat, TikTok, FaceTime, etc. There is only one way to get in touch with your friends in real life, and that is going on a social distance walk. It’s just like a normal walk, except you stay at least 6 feet apart from each other and use copious amounts of hand sanitizer. For us it’s a good way to stay sane both with getting out of the house and being able to socialize with peers our age. I do have to acknowledge that I am 16 and have both my license and a car, so it’s not a problem for me to drive to my friend’s neighborhoods, but I understand that for younger students or students without a car, it’s much harder if not impossible to do these things.
As well as being deprived of our usual dose of socialization, there is another pressing issue that comes with being removed from high school. I’m worried about how I’m going to have to compensate for the lack of education I’m going to be able to get for these next couple of weeks.
It takes three weeks to install and organize the technology to allow for online school. One of those weeks we were already going to have off for spring break, but that still means two weeks of lost time. If we can’t make that time up through extra online school or adding an hour to the school day, it’s not clear where we would get that time back. It’s just not possible for us to repeat our current grade levels, so it’s scary to face the fact that right now there is no clear plan. At this point I’m anticipating that we are going to have to stay home for longer than April 5. That’s just more online school that isn’t as good of quality as in-person lessons are. All that missed time and information is going to have to catch up with us one way or another, and I’m fearful that there isn’t a solution that doesn’t cut into our personal time.
My current education isn’t the only thing that I’ve lost out on. I, along with lots of other high schoolers, had college visits planned during this time. COVID-19 has prevented most of these from happening with cancellation of colleges altogether. Now, when the time comes for me to choose a school I might have to go by word of mouth and the internet alone.
As much as I don’t love the quarantine, there definitely will be some good to going to come from it. Abandoning our normal routines does a lot for our mentality as a whole. Teenagers everywhere are lamenting their old lives of social interaction and stimulation. With the sudden loss of that, we are almost forced to acknowledge how much we took our lives before the virus for granted. We are learning some gratitude. This is also a binding experience for students that will make us a stronger community. We will all have experienced this together. Though times are tough for teens right now, when we go back, hopefully we will bring some of these lessons with us and be a little more positive. — Ellen Fox, McCallum High School junior
How will we learn?
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, coronavirus, my high school canceled classes until Friday, April 3. This essentially extended spring break by two weeks. It might be even longer if Austin Independent School District (AISD) decides to extend our time out of the classroom. Currently, AISD is not requiring its students to take online classes or finish schoolwork until April 3. I am taking multiple dual-enrollment classes with the University of Texas as well as Advanced Placement (AP) classes. With the closure of the school for three weeks, I am most concerned about those classes. In my dual-enrollment English class, we are learning how to write a new kind of essay called an annotated bibliography, which is currently due Thursday, April 16. If I’m not in class until Monday, April 6, how am I supposed to learn how to write an essay that has an entirely new structure in just 10 days? This one assignment counts as 25 percent of my semester grade, so if I fail this essay, it will be very hard for me to pass the semester.
In addition to regular school work, school closures have caused me to face difficulties with standardized testing. The College Board announced that AP tests will be shortened to 45 minutes that can be completed online. While I think this is the best solution that the College Board could have come up with, I am worried that my teachers have not been able to cover all the content I need to successfully take the AP tests. For example, I am taking AP Human Geography, which is a semester-long class. Since we have only completed six weeks of the semester, we have learned very little about the curriculum in comparison to somebody who took the class in the first semester of school and was able to cover all the content. Additionally, my ACT testing day was canceled, so I am worried that all the preparation I did for the test will be forgotten by the time I actually end up taking the ACT.
Many students are using this break from school as a time to “glow up” by eating healthy meals, working out, going on walks, and practicing good hygiene but the opposite has been true for me. For the past week, I have been waking up at 2 p.m., sitting in bed for hours on my phone, getting out of bed only to get snacks, eating one real meal a day, and constantly rewatching sitcoms on Netflix. That might seem nice to some people, but I feel like I am stuck. I feel most happy when I am surrounded by my friends. However, social distancing policies have left me feeling lonely and isolated, which I’m sure almost everybody is experiencing. My friends have been spending their break playing games like Sims and Minecraft, making them unavailable to FaceTime with me or text over Snapchat like we usually do. Not being able to talk to my friends as much has definitely made a significant impact on my emotions and activities throughout the day. Under normal circumstances, we like to go out to eat at restaurants like Kerbey Lane Cafe and Jims, go for long drives with the windows down, go to the movies, and go to the gym with each other. Coronavirus precautions in Austin have made it impossible to do those things and require everyone to stay at home. I have no motivation to get out of bed in the morning since there is almost nothing for me to do.
Most of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic I’ve written about are negative, but there are some good things to come out of social distancing. I got very busy during school with my extracurricular activities and academic work, so I had no time to do the things that I enjoy. However, this break from school has let me find the time to bake desserts, draw and paint, listen to records, write stories - mostly related to coronavirus - for my school’s newspaper, watch shows on Netflix and go on walks with my dog. I hope to use the next two weeks to “glow up” along with my peers; I would like to work out when I wake up in the morning, go running with my dog, learn how to do makeup properly, cover the walls in my room with my artwork, and take good care of my skin and body. Instead of complaining about all the things I can’t do, I want to find joy in the things that I can.
— Faith Lawrence, James Bowie High School junior
'We aren’t alone’
It feels like COVID-19 is in our heads for every minute we are awake these days.
I turn on my TV and see the news anchors updating viewers about the virus 24 hours a day. When I open Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites all I see are people posting about the virus. Some posts are memes and jokes about it while most are spreading the word that people need to stay home and be safe and clean.
Before school was canceled, I didn't really think much about the virus outbreak. It seemed like something that was happening far away. I didn’t believe that it would affect the people around me or myself. But when it started to spread in the United States, I realized that this is a very real thing and that we should all be concerned.
COVID-19 has been affecting a lot in everyone’s everyday life. I have family who are now working from home, and I see others losing their jobs because of the social distancing measures that have been implemented in Austin and elsewhere. No one really knows how long this will go on. So although there are official dates as to when school closures are supposed to end, we all know that will depend on the data and whether the rate of new infections starts to decline.
The uncertainty has caused people to go to stores and stock up on anything they may need. The only time I have been able to get out of my house is when my sister is planning to go to the store. When I tagged along, I could see how much people are really freaking out about the virus and being told to stay at home.
I saw so many empty aisles. Food, cleaning supplies and toilet paper that I would always see in abundance when I would go to the store are seemingly nowhere to be found.
Social isolation and social distancing have worsened my mental health and that of many others, as well. Because I suffer from depression I am used to having days where I just want to isolate myself. But going out to places and seeing friends helps me. Therefore, having to be stuck inside my house for three weeks or possibly longer is very challenging.
During the first week of practicing social distancing and isolation, I had found myself stuck in bed all day not wanting to get up or do anything. I let my depression have power over me, and it took me a few days to talk myself into being more productive around my house. It was hard to not succumb to the depression and not fall back into that dark place.
As I started to find new activities to distract myself with, I went to my Instagram and posted a list of things that I thought my followers could do to help themselves. Because although we all may feel like we are the only ones having to be isolated there are actually so many other people doing it, too.
I have been binge-watching shows on Netflix, playing board games with my family, and using my phone to distract myself. There are times when I really need to get out of my room so I try to go outside for a few minutes to enjoy nature. These things have been helping me stay in a positive headspace.
What has also been entertaining during this time of isolation is so many artists are going live on Instagram to play songs, talk about random things, or show what they have been doing to entertain themselves. This also helps relieve stress and anxiety during these long days of isolation.
But I cannot deny that the COVID-19 outbreak has me worried about school. Being a junior, I am concerned as to when I will be able to take my final STAAR test and the rest of my TSI tests. We still don’t know if Austin ISD will continue classes online or not. There are so many questions as to what is still to come. This builds that stress and anxiety right back up not only for juniors but especially for seniors. I have seen many seniors online express how they are worried and angry that they might not be able to walk across the stage at graduation, have a prom, or enjoy the rest of their final year of high school.
As a teenager during a time like this, it is hard to find ways to help. While I can’t afford to donate to health organizations or go out and work, I do what I can on social media. I have used Instagram to remind everyone that they need to stay home. It is important for my friends to know while we are experiencing social isolation, we aren't alone. We can still reach out to talk anytime.
There is so much fear and worry I see built up in so many people I know.I have to admit that I also feel worried and afraid of what may come. Thankfully, I have my family with me during these scary times which helps relieve my anxiety and have hope that things in the world will get better eventually.
— Annelise Olivo, W. Charles Akins High School junior
A focus on health
COVID-19 has affected my life in so many ways since it got to Austin. We’ve been out of school since Friday the 13th, (in March) and just found out that we won’t be resuming until April 14th. This made me really sad because these would’ve been the last moments I’d be able to spend with my senior friends before they all leave for college. The crazy thing is a lot of my senior friends aren’t even sure if they’re even graduating now! All my classes have been put on hold, too.
I’m a film major at McCallum High School in the Fine Arts Academy. It’s been tough since we can’t check out any filming equipment now during the shutdown. I’m also on our yearbook and newspaper staff as a photographer. Will the yearbook even come out in time? I’ve tried to help out our instructor Mr Winter as much as I can by writing captions, identifying people for whatever photos are left. I can imagine it’s got to be a lot of work for just him to tackle now. For the newspaper, there literally won’t be anything to cover for the next issue (prom, spring musical, sports, you name it).
On a personal level, my family has had to adjust. My dad is a drum teacher that teaches out of our home. Almost a third of his student base has had to take a break with the remaining moving to Zoom and FaceTime sessions. A lot of my own photography business (www.RisaMaevePhotography.com) has gone down as well. I was in really high demand for upcoming senior portraits, but because of social distancing everything's been put on hold. Since I haven’t been able to see my friends, I now check up on them via social media and FaceTime, even though there's not that much to catch up on! Once this has all blown over, a lot of my friends have talked about throwing their own party to celebrate prom.
Something that came as a surprise is that I actually feel quite happy, not stressed at all! This time off has been ideal to focus on my own needs and my mental health. The last month in school was getting especially hard with all the assignments and stress approaching the end of the year. I’ve been able to do a lot more art than usual, and I’ve started learning French with my dad on FluentU as a way to keep learning new things. In addition, I started documenting the Coronavirus for my Newspaper and our award winning Mac Journalism Instagram account (@macjournalism). So up until last night’s citywide shutdown, I was bringing my camera everywhere, capturing the madness we’re all witnessing. — Risa Darlington-Horta, McCallum High School sophomore
Changing my life
The only homework I received over spring break was researching COVID-19 from a scientific standpoint. Little did I know it was foreshadowing the next few weeks of my life.
Our family had planned to spend a few days with an elderly friend in Dallas during spring break, but since that would have put her at risk of contracting the coronavirus, we decided to take multiple day trips instead.
By the end of the week, we learned that we weren’t supposed to be going out anymore, and school wouldn’t resume as planned.
Just recently, my family received a card in the mail titled: “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.”
Some highlights of the guidelines that have affected my life:
“Listen and follow directions of your state and local authorities.”
“Work and study from home whenever possible.”
These guidelines have led to the Pflugerville school district providing at-home instruction, which means I receive classwork via email, Google Classroom and YouTube.
The last of the federal guidelines is “Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits,” which has led to me being unable to physically hang out with my friends. Instead, if I want to talk to them, I have to text, call or use the FaceTime video app.
Just the other day, my mom went grocery shopping and noticed a lot of the shelves were bare or reduced because of people panic-shopping. Thankfully, my family always has emergency supplies of groceries at my house just in case. My dad is fond of saying: “If you are prepared, you shall not fear.”
I am a voracious reader, so I can’t live without plenty of books to read. While the rest of Pflugerville was panic shopping at H-E-B and Walmart, I was panic library-ing!
Imagine my horror when my mom and I arrived at the Pflugerville Public Library and discovered that staff no longer allowed checking out books. We hopped back in the car and went to the nearby Wells Branch Library, where I checked out 30 books, in anticipation of the library being closed for spring break and beyond. Today, no libraries are loaning books.
Right now, with the number of cases in the U.S. exceeding the number of COVID-19 cases in China, we are in Phase 3 of the quarantine process: social distancing.
My church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is having us hold Sunday services at home, so my Dad will bless and administer the sacrament to us in our living room.
My aunt is a pastor for a large Methodist church near Houston, where she is delivering weekly sermons to her congregation via video.
It feels like everything is going virtual. My ballet class is online, meaning we have videos of different dance classes posted on YouTube. Some assignments are on FlipGrid, a video education site, and sometimes we have live dance classes on Instagram or Zoom.
My piano teacher is giving me lessons on Skype, so I have to set up the laptop next to the piano so that she can see me play and critique me. I’m preparing for the “Romantic/Contemporary Piano Festival,” which was supposed to be held this month at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas. Originally, I would have been playing for a judge in person, but now I will be submitting a video of myself playing the two memorized pieces.
Online classes for high school feel different. For one thing, the computer can’t replicate my algebra teacher’s humor and enthusiasm for math. I never thought I would miss going to school. It feels odd to be staying at home instead of balancing my formerly crazy schedule of school, Lonestar Dance Center, piano lessons and church activities.
Mr. Elam, my Pre-AP English teacher, described the craziness of the past few weeks perfectly: “So, this is weird. ... This is an unprecedented situation for all of us. I'm pretty sure that NO ONE in the entire PFISD district has ever experienced anything like this in their entire lives. We are living through history; we are watching it unfold in real time. Though this may be a historic event, it is also confusing.”
— Rachel Calabuig, Pflugerville High School freshman
A defining moment
While at first the coronavirus posed a threat of cancellation and postponement, in the past two weeks the pandemic has led to a completely new routine. This new reality is overwhelmingly defined by social distancing and for high schoolers, it means not only a disruption in education but of aspects that could be considered less essential, like sports and social lives. I think one of the most important things to keep in mind right now is that when experts use the word social distancing, it really means physical distancing.
The term physical distancing allows for the social interactions that are innate in human beings, especially high schoolers. To flatten the curve, we need to increase physical distance by limiting close interactions, not by ignoring friends. My friends and I have been meeting regularly over FaceTime for the types of things we usually do together every day. FaceTime lunches, FaceTime workouts, FaceTime baking, FaceTime studying, etc. I even have a friend who ran her 3-mile recovery run on the phone with another teammate; that one did not work out well, but the importance is the intention of staying connected.
On April 1, 20 other editors and I met over Zoom to discuss the improbability of printing any remaining issues of our high school newspaper, The Liberator. April 2, my track team and I joined a Zoom call, as we have been doing for the past two weeks, to once again go over our solo training, 6 foot distancing, maintaining fitness, at-home workouts, etc. What is on all of our minds is the uncertainty of when we will be able to run together again. These small scale adaptations that high school journalists and runners alike have made during this pandemic are what is defining the spring semester of my junior year.
My new routine amid physical distancing has needed to include the aspects of my life pre-pandemic that kept me mentally and physically healthy then and need to continue doing so now. One of these was training with my teammates. With the cancellation of track season, the drive and sense of belonging that was present at practices, meets and long runs have been hard to replace during solo training. One week into May with track season canceled but practice still happening, we posed the possibility of a team-wide track meet to keep the season going. This became improbable only a couple of weeks later when Mayor Adler issued the “Stay Home Work Safe” order. Although we couldn't have a meet together, our coach proposed a virtual track meet.
We coordinated when each runner would go to the track and run either the 200, 400 or 800 meters. Family members were to take a video of their runner, and if in the video the runner was within 6 feet of someone, they were disqualified. So although it's hard to find the drive to run, or run as hard, without people running with you, we've been able to continue training through physical distancing and using methods like virtual meets to keep motivation high, as much as possible.
It's also hard to express the guilt I feel, and I imagine that the feeling spreads across boundaries of age, as I deal with the disappointment stemming from physical distancing while knowing that the number of positive cases is increasing exponentially, healthcare professionals are risking their lives without enough resources, and the global economy is already taking a huge hit. I feel torn about being upset as my life comes to a standstill, while outside self-isolation a pandemic reigns. Thus I choose to focus on keeping my routine and staying grateful that I can still run, spend time with family, call friends, and have a safe place to work and study from home.
Helena Lara, LASA junior and sports editor of The Liberator at
With coronavirus cases rising globally, the growing tension is easily discernible. As schools close and orders are out for shelter-in-place, the norms of everyday life are changing. Although this period for the lucky means self quarantining at home and keeping themselves occupied within their residence, there is a never-ending list of back-burner tasks.
After a strong start to the spring semester, it’s nice to put a short pause on school matters and instead focus solely on the safety of the self and the community. From Tolstoy to Austen to Nietzsche, the shelves in my house are stocked with books I have always yearned to read but never had the time for. Now with the stay at home orders, I have been privileged to immerse myself in those texts nonstop. There were various painting projects on hold, which have happily jumped up on my to-do list. The biggest of these self-connections has been the ability to find quality time to play with my little sister and also to play tennis, which I enjoy and helps me catch up on my health. Alongside these, various elementary students have reached out to me for extra tutoring help. I have started working with the fifth graders over Google Hangouts video calls on different school subjects, especially math.
Despite this, there is still the tense presence of AP exams and other mandatory tests that are impending for all high schoolers. With citywide online school, the real progression of society with technology, as well as the versatility that these advancements provide, is beautifully exemplified in our current world situation. Even my parents are working at home. Their mornings are filled with back to back online Skype calls with their colleagues, managers, or others, and we all take turns after settling our daily agendas to ensure that my 4-year-old sister is content and engaged.
As every news site and social media is plastered with news of this virus, it is hard to escape the gory details that make it so real. There are countless articles that are highlighting the experiences about what it’s like to have this virus and the hellish situations that countries are going through with a lack of healthcare services. Every day, my inbox is filled with various organizations sending out infographics about ways to prevent the spread of this virus. The biology-intrigued side of me can’t help but look at pictures of the virus under various types of microscopes as well as exploring the genome sequences and their differences among the variations of the coronavirus alongside looking at charts about the stages of various pharmaceuticals and antiviral therapies, such as Remdesivir and Tilorone, as they progress through phases toward approval.
My extended family in India is currently under a 21-day lockdown. My family marvels at how the Indian government is managing to contain the 1.3 billion people in their homes. With the stay-at-home order for Texas, all unnecessary activities are strictly banned. My family and neighbors are concerned about the long lines for grocery stores that snake around the building and into the parking lot, long before the store even opens. As people are bulk-buying, every shelf is nearly empty. To support the rule of social distancing, our family has shifted to place online orders, which the stores barely keep up with a week’s delay.
While taking an early morning stroll, I can see the neighbors’ cars sitting cold in their driveways. Later in the evening, when taking walks as a family, we remain 6 feet away per CDC recommendations and walk on the opposite side of the road. As the people pass by, smile and say hi, the underlying pressure and uncertainty that they try to mask is visible on their faces.
As this quarantine is a daily reminder of the truly devastating pandemic that has struck our world, it is also a painstaking halt of the newly formed and mastered school routine. The norm of being at school and spending time with friends has changed to increased FaceTime. Although we might not be meeting in person every day, our bonds are becoming more robust as we talk every day online.
As we move forward, this pandemic will teach our world a lot about how to handle such situations, medically and politically. The world will continue to adapt to such situations. Inspiring moments, such as how doctors are risking their lives each day to save others, will be highlighted and the darker aspects, like the frenzy and anxiety this pandemic has induced, will be improved. With the advancement in medicine and technology that have occurred compared to other great pandemics that coronavirus is compared to, like the Spanish Flu and Black Death, we will survive through this global emergency and society will progress and continue to learn.
— Paridhi (Pari) Latawa, LASA sophomore
Loss, and hope
Everyone’s focusing on loss.
The community of teens, found on social media, brought together simply by circumstance, mourn the loss of their lives: their high school milestones. It’s understandable: Proms and graduations have been canceled, standardized tests are being postponed indefinitely, high schools and college campuses are being closed, and students everywhere are being shut inside their homes.
It’s a time of loss, I won’t disagree. I watched as my spring break fell apart. First I lost my UT Austin college tour; then, they canceled church for the next few weeks. After the first weekend, my parents no longer allowed me to hang out with friends. My lifeguard recertification class and my camp counselor training program were both canceled. I am luckier than most; I got to leave my house and go to Galveston. My family quarantined at a beach house for most of the week with another family from our church. It was certainly a bright spot in the overwhelming time of loss, sadness and isolation.
And that’s the thing. For every loss, there’s something gained. While this time has separated many friends and classmates, it’s also brought so many families together. And really, it may seem like you’ve completely lost connection to your friends, but that’s not the case at all. Modern technology has made communication so accessible that most mourned friendships can be revived with the click of a button. It’s weird that, for a time of such isolation, the world has never been more connected. Not only are friends brought back together by FaceTime, Instagram, and Snapchat, but the whole world is sharing a common experience. Even though we’re all isolated, we’re all living the same lives and worrying about the same future, and that brings us all together.
COVID-19 is strange for most because it is shutting down a world that is always moving. It’s hitting the younger generation especially hard because we’ve never lived in a world that’s not always accessible and easily connected. We were born in the modern world and we expect to see the modern world. But once again, it brings forward that connection, that familiarity of knowing that people like you, separated only by distance and circumstance, are living the life your living.
That loss of the only life you’ve ever known is hitting my friends especially hard. We had our routine, and suddenly, we can’t stick to it. We know what we should be doing. Every weekday, we drive halfway across town to receive our coveted LASA education. Most of us carpool, piling into the car of whoever has volunteered to drive, trying to make the long drive a little more tolerable. We spend lunches together, and after school, we stand in a circle outside and talk, enjoying the company of our peers before braving the long drive home in afternoon traffic. Every Friday, we go from school to the same restaurant and the same park and then to whatever sporting event happens to be occurring that evening. Most Saturdays, we gather at the same person’s house, play the same games, and get the same fast food for dinner. It’s our easy, well-liked routine, but it’s been taken away from us.
Some of us haven’t left our houses since the last day we were in school, while others were lucky enough to at least hang out the first weekend of our spring break. But like I said, the inability to physically spend time together isn’t stopping anyone. Some of us have chosen to connect over video games like Fortnite and Rocket League, and group FaceTimes are another common occurrence. We’re all suffering in our own small ways: I don’t think you’ll be able to find a single teen who isn’t sick of spending 24 hours a day with their parents. However, we choose to find the good, to look for a way to get through this, and to realize that we’re not experiencing the end of the world, just a change in it.
As for me, I’m doing great. My parents have, thankfully, allowed me to leave the house and babysit the kids of two essential workers. I spend my days with two adorable elementary school children. In the mornings, we bike around our driveways and do reading activities. Our afternoons are filled with math worksheets, crafts, and carefully choreographed dances to Disney music. We live our very best lives, all while remaining careful, staying inside, and washing our hands frequently.
The coronavirus pandemic has certainly brought a cloud of darkness into my life, but it’s also brought my family closer and introduced me to the most adorable, positive, and life-changing children who remind me every day that life can be a little brighter. And that’s really all that matters in the long run.
— Peyton Ivey, LASA high school junior
Disruption, and lessons
As a junior at James Bowie High School, I have had a crazy school year. A combination of sports, social activities and academic stressors has made my junior year exciting, fun and challenging. Although the school year may have been difficult, I was motivated by the knowledge that after all of my hard work, I would be able to apply to college. In my mind, junior year was the climactic finish line of my efforts to prepare myself for the college admissions process. However, as COVID-19 (coronavirus) forced my school to close until April 13, my junior year experience has been changed.
When the first two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 were declared in our community, my first concern was for the health of my peers and family. As our school closed and our extracurriculars were canceled, I knew that the social distancing policies would benefit our community. When I realized that this period of quarantine could be longer than I initially imagined, I began to be concerned about the tests and exams that I need to take for college admissions. Advanced Placement (AP) exams, the SAT, and the SAT Subject Tests are all exams that I am expected to complete in order to apply for college. As our school district transitions to online learning, I worry that it will be difficult to truly learn and master the curriculum that is covered in the tests. However, I have been comforted by the adjustments the College Board has made to the AP exams and SAT programs this year. The College Board has really stepped up and reassured all juniors that the 2020 pre-college exams would be adapted to accommodate the disruptions in learning caused by COVID-19.
In addition to the educational interruptions that COVID-19 has caused, extracurricular and class cancellations have also forced me to lose valued end of year traditions and time with peers. For example, on April 2 my school swim team was supposed to host our annual end of year banquet. The banquet is our opportunity to celebrate all that we accomplished as a team, and to say goodbye to the senior team members that we have grown to cherish. It saddens me to realize that our team will not get to have that bonding experience which is so vital to our sense of unity. I have also lost the opportunity to go on adventures and spend personal time with my friends. Although I understand that the social distancing policies are for the better, I cannot help but mourn the experiences I will not get to have in such a pivotal time of my life. As I mentioned, junior year is difficult, and it is my community and friends that help me thrive and overcome any obstacle. My friends help me find peace and joy, and it is difficult in these hard times to go without that crucial personal interaction.
Although COVID-19 has caused substantial disruption in my life, the experience has also offered me some valuable lessons and time for self-reflection. For instance, I have been able to spend a huge amount of time with my family. As I get closer and closer to college, it is even more vital that I develop and strengthen my relationship with my parents and brother, and this period of quarantine has given me the perfect opportunity. Whether we are cooking a family meal, watching an action-packed movie, or doing chores around the house, I have loved how much my family has bonded and come together. In addition, never before has there been a time when my friends are so important. When I feel isolated or worried, I can use our amazing technology to simply FaceTime or message a peer. In fact, just the other night I was able to watch a movie with a friend over FaceTime. When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, it really forces a community to come together, and I have grown to realize how important social interaction and relationships are in my life. As cliche as it may sound, this time without my friends has only made me realize how much I need and appreciate them.
When it is deemed safe for public and social gatherings to occur, I will be eager to spend personal time with my friends. Whether we see a movie, go to dinner at Chuys, or take a group hike, I will just be grateful to have their presence. In addition, I am sure that our swim team will come together and have a makeshift banquet to give a proper goodbye to our beloved senior class. As we all navigate through these difficult times, I believe that we should take the time to reach out to our loved ones and unite as a community in strength.
— Caedon (Cade) Spencer, James Bowie High School junior
New precautions in our lives
As a daughter of two entrepreneurs, I’ve always immersed myself in the business world. My mother owns and operates seven Jersey Mike’s sandwich shops around town, while my father is an area director for the stores in both Austin and San Antonio. Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, businesses all across Austin and the rest of the world have been suffering.
The new coronavirus ordinances, while necessary for the public health, have been detrimental for my family’s business. Many businesses including my parents’ have witnessed their sales significantly drop. I’ve grown concerned not over myself, but over the 70 workers employed at my mother’s stores. Some of which include single moms and newfound parents.
From managers to team members, everyone’s hours have needed to be reduced. These workers need the money to provide for their families. I have heard my mom on the phone with workers begging for hours as many of them are living paycheck to paycheck. Many of the high school workers parents’ have asked them not to work, which in turn helps the people that need the hours more.
Although I consider myself to be an introvert, the stay-at-home ordinance has left me personally feeling rather isolated. Now that I have no choice in whether or not I can hang out with friends, I feel more trapped than anything. I mainly keep contact with people through Zoom sessions or FaceTime calls. I never realized that physically seeing people and being able to actually do things was such a big part of my life.
Sunday the 22nd was my birthday. I spent the day at home, unable to celebrate with any of my friends. My family coordinated a group call, which lasted a solid 15 minutes. My parents did their best to make the day special; we ordered food and ate cupcakes. I still hope to eventually celebrate with some friends. That birthday will most definitely be one to remember.
Even so, my sister has had a much worse experience than I have. She was looking forward to the rest of her volleyball season. She usually had practice multiple times a week and all-day tournaments on the weekends. Now that the season is canceled, she’s been restless and doesn’t know what to do with all of the spare time. We’ve tried to compensate for this by having her get some daily exercise, but even I can tell that it’s not enough. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for other athletes who were also looking forward to their sports seasons.
It amuses me that I’m now willing and looking forward to running errands. I used to despise going to the grocery store, but now that I don’t have anything better to do I’ll happily do so for my parents. The highlight of my day is always going shopping for essentials.
The only positive I see from this situation is the fact that from now on people will likely take more precautions to not spread germs. Maybe now people will actively try to prevent major outbreaks like the yearly flu. Similarly to COVID-19, the flu is especially harmful to people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. As a result of this pandemic, I hope that more people will take others into consideration. I hope to see the spread of germs and pathogens becoming significantly slower than ever before.
— Natalie Cullen, James Bowie High School freshman
An unexpected kind of senior year
Senior year is a time that has been emphasized over and over again in popular culture and Hallmark teenage movies — that is, senior year with all the trimmings. From prom night to moving the tassel on the graduation cap, these senior year rites of passage serve as a reward that makes every late night and cram study session worth the effort. A magnum opus, if you will, before moving on to college and the “real world.”
The COVID-19 virus has put an unexpected halt in my senior year, however, not to the same extent as some of my peers. I entered with the mentality to just get through my last year of high school with at least an inch of sanity and a decent amount of sleep; I put my focus into getting accepted to a “good” university and forming study habits that I could take into my freshman year of college. I put no thought into purchasing an overpriced dress or finding some last-resort prom date, and I only planned on going to graduation for the sake of my parents.
However, like any stubborn teenager, now that the coronavirus has made it potentially unlikely that festivities like graduation and prom will even take place, I only want to attend them more. I can’t help but fantasize about partying with my friends in a fancy dress or walking across a stage in a graduation gown all while I lay in my bed shrouded in darkness and empty chip bags like a hermit.
Instead of bumping shoulders at lunch or walking to class together, I have resorted to texting my friends or FaceTiming to talk about what movies they watched today rather than when and where the next party will be or how difficult the English quiz was this morning. I used to think that all I needed was a few days to rest and recharge my body from all of the stress and work that my senior year entailed, but now I miss the vigor and energy I experienced from a regular school routine. I suppose that it’s one of those “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” things.
I am someone who constantly needs activity or else I will get restless, so being stuck inside my house all day understandably drives me crazy. I want to go out and see my friends and talk to people, but doing so could be extremely detrimental to two of the most important people in my life: my parents. It’s definitely uncommon for a 17-year-old to have baby boomer parents, but mine are in their mid-60s.
In consideration of their age and well-being, I have been practicing social distancing to better protect their health and my own. Young adults can carry and spread the coronavirus without showing any symptoms and in light of this, I have been isolating myself to protect the two people who have spent almost two decades protecting me.
This pandemic has humbled me. I am now more conscious of how even small actions can be inconsiderate to the more fragile people around me. The coronavirus has shown me that sacrificing things like prom or graduation is worth more than risking the health and well-being of others in our community. To me, postponing these events shows the strength and respect that the class of 2020 has for those around us and the resilience of a group of people born in the aftermath of 9/11 and completing high school amid COVID-19.
My 18th birthday is in the first week of April and is supposed to be another momentous coming-of-age occasion, but because of this viral invasion, I have no options. There will be no big party with my friends to celebrate. However, since my friends and I have grown up in a technology-savvy time, it won’t be much trouble to plan a group video call like some modern age party line — although the cake may be a bit more difficult to pass out.
I think high school seniors couldn’t be better equipped to handle a situation like COVID-19. We understand how to handle tough situations and are comfortable in transitioning to technology that we have been around our entire lives. I feel like it is just another barrier that we have to experience before we can make that transition into young adulthood, just pass this barrier and keep moving forward.
So what is this magnum opus that everyone is eager to experience or reminisce? It wasn’t what I expected but what I needed. Gaining a new perspective on the community around me and taking a look at our shaken comfort through a new lens, a lens that will nonetheless eventually become a melancholic rose-colored glass.
— Marisa Salazar, James Bowie High School senior