It has been almost a full year since the coronavirus swept across the nation, where thousands of students retreated into their childhood homes. Through emotional turmoil, devastating statistics and mental health struggles, high school and college level students have dealt with the daunting task of learning from home.
It all began in March of 2020. The senior classes expected to graduate a few months ahead, but their world was tipped upside down, changing from walking into classrooms and through bustling hallways to powering on a computer screen in bed. Many high schools in the Pennsylvania area and around the country were greeted with hopeful signs, senior gifts and community support. Week after week, remote learning increased, sports were completely cancelled and graduation ceremonies were conducted by car.
Being a high school senior, myself, during the peak of the pandemic, I noticed how alienating it was for my class to seek closure and transition into a brand new form of young adulthood. A high school graduation is a rite of passage one waits for their entire youth academic life, and consists of a sentimental ceremony, classroom celebrations and parties galore. But most, if not all, of these dream-worthy milestones were skipped past for the greater good of the world. Being a teenager is hard enough, especially as one turns eighteen, enters legal adulthood and prepares for environmental changes and career quandaries.
As the pandemic persevered its way into late August, this new group of college students were either transforming their methods of moving madness or confined to their childhood bedroom for another five months. West Chester University chose to keep everyone at home to prevent any risk of COVID-19 contamination; a smart move that so unfortunately sacrifices mental well-being. Many people felt distraught and hopeless when maintaining minimal contact with others outside the home, and the prolonged anticipation of moving into college, or somewhere away from home, was deferred.
As for the college seniors met with the “madness” of March, graduates were faced with a dreary end to their academic career. Large ceremonies were broadcasted, diplomas were mailed and humble speakers were invited to participate via video. This chunk of young adults did not receive a traditional celebration, but were instead faced with the impending stress and doom of living “in the real world.” Searching for an entry-level job in the midst of rising unemployment rates and widespread panic across companies was a difficult task thrown upon graduates.
Fast forward to the strugglesome months of multiple online semesters, and these former seniors are now adjusting in their own ways. Some people make friends over social media platforms, others attend online Zoom calls and meetings in order to socialize and some have found solace in the cherished act of being alone. From baking to socially-distanced walks, students have adapted to difficult learning environments which, expectedly, may leave a unique generation exhausted, yet intelligent. With a level of once-in-a-lifetime wisdom, newbies in school and in the workforce have impressively created ways to better teach, learn and move.
Every student has their own unique story about the pandemic we’re living in. Personally, I started writing for this newspaper. Many others have endured major changes in their personal lives on top of the outside world’s problems, rendering post-pandemic life to never be the same. New hobbies have been formed and mental health has been better investigated because of isolation. I cannot help but offer advice and tips to the current class of 2021, anticipating their already disheveled senior years to end with a similarly chaotic setting. In-person activities may be cancelled for the better part of the year, but nothing stops students from learning how to persevere. We are on the cusp of an official full year of being in a pandemic, and despite hurdles to climb… students are still here.
Kristine Kearns is a first-year English major with a minor in Creative Writing. KK947319@wcupa.edu