COVID-19 Changed the World, but Students Remain Resilient

Woodgrove+Junior+Anna+Lippert+finishes+1%2C000+piece+puzzle+while+in+quarantine.+Photo+by+Anna+Lippert.

Woodgrove Junior Anna Lippert finishes 1,000 piece puzzle while in quarantine. Photo by Anna Lippert.

Written by Annie Gilbert, Robbie Showers, Chris Tuttle, Ryan Wilkinson, and Ryan Wright

On the night of March 11, Loudoun County Public School students went to bed unaware that their lives were about to change. The global Covid-19 pandemic had been ravaging parts of Asia and Europe, with the first case confirmed in Virginia a few days earlier. On March 12, the call to cancel school went out at 5 A.M., and the rest of the school year was changed in an instant. Nothing could have prepared the thousands of students in Loudoun County and across the country for the challenges of stay-at-home orders, social distancing, virtual learning, anxiety over the health of elderly relatives, and the impact on the economy.

The past couple of months have presented a new reality for students, and many have had to embrace a lifestyle of solitude and limited social interaction that seemed foreign before. But in the wake of the crisis, some are finding new ways of hanging out with friends, discovering hidden talents, and pursuing long lost dreams, all while the world has been put on pause.

Woodgrove High School junior David Lopez describes how the pandemic has negatively affected his social life, saying, “I am a very social person, and not being in school and seeing my friends, who I used to see on a daily basis, or participating in school or club sports, has definitely had a negative impact. It is hard for me to not be able to talk to anyone besides my family, and for such a long time.”

Lack of opportunities to socialize is not the only challenge that the quarantine has presented. Creating structure in one’s life and staying on top of school requirements during the quarantine is difficult and unfamiliar for many young people. Some students across the nation feel disconnected from their classes and their school in general now that learning has moved to a virtual forum. According to a survey by Common Sense Media, in a study sample of 849 American public school students, 47% of them had not attended a single virtual class during the pandemic.

Woodgrove High School Sophomore Ella Blank says that she often struggles with managing her time between school work and down time. She says, “I have spent a good amount of time this quarantine doing school work and exercising, but I am not going to lie, I have spent the majority of my time watching TV. Probably not the best use of my time, but I really enjoy the shows I am watching.”

For high school seniors, the Covid-19 pandemic is especially devastating. Unlike millions of graduating classes before them, the graduating class of 2020 will have no prom or traditional graduation. What was supposed to be a spring season filled with celebration has become a season defined by social distancing and isolation. Although senior graduations are happening virtually, it is clearly not the same as a physical graduation ceremony.

“I had a week of feeling awful that my senior year was over when the governor shut schools for the rest of the year. It felt as if everything I had accomplished just went down the drain with a single announcement,” says Woodgrove senior Hannah Hurt.

Senior Malcolm Woehrle also shares the sentiment of sadness over missing the last part of his senior year.

“I will be able to say goodbye to my close friends, but there are many people, who I saw every day, who I will not get to say goodbye to. The relationships I built over the years were my favorite part about school,” he says and adds, “The virus has robbed us of time with the people we love.”

In addition to missing school, some teens are also feeling anxious over the uncertainty of what the future has in store. Living in such unpredictable times can be unsettling, and for some students, the pandemic, prolonged school closings, and isolation are negatively impacting their mental health.

Junior Peyton Tarrant feels that being at school serves more than the purpose of getting a good education; it is also paramount for the mental health of students.  “I have come to the realization that as a teenager, having too much time with just your thoughts can be really destructive,” she says.

Despite the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic brings, many Woodgrove students have found ways to combat these feelings of anxiety, confusion and boredom. Senior Emily Landis explains that despite difficulties coming to terms with the quarantine and the impact on her senior year, she is managing to stay positive by spending time with friends on the phone, writing music and spending time outside. She even manages to find a silver lining to the crisis.

“I had such a busy schedule beforehand, and it is nice having the time to slow down and do a lot of things I enjoy that I did not really get time to do before quarantine,” Landis says.

Another student, junior Hope Fahrner, is finding comfort in her faith and through exercise.

“Exercising is a big energy boost and makes me feel like I can tackle other challenges as well,” Fahrner explains and adds that her faith is her “rock” during hard times.

This new reality for students has led many to embrace a new lifestyle of solitude and limited social interaction. In the wake of the crisis, some are recognizing the positivity in the situation by finding new ways to remain healthy both mentally and physically.

Junior Anna Lippert also notices the positive effect that self-care has on her mental state, saying, “Exercising has had a positive impact on my mental state because every morning it makes me feel better knowing I’m doing something good for myself. It also establishes a routine for myself that I can do everyday. My advice to other people would be to do something healthy for themselves at least once a day like working out or even just going outside. It makes a huge difference!”

Finding light in all the darkness is important. While some have found it more easily than others, many students are finding happiness in the simplest things. As private bathrooms become hair salons, bedrooms become recording studios, and living rooms become movie theaters during the shutdown, creativity abounds.  For many, creativity  is providing an outlet for stress.

“Coronavirus was a blessing in disguise, not because of people dying, I don’t like that part, but because most of the day I can work on writing music, instead of memorizing chemical formulas and all that. I told myself that if I believe that I can do it, I can do it. So far, I have eight completed songs, just ready to produce and release. I’m almost 100% sure I wouldn’t have any songs if school was still going on, so I really appreciate the time off,” says junior Brendan Szabo.

With this in mind, keeping a positive outlook right now is extremely important while in isolation. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP),  some of the best things people can do for their mental health right now are taking time to go outside, trying your best to stay in the present (don’t get stuck in the past or worry to much about the future just focus on what’s going on around you in the moment), and staying in contact with friends and family. In addition, staying connected could provide a healthy outlet to express your emotions.

While many Woodgrove students have found positive ways to deal with stress, the World Health Organization recommends that people make a set routine everyday for sleep and wake time, limit screen time, and be mindful of what they are consuming through the media and through their bodies.