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Like so many high school seniors, Brandon’s senior year has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brandon’s plans to create those last senior memories with his friends-prom, graduation, spring sports- had to be given up when his school announced they would be moving to distance learning for the rest of the school year. Many teens, himself included, also have to face the anxiety of living in a time of world-wide crisis.
Brandon expresses that moving to the online schooling system had its challenges. Luckily, his school had already set students up with Google Classroom, so Brandon and his peers already had a strong understanding of the platform. Brandon also acknowledged that at his school, they are all required to have ipads, a privilege that allowed him and his fellow students to have a smoother transition. Although he had been using Google Classroom at his school as an additional support, and he had access to the required technologies, moving the entire curriculum to it meant giving up the ability to come together with his peers in person. Brandon expressed that not being able to have face-to-face teacher interaction makes it difficult to “close the gaps” in his understanding of the material.
Brandon says that what he will miss the most is being with friends and creating memories inside and outside the classroom. Like most seniors, dealing with this loss has ups and downs, he says “it is what it is, I can’t change that, but I wish I had my friends with me”. However, in spite of the physical distance, Brandon is still creating meaningful opportunities to connect with his peers. He often chats with friends via Zoom, as well as hang out in the park with them. Brandon says “Just being with each other is something special”, whether it’s texting in a group chat or taking a walk, expressing that the communication and friendship are very much still present.
In addition to adapting his friendships, Brandon continues to look toward his future. He continues to work with his dad and plan for his higher education. With school counselors largely unavailable, Brandon and other seniors are having to navigate college applications and future decisions on their own. He expresses that having confidence and self-knowledge is essential at this time, saying “ You’re the one that has to know for yourself, you’re the one that has to guide yourself. It’s a new step.” Brandon will be attending UC Merced in the fall.
Brandon and his peers are facing a unique and unprecedented situation. Navigating school, friendships, and the future is a difficult feat for any teenager in normal circumstances, and the pandemic adds to the stress and uncertainty. However, with strength, flexibility, and perseverance, Brandon and his peers will overcome this challenge, paving the way for young leaders in the future. We asked Brandon if he would like to say anything to his fellow classmates and other high school seniors he said, “My thoughts and prayers are with you all in these uncertain times. There is so much change in our lives we didn’t expect. Stay strong and we will all get past through this and be stronger for it.”