My fellow juniors, Class of 2023…


-Smoke Signals graphic by Daniel Graves

My fellow juniors, class of 2023, have you realized that we have not had a full year of high school since we started back in August of 2019?

Covid thought it would be a good idea to make an appearance during our late freshman year and flip our lives upside down. And to top it all off, Covid decided to stay awhile.

I was unaware of how big an impact the pandemic would leave on us, so when I first heard that we would be out of school for an unknown amount of time, I was excited for, what I thought would be, a short break.

But then months full of self-isolation and students juggling all of their classes through a computer screen passed and the school year ended. This really puts a dent in students’ mental health when getting back into the swing of returning to school.

In August, 2020, sophomore year came around and we hoped to be back inside the school building, even if there were several restrictions.

We missed our friends and absolutely needed to have actual human contact with people other than our families, and we wanted to meet our new teachers in person. But unfortunately, we were forced to continue the struggle of online school until November. 

Finally, when November arrived, all students were given the choice of a hybrid schedule or staying virtual. I chose to return to school on a hybrid schedule; it may have been only two days a week but it was better than nothing.

But then Covid decided to grow even bigger and cause us to have to return to virtual school, and this lasted until February, 2021. The class of 2023 was robbed of most of their high school career, more than any other class. 

When junior year rolled around, I don’t think any of us had any motivation left, or any desire for school anymore after being gone for so long. And the process of getting back into the swing of going to school every day has been very difficult.

For example, getting back into the swing of actually learning things is very hard, because for the past two years we haven’t really been taught, unless you count being taught through a screen.

I, personally, didn’t learn anything through online school, so coming back junior year, having to know things I was supposed to learn my sophomore year to be able to do the things we do in junior year was a challenge. 

In my opinion, we’ve seen the worst of Covid when it comes to missing out on high school and all the activities it comes with. Everyone seems to empathize with the seniors because of the things they might miss if Covid breaks out again and nobody realizes that juniors haven’t had a full year of high school.

Imagine, in the future, we’re asked about our high school experience and we have to say that we didn’t have a full year of high school or, if we’re lucky, we only had one full year of high school. All we can do now is hope that we can finish our junior year all the way through without Covid cutting it short.

The moment I realized how high the pandemic had raised my anxiety was the moment I found out that we were going back to in-person school for the first time during our sophomore year. I remember the feelings I had when I found out; it was almost panic-like.

My mind was filled with questions like: What am I gonna wear? Am I going to look bad in all my clothes? Have I gained weight? It’s safe to say that my self-esteem was destroyed after being locked up for so long.

I was so nervous about going back that the morning of the first day, I had a panic attack and ended up staying home. But my self-esteem was not the only thing affected by my time in isolation. After a short time in quarantine, I managed to fall into a deep state of depression.

I felt alone at all times; even with my family there, I still felt alone. I desperately needed non-family human interaction.

As months went by, I wouldn’t even come out of my room unless it was to eat. I had adapted to the feeling of being alone. It was a very tough time for me and I know it was for others as well.

All of our emotions and patience have been pushed to the max, but we’ve survived through many teenagers’ worst nightmares, such as isolation from our friends, being trapped with your family for more than a few minutes, constant anxiety and sadness, the feeling of being lonely, etc…

But we’re finally rebuilding healthy habits, going out, seeing friends, and slowly becoming our pre-pandemic selves again. And we’re also, slowly but surely, getting back into the routine of going to school every day.

The sun seems to be shining a little brighter and things are starting to look up for us.

Let’s all just hope that it continues to go this way and that we can have a full and fun school year!