The Alabama Education Lab asked students around the state to describe how the 2020-21 pandemic school year affected them. First-person essays and student projects will be posted throughout the week here.
Brianna N. Davis is a senior at Zion Chapel High School in Jack.
Throughout the past school year, the biggest thing I have learned is to appreciate the opportunities that I have been given. From missing out on pep rallies, parades, sporting games, and other festivities to watching our Homecoming football game from outside the fence during my senior year, I have definitely felt the impact of COVID-19 on my small, rural community of Jack, Alabama.
Almost every foundation of my life was shaken when COVID-19 mandates, along with fear, were introduced into my life last March. We were told by our county school board that we were being sent home for a two-week-long “Spring Break” and would return back to school in early April. Nearing the end of that two-week break, we were again informed that we would not be returning back into the school until the next school year. Teachers rushed to clean out school lockers and made “packets” of school work to try and cover all the standards of the last nine weeks of school.
My peers and I were told by news platforms and political leaders to cower in solitude while we waited for the seemingly inevitable virus to infect our homes. My family was scared to visit our grandparents due to the chance of giving them the deadly sickness, and my church was trying to learn how to hold services online to prevent further spread to our elderly congregation.
Despite all that COVID-19 has “taken” from me and my peers in our last years of high school, it has given us one of the biggest gifts of all: a new perspective. What was once “Ugh, I have to go to school today” became “I am so glad our school is going to reopen in the fall, and I can’t wait to see my friends and teachers again.” Prom was now seen as a luxury, not just an annual dance for upperclassmen and sporting events were no longer seen as absolute as they once were.
The uncertainties of sports seasons were full of disappointing scenarios, like having an opposing team have a player test positive for COVID-19, which meant we would not play them. However, I am grateful that my school was allowed to play the 10 (out of the scheduled 27) basketball games we competed in.
As team captain, I tried to remain as upbeat about our situation as possible, even when our team was sent home for two-week quarantines. Social media became our way of keeping up with one another because seeing each other in person was never a guarantee.
My eyes were opened to all the opportunities that my school, community, state and nation had available for me. While I did not always appreciate the opportunities presented to me appropriately in times before the pandemic, I know that I will take full advantage of all that I am able to do from now on.
I have gone through my senior year of high school without several of the fun activities previous classes enjoyed, like field trips and college visit days. But, they were often replaced with fun and interactive Zoom and Google Meets. Changing the backgrounds so me and my classmates appeared as though we were around the world (and even in outer space) was a big hit with my peers. Plus, watching my teachers try to learn to navigate these programs was a big part of the entertainment.
Instead of a traditional prom my last year for my junior year, I had my own personal prom for me and my date. We met and took a TON of photos outside the home of one of his family members and had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant.
I will never forget that night; it was full of laughter at such an uncertain point in our lives. And while I have missed certain parts of a “normal” school year, I am so grateful for the memories I have created through this pandemic.
This year has brought my school and community together in so many different ways — it is truly extraordinary. My community rallied together to help families with financial problems and ones struggling with mental health. Looking back, the past year has seemed almost surreal. I am grateful for some of the changes COVID-19 has brought about my small town and I hope people remember and learn from this unique experience too.
Davis is a member of the Student VOICES project, which helped the Ed Lab identify some students for this project. To find out more about A+ Education Partnership’s A+ Student VOICES Team, please visit its website.
Sign up for The Alabama Education Lab’s newsletter, Ed Chat. Learn more about the Ed Lab’s First Person project and find out how to submit your own story by emailing Editor Ruth Serven Smith at [email protected].