🏠😷🦠 Life As A QuaranTEEN 🦠😷🏠 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team Blog Surrounding COVID-19
Sophia: Hello, my name is Sophia, and I am one of UnifiEd’s Student Voice Team’s newest members. I am currently a junior at Red Bank High School, and I began work after Sophie (the student coordinator at Red Bank) reached out to me.
I am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to work for such an amazing organization and be doing work that is beneficial to myself and the community. I believe that I was lucky enough to have an excellent education growing up, but I know that others did not have the same opportunities. I’m glad that while with UnifiEd, I will be able to complete work that is actually worth something and can make positive change.
Outside of my work at UnifiEd, I enjoy learning everything I can. When quarantine first started and school went online, I started picking up even more hobbies that I never quite had time for. I started painting, drawing, and reading again, and I even began crocheting, embroidering, and meditating. I felt accomplished but strangely empty. When school started back in the fall, it became clear to me: I missed the classroom. Without academic learning, I felt lost and compensated with an abundance of projects (which were often left unfinished). I was ecstatic to return to school again because it meant that I could learn in an actual academic environment, see my friends again, and even begin preparing for life after high school.
We did have a few hiccups along the way, which meant returning to online school, but I kept my spirits high. I knew that with the vaccine rollout and summer on the way, we couldn’t be online forever. Now I know that I was right to remain optimistic because now my teachers and family are getting vaccinated, we are still learning in person, and I learned a few hobbies along the way.
Jerald: Hello, my name is Jerald Arden, and I am one of the new members of the Student Voice Team at UnifiEd. I currently attend the STEM School of Chattanooga as a sophomore. I came in contact with UnifiEd through the Step Up Chattanooga program.
COVID-19 wasn’t even much of a discussing topic until mid-spring had come around. When I first found out that all schools across the nation were taking a short break due to the close Coronavirus pandemic, I was shocked. Little did we know a too-long quarantine was coming. Schools were first introduced to online classes in the last quarter of school in 2020. Because out-of-school learning was so drastically different, some students found it exceptionally hard to adjust to this new way of learning. Family members and friends were separated, distanced for such a long period; classes were rough, events were canceled, everyone was just pleading for summer break to start.
Summer break wasn’t looking too good either. Because of the city semi-lockdown, my family decided that going outdoors was indisputable and that we would stay home for the majority of the summer. Knowing that staying quarantined would keep my family safe, it was almost unreal that people were still going on trips and taking vacations in the middle of a global pandemic. I had missed out on quite a few events due to the virus outbreak, and although some had been through Zoom, I wouldn’t be receiving anywhere near the same experience as in-person. Realizing that I had an entire summer and perhaps more time to do whatever I wanted kind of worried me. I’d never had too much time for myself, so for most of the break, I did almost nothing. It was only until I realized that bad habits were growing from this extended amount of relaxation and freedom that I started to correct my lifestyle. I decided to develop some healthier eating habits as well as to work out and stay active more frequently throughout the day. Using checklists and calendars helped me keep track of what I did each day, ensuring that every second was not wasted. Through this time of expected laziness and stress, I managed to bond more with my family, develop better time management skills, become more self-motivated, and lose a surprising amount of weight. I believe this quarantine was much needed and served as a wake-up call to my current self.
Being online in my sophomore year allowed me to remain focused when learning and provided me ample time to take extra courses and join some new clubs. Keeping an eye out for opportunities, I eventually received an email from my school about a Summer Internship through the Step Up (PEF) program. Shortly after taking the training and courses Step Up had provided me, I took an offer to interview at UnifiEd. Sooner or later, I was accepted to join the UnifiEd Student Voice Team. I truly believe that despite the horrific ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, quarantine was somewhat of a needed life-changing moment for me.
Kaitlyn: Hello, my name is Kaitlyn, and I am one of the Student Voice Team’s newest members here at UnifiEd. I’m currently a sophomore at Signal Mountain Middle High School, where I’ve spent most of my academic career. One of our senior members recently recruited me, and I’m excited to begin work and spark some change!
I’m involved in all sorts of clubs, ranging from TSA (Technology Student Association) to marching band and other music groups. These extracurriculars have helped push me out of my comfort zone and meet some of the best people I would never have known otherwise. Activities such as Model UN, YIG, and Mock Trial have uncovered a passion for public speaking and legislative politics I didn’t even know existed. I also love to help my community and others through my work as a Girl Scout and LEO Club member, which has given me a better understanding of local issues. I am also an aspiring musician, playing several instruments in my school’s band, Chattanooga Youth Orchestra, and on my own. I’m stretched across my entire school and community into various fields, giving me a greater perspective as a student. However, I know not everyone has access to the same opportunities, and I would like to increase availability across the county.
As we work towards reopening America, tensions and conflicts that arose during quarantine threaten to undermine progress. I have friends who became increasingly isolationist during a challenging period. Not being able to properly communicate with others also led to a significant decline in mental health and relationships. I particularly struggled with not seeing others outside of my family (who I love but nearly drove me crazy) and learning through only my screen. Although I consider myself more of an introvert, quarantine taught me that I needed human interaction to stay sane. Even though it was nice to have a break during freshman year’s fast pace, I can definitely say I won’t miss the pandemic. I realized everything I had taken for granted; I even missed the very same classroom I dreaded going into the month before. I’m not sure if quarantine positively changed me, but I know it gave me a new appreciation for the smaller joys of life we often overlook. For example, I exchanged daily letters with my best friend, which seemed more intimate than just a text. It made me realize how much I treasure our friendship even more in such an isolated situation. As we emerge from these unprecedented times, UnifiEd’s work becomes even more critical. Students’ developmental periods have been undoubtedly impaired. As a result, accommodations must be made to aid their progress and elevate their perspectives to ensure proper help can be provided. I am looking forward to advocating for these changes and supporting my peers.