Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: Through a series of interviews and personal reflections these teens have shared their experiences and the profound impact COVID-19 has had on them. They deserve our utmost respect and because I had so many responses, this will be the first of a 2-part series. Part II will be in the October issue.
Haven Habhab (18), Fort Campbell, KY. “I have moved 11 times and I knew moving to my third high school for my senior year would be difficult, but I never dreamed how much worse CO-VID would make this. Being an athlete finding friends at a new place was to immediately join my new school’s sports teams. Moving from a 6A school in Texas to a 1A school in Kentucky, where all sports were cancelled, made this more difficult for me. Between vast differences in school size, policies, and no sports, I was miserable. With my Dad deployed, my parents made a very difficult decision to send me back to Texas to live with my grandparents and graduate at my old school. It was hard on them, but just what I needed. I jumped right back into Varsity sports and graduated with honors in the top 10% of my class. I never physically had COVID, but it definitely took its toll on me.”
Alexei Royer (18), Redstone Arsenal, AL. “I found this past school year very challenging with attending school virtually, blended (a combination of in person and virtual) and in person. Some students in my school had the option to attend the entire year virtually, so I never saw some friends and classmates. We had to wear masks, walk certain ways down hallways, eat lunch in our classroom instead of the cafeteria, and sit in our desks with clear desk shields. Being recruited for college soccer during the pandemic was very different as per NCAA dead period rules, I was not allowed to have any in person visits with D1 college coaches. Fortunately, I was recruited to play soccer at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) after many phone and email conversations with the coaches and sending them video links or video highlights of my games. 2020-21 was unlike any other year, however I learned that it is important to never give up, and hard work always pays off in the end.”
Kiana Hartman (14), Ft. Bragg, NC. “Because I’m homeschooled, quarantine had no real effect on my education. During my time at home, it prompted me to research more about topics I was interested in and gave me plenty of time to work more diligently on my schoolwork. But not being able to see my friends regularly was stressful and lonesome. I had a lot of fun trips planned with friends but was upset when they were cancelled, since those trips would have been the last chance to see many before all moved away. I was also disappointed and looking forward to playing my last season of soccer, only for the entire season to be called off. My Dad deployed in January and returned in May, and my Mom had a full-time job opportunity. This allowed me to take responsibility and learn to manage my time wisely to make sure things got done. Like many teens around me, my emotional and mental health during quarantine wasn’t all that great. With constantly staying home, limited social interaction with my friends, fear of COVID and BLM protests, and watching my brothers for long periods of time, I felt lonely and scared. As places are slowly opening, I plan to go back to my youth group regularly and going ice-skating with my family and friends. COVID had a drastic negative impact on others around me, but the pandemic prompted me to learn more about myself and take up other interests.”
Abby (14) & Shelby (13) VanZandt, Pentagon. “Moving from a state in the summer of 2020 that was going back to “normal” to a state that had severe lockdown restrictions was extremely difficult. It was hard to hear about friends back in Texas getting together for school activities, while Virginia remained closed. Our school was virtual, so it was hard to meet people and make friends. Our classes were at a set time, but no one would turn on their camera including some teachers, which made it even harder to learn. Luckily, our church had in person gatherings, and we were able to join the youth group. That really helped to connect with other kids our age. This year has not been easy, but we hope that we can continue to move forward.”