Hunter Amos, 18, Western Reserve Academy
As a boarding student and senior student body co-president at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Hunter Amos is used to keeping in touch with friends and family over FaceTime back home in Raleigh, North Carolina. But Amos depended on the camaraderie and connections with students in her dorm which halted when COVID-19 hit last March. “You come to boarding school to be immersed in everything you are interested in 100% of the time, so you are full-on doing everything you can and your only break is basically sleeping,” says Amos.
Last spring, boarders were sent home to e-learn, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Amos, who will attend Harvard University this fall.
I started an independent research project about heart health and created a public awareness campaign called HeyAorta! When I was young, my father passed away from an aortic dissection. My goal is to promote the difference between this and a heart attack and encourage people to get preventive treatment and testing.
I used quarantine as a time to look into myself and find things I liked doing. We live in a rural area, so we started composting and I had a vegetable garden. I tried baking and I would make videos and send them to my friends.
Change your mindset from These are the things I can’t do to Hey, I have time to do things I haven’t thought of before that make me feel more relaxed and in touch.
Taya Offutt Decker, 12, Laurel School
Some silver linings of the pandemic, at-home learning and quarantine have included wearing pajamas for dinner and getting to spend more time with pets at home, says Taya Offutt Decker, a sixth-grader at Laurel School.
“I have a cat named Jade and she is always roaming around the house — it’s fun to see her be curious,” she says, adding that the welcome distraction helps with alone time spent e-learning or social distancing and that she’s been able to draw more frequently. “I like being with my family, so one thing I’ve learned is if you don’t come out of your room, you just feel like you’ve missed out.”
FaceTime with friends helps fill some of the social gaps, even though it’s not the same as hanging out after school.
You have to remind yourself about social distance. Usually, you could go up and hug someone without a problem and now you have to be cautious. If a friend is having a bad day, I want to give them a hug, but I can’t. It’s kind of difficult.
Don’t take things for granted. Just listen to the professionals because there might be some people now who don’t believe what is happening and they are not wearing masks and that’s why there is an outbreak.
We are alone a lot. If you are struggling, definitely say what you are feeling.
I’ve kind of learned that I’m half-introverted and half-extroverted. Sometimes I’ll want to talk to people online or offline, and sometimes I won’t. It’s just kind of hard to balance sometimes.
Grades don’t really determine your mental strength, but they still mean that you’ve done something wrong or not to the highest standard.
Mollie Edmondson, 17, Gilmour Academy
Gilmour senior Mollie Edmondson calls the pandemic “a journey.”
“My world for the past year has been my house, and it’s so surreal,” she says. Rowing was put on hold for a good part of the season. Without spending time at The Foundry and participating in regattas, Edmondson was missing an integral part of her afterschool life.
“A big thing at regattas is, you bring your hammock and hang it up on the boat racks,” she says. “We have a hammock from rowing and that culture, so my sister and I saw it as an opportunity. We’d go to our local park with these big trees and set up the hammock and read, pack a lunch and hang out.”
Edmondson, who will head to Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall, learned some important lessons about herself.
Every day, I reached out to at least one friend — that was really important and made a world of difference for how my day went and how I felt emotionally. We also had Netflix parties where you can watch the same movie with your friends and that was a fun way to connect.
Resourcefulness is an important skill I learned. When you are in hybrid [learning] and you can’t see your teachers as often, you have to turn to other methods and modes of educating yourself. Last year, I was taking calculus and I struggled. I panicked a little bit — I had an AP test to prepare for and I couldn’t go into the school to work on problems with my teacher. I found some review tests online and built up a database of them that I used for practice.
You can’t do it alone. Reach out to others. Even though this experience has trained us to be more self-sufficient, in these transitional years, it’s even more so going to be a part of who you become as a person. Reaching out, developing connections and using your resources is so important.
Saechow Yap, 17, Hawken School
During quarantine, Saechow Yap literally hit a wall — he used the time when he might have been on the squash court or hanging out with friends to paint a vibrant, graphic mural in his bedroom inspired by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
“I would say there was less pressure during that time because of not being able to practice squash, it took away a lot of expectation,” says Yap.
The senior at Hawken School will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall, where he’ll play his favorite sport. The most challenging part of quarantine and today’s social distance environment so far is not getting together with friends whenever or wherever he wants.
“With remote learning, I liked the idea at first, but it’s hard to stay engaged in class and participate,” he says. “You don’t get the same experience with your friends in class.”
But Yap found out flying solo can actually teach you a lot about yourself.
I missed hanging out with my friends, but I also learned it was OK to spend a whole day by myself playing basketball or hanging out with family. I realized that I don’t need anyone else to enjoy my day, have a good time and make the most of it.
I decided to help my mom cook dinner, and I picked out some recipes online and used the ingredients we had in the house to try something different. I made really good spicy turkey burgers with a Sriracha sauce, and an orange-flavored primavera salmon that I really liked.
The pandemic showed meand my classmates that we can adapt and make the best of a situation. I feel more comfortable and prepared to handle whatever college brings, especially after spending time in quarantine.