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How COVID shaped 4 graduating seniors' high school experience

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Like the rest of us, high school seniors spent the past four years grappling with the consequences of the COVID pandemic. We asked four of them to reflect on how they think COVID shaped their high school experience.

SARAH FOGLIA: My name is Sarah Foglia. I'm 18 years old, and I live in Raleigh, N.C.

JEWEL PETERSON: My name is Jewel Peterson. I'm 18. I'm a senior at Washington Leadership Academy.

SKYLAR WARD: I'm Skylar Ward. I'm 18, and I'm from Mount Desert Island, Maine.

GRAHAM JONES: My name is Graham Jones. I am 18 years old, and I live in Newburg, Ind.

FOGLIA: I stayed home one day because I was sick, and I never went back to that school ever again.

WARD: I came into high school my freshman year, and it was completely remote for the first half. We never really seemed to make up the learning that we missed.

PETERSON: I don't think I actually came out that year with any friends.

JONES: My sister has a heart condition and also one kidney.

WARD: I'm more of an introverted person by nature, and I have ADHD, so working at my own pace was really beneficial to me.

PETERSON: I learned to be more independent with my studies, learning how to find information, ask questions, you know, take time out of my day with myself to make sure that I'm understanding the information.

WARD: I remember vividly sitting on my laptop with the band director, and we were on a Google Meet with maybe 100-plus other students, and everyone was just trying to figure it out. Like, they were just sitting there with their instruments and we didn't really know what to do, and it kind of felt hopeless at points.

FOGLIA: And so when I went into my sophomore year, finally in person and getting out of the pandemic, I just really struggled keeping up and getting good grades.

JONES: Just in my head, it's kind of been rewired. The gatherings are all very - they can be stressful.

PETERSON: I don't really go to - especially now to talk to people very often. It's just I find it easier to be kind of independent and by myself.

JONES: I wear a mask constantly. I have since 2020. The only time I ever take it off is during archery events, and that's only for periods of 1 to 2 minutes. My stance on it is I do it to protect my sister. And I get a lot of criticism from friends, family, or even just parents of students that I know who just say it's like, oh, COVID ended.

WARD: A lot of times, I felt like quitting during the pandemic. My takeaway is just don't stop. Don't lose hope. You know, things are better now for me.

FOGLIA: A life lesson that I learned would definitely be to not take things so seriously. Everything can change in a matter of a day or a few hours.

JONES: There's a lot of opportunities out there for me soon, and I'm really excited for those. And so I think you have to be persistent. You have to be resilient. You have to be a self advocate, but you also have to be able to make the most of what your situation is.

PETERSON: I am very, very, very excited to finally be able to graduate. It's been a long time coming. We all have worked really hard for it. You know, times have been tough, but we were able to work through it and get to where we are now.

MARTIN: That was Jewel Peterson, Graham Jones, Sarah Foglia and Skylar Ward, all high school seniors who are graduating this spring. Congratulations to them. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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