High School Students Face Unprecedented Stress as Coronavirus Upends Formative Years

Graduations canceled. Proms postponed. Summer plans uncertain. Mental health, suffering. Final goodbyes, never made.

All over America, students are facing unprecedented challenges as they navigate their formative years. To put a face to their struggles, we interviewed students across the country, from New York, to Florida, Kentucky, and all the way to California, about how they are coping with this “new normal.”

It’s been over two months since the closure of schools due to Covid-19 in the United States. Students across America are coping with quarantine in many different ways.

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Online learning resources such as Zoom and Google Meet are how students are staying engaged “in” the classroom. However, it’s too early to tell if this virtual method of instruction is an effective way of learning. Some students complain that the at-home learning environment is difficult and “too distracting.” Skylar, a current tenth grader at Olympic Heights High School in Florida, feels that her daily Google Classroom updates are not conducive to learning. She is not alone. Many others expressed to us that they miss the classroom environment and prefer to “learn new information hands-on, with the teacher present.”

Another complaint made by students concerning their virtual education is that they are receiving more work at home than when they attended physical classes. Taylor, a current tenth grader at Syosset High School in New York, feels that she is receiving more work than ever before, “especially in the subjects that rarely gave work before.” Her reading class is now assigning many more articles per day, resulting in an even more burdensome course-load . Meanwhile, physical education classes have now been providing long daily activities for students to complete on top of their other subjects. This issue has led many students to feel that the at-home learning is much more stressful and difficult to manage than the typical school day.

While stay-at-home orders have upended the lives of our youth, some students actually say they are having an easier time staying connected thanks to technological solutions.

Steven, a current fifth grader at the Curtis School in Los Angeles, notes that while he misses his friends and family, he is able to stay connected via a “Zoom dinner with everyone some time in the week.” Similarly, many friends are staying connected by watching Netflix movies together via an application called Netflix Party​. Others are having their usual Friday night “hangouts” via Zoom calls.

For other students in quarantine, the lack of connection with the outside world has led to many mental health problems. Illana, a current ninth grader at the Kentucky Day School, feels that her mental health “is not the best it could be,” as being around others makes her feel happier. Moreover, Riley, a current seventh grader at Harvard Westlake in Los Angeles, is struggling with her mental health explaining, “Not being able to see friends is a hard thing, and you have a lot more pressure and stress on your hands.”

There are many other issues that students are facing due to the cancellation of many events and activities. For Dylan, his senior year at Half Hollow Hills High School East in New York was going to be his best year yet. He was looking forward to his senior prom, and continuing his duties as class president. In addition to the cancellation of his prom, Dylan was supposed to give a speech at his graduation. This would have been a huge milestone as he was finishing his high school years. The cancellation of graduation was crushing as he was “so excited to have a big part in the graduation ceremony” and was “thinking of things to say all school year.” Though there have recently been some discussions about a potential ceremony, Dylan understands that if there isn’t one it’s for the “safety of the students.”

For Brady, a current tenth grader at Syosset High School in New York, the cancellation of the school year is even more devastating. He is scheduled to move from New York to Texas this summer and won’t be able to give a final farewell to his friends. Brady is extremely upset and stressed about the situation and explained, “Not only can’t I socialize with my friends here in New York, but I won’t be able to when I move to Texas since I don’t know anyone.” He added, “It’s upsetting that I won’t get a true goodbye before I leave.”

As if the cancellation of school isn’t bad enough, many students’ summer plans will also be canceled. Alexa, another tenth grader at Olympic Heights High School in Florida was excited to go on a teen tour around Alaska and Hawaii this summer. Her plans are likely canceled.

As of now, no one knows what the future holds, but one thing is for sure, this is a year that these students will never forget.

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2 thoughts on “High School Students Face Unprecedented Stress as Coronavirus Upends Formative Years

  1. Rachel you did amazing job of articulating how so many kids and teenagers are feeling. I hope to read many more articles written by Rachel Meiselas.

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