By: Aishwarya Swamidurai, YMCA Youth Governor of Oklahoma and Comfort Markwei, YMCA Youth Governor of Tennessee
When will we go back to school? How do I learn through a screen? What are our next steps? Can I get through this school year? Will we even stay in school? What about COVID?
Hi, high school seniors Aishwarya and Comfort here! Markedly so, these questions have been the definition of our lives as students these past nearly two years. Shuffling feet, masked faces, and exhausted expressions: this is the description of school hallway during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not a pretty image, but our reality, nonetheless. We see the exhaustion within ourselves and our peers, and we’re sure our educators, parents, and community members see it too.
This pandemic is far from what we desired for our high school years. What should be time spent enjoying ourselves with classmates and exploring the world has been time spent stuck inside, fearful of what comes next in our education. And with this, comes a shift in roles.
The pandemic has caused us to reevaluate how to be daughters, how to be big sisters, how to be good friends, and more. But most of all, we have had to relearn how to be students. The innate vulnerability we feel comes from the decisions that have been made by our adults about our education without our consultation. The pandemic had tough consequences: afterschool programs were cancelled, and our brick-and-mortar classrooms moved to Zoom. At its peak, no one could give us a certain answer about whether our schooling would safely continue again. While we’re excited to now be back in the classroom, engaged with our friends, and alongside our teachers there is still a great deal of uncertainty and fear about what the future holds.
The only way for us to tackle this uncertainty is with action — action that can shine a light in the fog of fear. This is why we responded to the invitation to participate in a training on COVID-19 safety hosted by ED for youth-serving organizations. The training’s purpose was to educate students and members of the community in safety strategies to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on our day to day lives. We chose to become ambassadors of this work ourselves because of how important our education is to us, and how important the state of education is for all our students. Our schools must be safe from COVID19 and that comes from everyone that is eligible getting their vaccines and booster shots. We know are our voices are important to influencing our peers and making sure that people understand the facts about vaccines.
Whether you are a fellow student, an educator, a parent, or a community member, you can do so much to ensure our safety, including:
- Encouraging your peers/students/children to get vaccinated. Children ages 5 and above are eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. This is the best way to ensure that each and every individual stays safe. Go to vaccines.gov to find the closest clinic.
- Ask your school to host a family vaccine clinic that provides vaccines for 5-11, 11-7, and boosters. Partner with local organizations like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and Big Brothers Big Sisters to get out the word.
- Encouraging those around you to implement and follow safety protocols, such as masking, sanitation measures, and contact-tracing. This pandemic is far from over, we must use every resource to ensure students’ safety.
- Taking action to get resources and information out in your community. This can be through vaccine drives, information pamphlets, conversations with community leaders, and more. Put the safety of your community schools at the highest level of importance.
If we take these steps and encourage others to do the same, our uncertainty about our education can turn into conviction, our precariousness into predictability, our doubt into assurance, and our question marks into periods.
So, we will leave you with this. We can do this. Notice the period? Place your mark on our safety and on the next chapter of this story by taking action, and you can leave us a period of confidence too.