March 13th, 2020, it was Friday the thirteenth, the second trimester of the school year had been completed, and snow was an interesting surprise to the start of the weekend. But by early afternoon, news hit students who were going about their normal school day. Schools were closed in several counties throughout the State of Washington, and students were told to expect six weeks off of school. For some, this was the first news of what was to come to cancel family outings, friend gatherings, and more events. Some had known of the Coronavirus spreading but still were not prepared for the closure.
A year ago, Ayla Crowell, a current Camas High School Freshman, was just starting her first robotics competition season.
“We had been designing and building since the first of week January, but then only got it to one competition before quarantine,” she said.
Crowell added, ”I had also started my Science Olympiad competition season with the first (and also only) tournament my team got to go to being Regionals the first weekend of March.”
With talk of COVID-19 running around, the team expected it to affect their season, even before schools were closed.
Crowell said, “At the Regionals Science Olympiad tournament, some students didn’t even go because of COVID. Being captain of my Science Olympiad team, I was sending out emails with ‘if we are able to go’s’ and giving extra reminders to let me know if you can’t make it to a tournament. For Robotics, we all kind of sighed when, a bit after schools closed, the season was cancelled… My robotics team switched to making ppe after quarantine struck.”
Crowell misses seeing her peers and the social aspect that school provides.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love being alone and could spend a very long time lost in my thoughts, but that’s kind of the issue. The Science Olympiad rooms were packed and I used to be stressed out by how much was going on and how much I got interrupted while studying. But now I kind of miss it,” Crowell said.
But those sorts of obstacles did not seem to set the growth opportunities back.
Crowell said, “Quarantine gave me a lot of time to think, so it’s small things like trying out short hair or slightly bigger things like learning that I might be panromantic. I never gave much thought to those kinds of things, thinking it was a waste of time when I had so much else to do, so I had just continued what I had always done. I didn’t realize that I’d be happier with something else until I spent more time simply thinking and trying to figure out who on earth I was.”
The silver lining did not stop there.
“I think my love for music grew after finding songs with lyrics that speak to me,” Crowell said.
She said, “I’ve always loved listening to music, but it was more because I love singing/playing to it for fun. Now, I have a deeper connection with it and music gives me a whole new level of emotions… I’ve picked up the guitar again. I used to play a little back in elementary school, but got busy.”
And though connections have been confined to online conversations, Crowell said, “I’ve connected with a friend from elementary school that I had grown apart from…We haven’t had a class together since, a mutual friend had us “meet” each other because we both liked to write. We then instantly bonded over music… I also get to talk with my sister more as she’s one of the few people I see in person and we’ve gotten closer.”
When quarantine started, CHS Freshman Jason Lai had a plan.
He said, “to stay positive and look on the bright side, as well as [use] the time to learn new things… I wanted to learn new things, as well as improve the skills I already had.”
Those included some music skills, like the trombone, and he expressed his gratitude for the time to refine his musical skills.
Lai also said he was thankful for supportive friends over this last year.
He said, “I connected with them initially through Hangouts and Gmail, but after a bit, switched to discord because it was much easier.”
Lai added, “I needed to talk to people a lot more than [he] realized,” and is excited to “hang out with friends in school.”
Though, he admits to feeling better about entering school because of some of the new friendships.
“[I’m] a bit nervous, because I haven’t met them in person yet and don’t know what they’re actually like,” Lai said.
CHS students and staff have reflected on COVID and reflected on the challenges it has posed, but also its benefits in disguise.
CHS history teacher Sam Greene said, “I was getting ready to go to Mexico for spring break and looking forward to wrapping up the school year and heading into a summer full of camping and visiting family on the east coast.”
Upon realizing his plans were inevitably going to be canceled, Greene knew he needed to adjust to life in quarantine.
As with most people, quarantine was difficult for Greene, especially in a school setting. In fact, one of the main differences Greene notices from the beginning of quarantine to now is that the online school setting has progressed much further.
He said, “Online school is way better now than it was last spring. We all had lots to learn about how to navigate through that pandemic setting, so I’m grateful in some ways that we got a chance to reboot with that this fall.”
Another way Greene has recognized silver linings is by being able to learn more about himself from these experiences.
“I was resilient, through that grit… I can learn new things and get through anything that’s put on my plate, no matter what.”
This new discovery has put a light on the COVID situation for Greene as quarantine has helped him to recognize his strengths.
He said, “I have always been grateful for relatively good health and for family and friends, but extra grateful for that now… it’s really underscored for [him] how precious that time with them is and how not always going to be able to be together.”
While in quarantine for a year, Greene realizes the importance of being thankful, especially for the things he wasn’t as grateful for one year ago.
With the anniversary of one year of quarantine on March 13th, 2021, it is intriguing to reflect on what has happened within the span of one tragic year. There are numerous cons as well as pros to recognize as the world maintains quarantine through 2021, but there is the hope of gaining back some of those critical social aspects on the horizon.
Camasonian journalists Bianca Flores and Nora Melcher contributed to this article.