What it’s like to lose your last semester of high school to the coronavirus pandemic

"Not getting to celebrate all of that hard work, especially with people who you've had late-night studies with, is frustrating."

The John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science's student art exhibit that highlights the Harlem Renaissance on Feb. 12., 2020. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

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This story was told by Evelyn Reyes, a senior at the John D. O’Bryant School in Roxbury, and has been transcribed and edited from a recent conversation with Madelaine Millar.

Before coronavirus, I was very meticulous about my schedule; I knew where I was going to be, who I was going to be with, what I was going to be doing, and for how long a week or two in advance. So I would go to school and then go to work or to go to Boston Children’s Chorus rehearsal or meet with the Boston School Committee as a student representative. It’s one of those things where I’d just hit my groove.


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Socially, the transition to online learning has been challenging because we can’t see people and talk to them in person. Academically, the shift for me has been a little harder. I really depended on my relationships with teachers to learn and to stay motivated. In a classroom, you’re with 25 or more other people and you’re all working toward the same goals — you’re on that quiz on Monday or you’re all going to take the AP test in May, or something like that. Going from that to a house where I don’t get to interact with people that often, and the work becoming a lot more independent — that’s been challenging.

To deal with this transition, I’ve been trying to do little things that I enjoy. I have two 1,000-piece puzzles that I put some time into, and I think a lot of us are turning to music for some sort of solace. I’ve had friends who are scoping out different apps or websites where we can play games with each other virtually to keep in touch with people, but also to take time to allow ourselves to forget about what’s happening out there and do something for ourselves. 


Losing our graduation has been disappointing too. We’ve been working [toward] this thing for three and a half years in high school alone, and it’s been way more if you think about the whole time that we’ve been at school. Not getting to celebrate all of that hard work, especially with people who you’ve had late-night studies with, is frustrating. It’s really nice to feel like you have this community of people that you’ve been able to fall back on. It’s nice to wrap that chapter up. And we haven’t had the chance to do that.

This pandemic is changing our college experience too. I will be going off to Columbia University next year, and I was enrolled in a summer program that they offer. We don’t know if it’s going to be in-person or if they are going to move it to some sort of virtual setup. And then, of course, New York is one of the epicenters of this situation here in the States. I don’t know if I’ll be able to kick off my four years of college on campus.

To parents, teachers, and administrators: Please keep checking in with students, especially students that you’ve noticed [who] have sort of fallen off the wagon or haven’t been in contact very often. It’s good to know that somebody is looking out for you, and this time is especially difficult for students who may be struggling with mental health or other parts of their identity that may be unwelcome in their house. It’s a much larger struggle to be shut in a house with people who I’m sure love you, but don’t support you. 


I’ve been keeping myself in check, just to make sure that I’m doing okay. I think a lot of times we turn to the outside world and to the people around us and try to make sure they’re doing okay without securing ourselves first. I’m certainly somebody who does this. We need to be able to secure ourselves in whatever ways we can.


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