Four high school students weigh in on growing up during a pandemic

For this year’s students, life changed dramatically as their schooling moved online and their social interaction became virtual. We caught up with four local high school students on what they miss the most, what they hope for life after this and more.

Ryan Pelletier, Midland High School senior

Ryan Pelletier, Midland High School senior

What do you miss the most at the moment?
Definitely my friends! I miss hanging out with all my friends getting to talk to them. It’s just nice seeing people, friendly faces up close and talking to people in person.

And for missing out, with all the COVID-19 precautions, a trip I was supposed to take with the Rotary Youth Exchange to Thailand got cancelled. It’ll be rescheduled eventually, but since I’m a senior this year, I will miss out on it.

How have you adjusted to remote learning?
All of our classes are online now and some have been scaled down. There is not as much work to do. The way I've adapted is I've been working on learning what I feel like I want to learn about right now. I've still gone to all my classes so I can still see my teachers and classmates in the zoom meetings. It's good to have the social interaction part of the class.

It's been a big shift. How are you doing?
I've been coping with it pretty well. I am not feeling too bummed out about missing school. I miss my friends, the social interaction and my teachers. Education wise, I feel like I got everything I needed to out of these classes from the time that I had in high school.

Where are you off to next?
I'm headed to SVSU this fall and I'll be studying business administration and management.

I do also have a family trip to the Galapagos planned. That was also postponed by COVID-19, but we still plan on going eventually.

And since I’m missing out on the trip to Thailand, I'm also planning on signing up to do foreign exchange with SVSU. I’d like to go somewhere in Asia if possible.

What has been one of the biggest lessons you've learned in the last few months?
I've learned that, even without seeing people physically and in person, we can still stay connected quite well with our friends and family. So, I’ve learned that even though we're far away from everybody we can still maintain connection.


Olivia Cross, Dow High School sophomoreOlivia Cross, Dow High School sophomore

Your experience has been a little bit different than most through all this. Can you explain?

Basically, about a month ago my feet got very blistery, red and inflamed and I could not walk on them, it felt like they were bruised and stiff and I was in pain. I went to my pediatrician, and was told it was a bacterial infection. I went on antibiotics, and they didn't work to clear it up. So, I went on steroids and that kind of helps the pain a little bit, and then it went away for a couple of days, but then it popped up again.

One night, my mom was scrolling through the news and she came across this unusual thing called COVID toes. Once she looked at the pictures she said to me ‘I think you have this!’. It was the exact description of what I was going through. We called the doctor and he assured us it wasn’t.

We called my dermatologist for a second opinion and had a very long discussion about my symptoms, sent her all my pictures and she confirmed it.

Luckily, it didn't go into my respiratory system, only my feet, and it's this strange, rare thing that mostly teens have been getting called ‘COVID toes’ in relation to the virus.

I have an existing condition called Raynaud's, that results in poor blood flow to my toes and fingers, so the thought is that is why it was worse for me.

It has been very weird and my only symptoms were my feet, so I'm very lucky. Most importantly, I have not been contagious or passed anything on to family members.

But it was very painful, there were days I had to lay in bed because I couldn’t walk and I'm still recovering.

How are you dealing with all of this plus taking classes online?
Luckily, it didn't impact my online school much because I could just work from bed and my teachers were pretty understanding about me having to go to the doctor, for bloodwork, etc.

How has this changed your perspective, now that it's impacted your world?
You don’t think that you're going to get it until you do.  When I read that article the first time, I was in shock. Because you seriously don't think it's going to happen to you. Until it does.

Initially, I was worried that I could have passed it on to somebody else. It was a very surreal moment.

What are you what are you looking forward to getting back to the most?
I’m looking forward to being able to be outside this summer more. I’ve missed seeing friends, eating out at restaurants and going shopping like normal. There are so many things that you don't realize that you took advantage of until you don't have those options anymore. I miss seeing people, and appreciating their presence and being able to hug others.

I can say that I don’t miss waking up early though.

Trinity Kolka, Meridian Early College High School sophomoreTrinity Kolka, Meridian Early College High School sophomore

How have you been processing life in the pandemic?
I have been adjusting relatively well to this new normal. I have found a lot of comfort in spending time outside, which I never used to do before. One thing that I have definitely had to overcome in this period of isolation, is lack of motivation. With sports, I really looked forward to setting records for myself, and for school I had to work to keep my grades up.  I’ve had to learn to set new goals for myself that are more realistic than my regular school and sports goals.

What do you miss most about school?

The thing I miss most about school is definitely my classmates. I never realized how many people I talked to daily, that I am not very close with outside of school.

What do you think the world will be like when this is over?

I think after this passes, people will notice the effect of this period of rest on the world. I think electric cars will become more available for everyone by becoming more affordable. I also feel like a substantial portion of the workforce will move towards being primarily online. Both of these things will help eliminate air pollution because the level of traffic will be considerably lower and cleaner.

I think this pandemic will also help people realize the importance of easily obtainable and cost-efficient healthcare, and it will start leading the path to free healthcare. I also feel like there will be a new job field that is centered around planet care, where people do things like plant trees and pick up trash as a real profession. Being in isolation will also help us understand the consequences of isolation on our mental and physical health.

For the teens going through this pandemic, I really feel like this will make our generation have a strong sense of self, and have a genuine love for friendships. Just as teens who went through 9/11, now have a strong sense of nationalism.

What's your biggest lesson learned in all of this?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in all of this is to value people and the time they give you. This has really made me realize how my life will be after high school. People will fall out of touch, and I’ll really only talk to the people I was close with in high school. I may not be really good friends with everyone in my high school, but I have learned to appreciate even tiny conversations people have had with me. I know some really nice people that I have just never gotten the chance to get to know. So, when I go back to school next fall *fingers crossed*, I am really going to try and reach out to more people and make more friends and memories.

Olivia Vidergar, Midland High School sophomoreOlivia Vidergar, Midland High School sophomore

How have you adjusted to like all the remote learning?
At first, it was really weird and kind of complicated, because everything was just so new to everyone, I guess. But as we've done it a bit more, it's gotten a lot easier.

What do you miss the most about school?
I honestly just miss hanging out with other people, like even just being in the same room with a bunch of other like people learning the same thing.

What are you looking forward to when life gets back to normal?
Definitely band. I play the flute, which I just picked up a couple months ago and I’ll be in marching band next year.

What is something that you've learned about yourself?
I used to think I wasn't a super social person, but I really miss hanging out with people.

All of this has really been a really weird and strange change in my life.

What do you think you'll appreciate the most when you are back in school?
I’ll be thankful to learn in the classroom, because it's so much easier than doing it online. Online I can't really ask a ton of questions and interact with what I'm learning, I suppose. and going into my classes. So, I'm really looking forward to being able to actually sit in the classroom with a teacher and learn face to face.

What has been something positive about all this down time?
I like to play a lot of instruments and I picked up the bass guitar in the last month. I've also been drawing more.

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Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. She ran Catalyst Midland as the publication's managing editor from October 2017 through September 2020. Her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner.