First it was an election year. Then came a global pandemic. Then the nation exploded into mass protests against racism and police brutality. We’re only halfway through 2020, and yet it has already been a year of reckoning in the United States. A confluence of activism, despair, panic, transition and righteous rage is touching everybody. But for teenagers, this global pandemic and the more recent surge of Black Lives Matter activism have very specific implications as they transition from childhood to adulthood.
COVID-19 has affected their access to education, their extracurricular passions, their college admissions, their access to life-affirming summer programs and overnight camps, their ability to socialize with friends and to make new connections, and their future plans.
Droves of young people lost out on the latter parts of their school years, seeing their final rituals of childhood — proms, award ceremonies, performances, graduations — canceled. Instead of summers free of the confines of formal schooling and a chance to travel and volunteer and work outside their homes and breathe unmasked air with their friends, the teens of 2020 have found themselves largely stuck at home with lots of time to reflect.
“We should not trivialize [teenagers’] stressors or grief in the context of the larger issues playing out during this pandemic,” Beth Marshall, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health, said during a Johns Hopkins faculty roundtable in May. “Their grief over what they are experiencing — or not getting to experience — is real.”
But out of stagnation often comes transformation.
To be a teenager is to be in a state of constant growth and transition; to form values, priorities and plans that will affect your life for years to come. And for a generation of young adults who have seen their lives upended by a global pandemic and then witnessed their communities lit up by grassroots activism, this year might prove crucial in determining how they see the world and their home country as they grow up and gain power.
HuffPost spoke with 10 teenagers across the country, all ages 13 to 18. They have very different identities and passions. But from Phoenix to Toledo, Ohio, to Leonardtown, Maryland, one thing they all have in common is a baseline of hope in the budding power of their generation to effect change. They aren’t blind to the problems that their communities face. If anything, it’s their awareness and constant access to information that grounds their hopefulness and their desire to play an active role in creating a better world for all of us.
Here are their stories, as told to HuffPost.
I think there’s a big misconception of the social media generation not really caring about stuff, just being stuck in that digital world.
Abhi Desai, 17
ABHI DESAI, 17, PHOENIX
Abhi Desai is a rising high school senior. He was in quarantine for a little over two months, causing him to miss the end of his junior year of high school. As a result of the pandemic, Desai is moving his civic-education-focused nonprofit, LexGen, online and applying for grants to support teenagers who want to set up summer programs in their own communities.
For me, summer has always been the time to do stuff that I’ve enjoyed or do things that you might not normally have the time for during the school year. The real thing that I’m sad about is that I have a lot of friends who were seniors. My best friend is going to the University of Texas at Austin, and so who knows when I’m going to be able to see him and hang out with him next?
But beyond just hanging out, maybe picking up a new skill, I’ve always felt it was a time where you can just do your own thing. I had applied to a good amount of summer programs. One is the United States Senate Page Program, where you work with a senator. I wanted to do it because I’ve always had an interest in politics. I thought it’d be a really interesting way to learn more and get involved. I was in the running for that, but it got canceled. And then pretty much everything got canceled.
LexGen is a nonprofit organization I’ve been working on since last year. I saw that students, especially in middle school, didn’t really necessarily get civic education that was applicable. They just were told to memorize a bunch of facts. And so, I thought we could take a student perspective to civics and make it better, so that students actually start caring a little bit about this subject, which is very important, in order to create productive members of society. And we’ve been able to set up branches doing similar things in other states.
What we do is we make civic education materials for teachers on things like how to see the bias in pieces of media. But this summer, instead of doing that, we started applying to a few different grants so we can start a virtual summer program. And so, hopefully, if that works out, that’s what I plan on doing this summer. The grants that we’ve been applying to are to create a program where we can distribute micro-grants to other teenagers where they can run their own community engagement projects over this summer. Just trying to make this summer a little better for people and engaging more people and having them try to help their community.
I definitely think this moment is going to have a big impact on my generation. I think there’s a big misconception of the social media generation not really caring about stuff, just being stuck in that digital world. Social media, even though we are hooked into it, definitely has more power in terms of its impact. I think knowing the tools we have at our disposal, we try for the most part to use them for the better.
It’s sort of surreal, because you know that you’re living through something that’s going to be in history textbooks. And there’s a sense of, “What’s going to happen?” But I’m learning how to contribute more to my family, to my neighborhood and community. Just trying to give back a little.
If every kid in America knew they had the power to do more, we could be making a change.
Tiana Day, 17
TIANA DAY, 17, SAN RAMON, CALIFORNIA
Tiana Day is a 17-year-old recent high school graduate in the Bay Area. After spending months in quarantine, she spoke at a local Black Lives Matter protest. Shortly after, Tiana and a 19-year-old white teenager quickly organized a march across the Golden Gate Bridge. She is thinking about taking a gap year to do more grassroots activism.
When the Black Lives Matter protests started, I was like, “I have to go.” And then the people who were coordinating the San Ramon protest asked me to speak at it. I thought it was going to be a few hundred people, but there were 4,000 people. We walked two miles from the Safeway to City Hall. It was 102 degrees, and everyone was walking together, and it was just so beautiful. It was the best feeling ever.
The day after the San Ramon protest, I was at a protest in Pleasanton with my friends, and I was scrolling through Instagram, and I saw an ad for the Golden Gate Bridge protest. This girl had commented saying, “I obtained the permit, but I don’t have a leader, so I think we’re going to cancel.” And I was like, “If you need a leader, I just spoke at the San Ramon protest, and I want to get more involved. I’ll help you.” I DMed her on Instagram, we exchanged numbers and our personalities clicked immediately. And she was only 19, so the fact that we were two teenagers, I was like, “This is going to be awesome.”
Eighteen hours later, we met at the Golden Gate Bridge and marched together. I was in the very front. I didn’t realize it was as big as it was until we went under the underpass so we could walk back. And I just remember going up the stairs and peeking my head out and seeing the entire bridge was filled with people. Everyone was cheering and waving at us. And I was like, “Mimi, look what we did. We did this.”
Over the week, I actually started calling out kids from my school for using racial slurs. We are a predominantly white, Indian and Asian community ― there’s probably as many Black kids as I can count on two hands. Now that I’ve graduated, I can call out people from my high school. But while I was in high school, I didn’t feel comfortable. And that’s the problem. We don’t feel comfortable calling out our classmates. Once I did, I started to realize they just weren’t educated. Call them out, educate them and then hopefully they change.
I’m supposed to leave in August to go to Cal Baptist. But my heart right now is in this movement. I want to do so much in the community, and I feel like I lost out on so many years that I could have been making a difference. Me and my dad just started a nonprofit called Youth Advocates for Change ― it’s all about having the youth advocate for the things that they feel are not right in their lives. So, honestly, everything’s up in the air. I don’t know if I’m going to go right to school or take a year off.
It’s really important that we recognize youth and their voices. The last few months have been eye-opening. I’ve always been the kid that goes with the flow. I am guilty of thinking that I couldn’t have any type of impact on the world. But I’ve always had this stirring in me. I just felt like no one would listen. You’re making the choice every single day to make a difference or not make a difference. If every kid in America knew they had the power to do more, we could be making a change.
I realized that the need for activism is so much greater than one high school prom.
Matthew Yekell, 18
MATTHEW YEKELL, 18, HOUSTON
Matthew Yekell is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate. His prom was canceled and he graduated with a drive-through “ceremony” in May. He had plans to go to Stanford University next year but now is contemplating taking a gap year to focus on mutual aid in his home community.
Summertime has always represented freedom — a time where I’m left to my own devices and can actually have fun and relax and feel like a kid again. But with COVID-19, that’s not really possible. I wish adults understood that our feelings of hurt are valid. We’re mourning the loss of something that we’ve envisioned for a very long time.
Now I’m looking toward mutual aid and community needs over my personal satisfaction. That’s why I created Impulse Learning. We offer classes to middle schoolers, from Model United Nations to Intro to Python Coding to Creative Writing. We want to offer academic enhancement opportunities that people wouldn’t normally get, especially at a time when schools hastily tried to adapt to online learning and often failed.
The other project Impulse Learning is working on is a college admissions workshop. COVID-19 is changing college admissions for this year: A lot of schools are going test optional, a lot of extracurricular opportunities are diminished and there’s an increased strain on existing infrastructure because school guidance counselors are overwhelmed. Plus, a lot of schools never offered those resources to begin with. So we have decided to run an admissions workshop as well as free webinars for people to be able to learn how to apply for financial aid, navigate the college process as a person of color, a queer person, as well as how to apply for merit scholarships. We’ve decided to donate at least half of our proceeds to nonprofits that are supporting, amplifying and protecting Black voices.
Something that I’ve done since middle school is debate, and it’s really important to me. However, a lot of people are deterred by the cost. That’s something that I wanted to change. So my friend and I created a middle school debate camp, Maverick Debate. Unfortunately, now we can’t offer an in-person camp. So now I’m figuring out how we are going to adapt the curriculum to Zoom.
I also was planning to continue working this summer with Tony’s Place, an organization in Houston that serves LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. When I came out, I was terrified because I didn’t know how my parents would react. After they greeted me with love and acceptance, I realized that that was a very big privilege. So my mom and I would cook home-cooked meals to bring to Tony’s Place each week, so everyone at Tony’s Place knew that somebody was willing to spend hours in the kitchen cooking for them. I also worked with a clothing designer to revamp and upcycle existing clothing donations so the kids at Tony’s Place knew that they were getting more than everyone else’s scraps. Unfortunately, a lot of people who work at Tony’s Place have actually gotten the virus. A couple months back, we decided to suspend the meal program because of safety concerns. I’m still waiting for the notification that I can go back.
I think what’s most important is trying to maintain perspective. When my graduation and prom were canceled, I was really sad because there was so much I looked forward to for my senior year, so much that I worked hard for. But I realized that the need for activism is so much greater than one high school prom. It’s more important that I devote my time and energy to making a difference and providing services that people desperately need right now, rather than moping about losing my senior year and the second semester activities.
This time has made me much more aware of social issues, and has informed my activism. Now young people like me are the ones looking for solutions to these problems, and it’s incredibly empowering to know that I am able to create the change that I want to see in the world.
I’m grateful that it happened at this time in my life, because being a teenager is still a time where you’re learning how to be who you want to be.
Saige Chaseley, 13
SAIGE CHASELEY, 13, CHICAGO
Saige Chaseley is a 13-year-old homeschooler who is in the process of finishing seventh grade. Before coronavirus, she was training three to four hours a day for her senior gold medal tests in figure skating. After contracting COVID-19 from her mother, she recovered but still has lingering issues with her esophagus.
Before quarantine, I was figure skating every day. I started skating when I was 4, and I’ve been doing it competitively since I was 6. The figure skating season was supposed to start in March. I was going to take all my tests so that I could feel finished with it, but the day before my test, the stay-at-home order was issued. I haven’t been able to practice since. So I don’t know if I’ll be able to get back to where I was.
Since I haven’t been skating, I started taking acting lessons and piano lessons. I love singing. I was in “Matilda” at a professional theater in Chicago last year, and it was so much fun. A few years ago, I started doing commercials and having a lot of auditions, and then I got an agent. There’s a lot of opportunities for kids my age because this is “Disney age.”
My mom had COVID-19 first, and then my babysitter got it right when my mom was getting better. Then when she was getting better, me and my younger sister both got it. I pretty much did nothing for two weeks. I just felt really, really sick and really tired. I was nauseous, too, and I was throwing up a lot.
I was really hopeful in the beginning of the summer. I didn’t think that quarantine would last so long. I’ve still been FaceTiming my friends a lot and using Houseparty. I’ve gotten to spend more time with my family and learn new ways of staying in touch with my grandparents. I’ve also been going to social distancing picnics. And we got a trampoline, so me and my siblings have been using that a ton.
I am trying to follow the news enough to understand but not follow it too much that I feel overwhelmed. Instagram can really be a rabbit hole. For teenagers especially, who are on social media a lot, I think that it can be scary because there’s so many things that you can see at one time and then you can just scroll for hours and learn things, and you don’t even know if they’re true. I’ve been trying not to get too deep in that I feel overwhelmed, but at the same time, I need to know what’s going on because I think it’s really important. I’m just hoping that I remember everything when I’m an adult, because I feel like by the time I get old enough, it’s going to be important history. I got a journal, so I’m trying to write everything down so that I can remember.
I definitely think that I’ve learned a lot from living at home for this long. I think I definitely know what’s the most important and what’s the most valuable now. I’ve learned a bunch about what I can do to help fight racism and how I can be a better person when I’m an adult. I’m grateful that it happened at this time in my life, because being a teenager is still a time where you’re learning how to be who you want to be.
Yes, there is a lot of division in America. But when it comes to morality, I’ve seen that the world comes together.
Aylin Dominguez, 18
AYLIN DOMINGUEZ, 18, TOLEDO, OHIO
Aylin Dominguez is an 18-year-old college student studying social work. She was very active in her community before coronavirus, both with the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo and with Cherry Street Missions, and she hopes to continue that work.
My high school experience was very high pressure. So summer was always a chance for me to breathe. This summer, I was supposed to go to a religious camp convention in the Smoky Mountains, but the entire convention was canceled due to COVID. I was also planning to go into a discipleship training in South Carolina for three months. Now everything is online.
Also, this past year I was very active in Cherry Street Missions, a place that houses homeless people, and provides meals and resources. I wanted to volunteer more in the summer, but I’m kind of scared of going there right now because of the pandemic and exposing my family.
We went into quarantine in April. Now social distancing is still advised, but everything’s opening up. They’re trying to start the economy, but it’s scary because people are just like, “OK, we’re open.” No masks, no hand sanitizer.
This moment is scary. But I am proud to be part of it. I am absolutely for the modern civil rights movement. Not only has it empowered me to be more of a voice in my community, but it’s making me stronger. I was always taught to be quiet. The fact that people nationwide are speaking up, even if they’re not part of the Black community, that’s motivated me.
Recently, I went out protesting. It was very moving. I never thought a community could come so close together. People were offering protesters Capri Suns, pizza. But at the same time, it was like I forgot that there was a pandemic going on. It’s a completely different world when you go into that protest. The sign I carried said, “Black lives matter.”
I’ve been using this time to grow and to examine myself. What do I need to work on? What goals and dreams and passions do I need to start once this is over?
Yes, there is a lot of division in America. But when it comes to morality, I’ve seen that the world comes together. When the pandemic started, it was so heartwarming to see that there were people trying to provide for the homeless, because it’s really difficult for people to get the resources they need when everybody’s scared of touching you or being around you.
My friend and I handed out supplies to the homeless at the beginning of the pandemic. We were giving out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a garden salad and a little juice box. And then we had a separate bag that was all hygiene stuff, like toothpaste and mouthwash. It wasn’t something big, but I knew that it was going to be helpful. This moment is making me realize how much I can actually make a difference.
My generation has grown up with this idea that they’re going to make a difference in the world. And now we’re upholding those claims.
Temma Schlesinger, 17
TEMMA SCHLESINGER, 17, LEONARDTOWN, MARYLAND
Temma Schlesinger is a 17-year-old recent high school graduate. She was one of just a few Jewish kids at her school. Camp Galil in Pennsylvania, where she was supposed to be a counselor for the first time this summer, represented a place for building a meaningful community and talking to other kids about social justice.
This summer I was supposed to work at Habonim Dror Camp Galil teaching kids about social justice. As counselors, we get the kids energized about making social change and teaching them the values of the youth movement that the camp is a part of: socialism, progressive labor Zionism, actualization, social justice and Judaism. Since camp was canceled, they’re still going to try and do online discussions and activities. But it’s not nearly the same.
I’ve been going to camp since I was 7. When I was younger, it was just a place to be comfortable with myself, because it’s a very loving, encouraging environment. Then I started to get really intrigued with the social justice aspects of it. Living in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is a super-liberal area, these were ideas that were around me all the time. And then when I moved to southern Maryland, to a very conservative area, I was suddenly one of few Jewish kids in my neighborhood. So camp became more of a place for me to express myself and be with people who had those common morals. Now I’m going to school for communications, and I really want to go into nonprofit global development, and I genuinely do not think that I would have considered that at all if I had never gone to camp.
I’ve never had a summer where I wasn’t at camp before. This summer, I got a normal job; I’ll be working at a boat rental place. I’m going to have so much more free time. And that’s such a strange concept to me.
When coronavirus hit, all of a sudden I was like, “Whoa, my kids are going to ask me, ‘What was it like to live during corona?’” Being a teenager right now is a little bit scary but also exciting. Corona is just scary, but growing up at camp with all of this focus on youth empowerment and youth social justice, I think it’s super-awesome to watch the anti-racism protests and be part of a youth community that really is standing up and making a difference. My generation has grown up with this idea that they’re going to make a difference in the world. And now we’re upholding those claims. And I think that that’s really empowering. I’m honored to be a part of that in a small way.
There was recently a protest in my community, and I wanted to go so bad, but I’m at my grandma’s right now so I couldn’t go. I’ve been signing a lot of petitions; I’ve been posting a lot on social media, giving support to all my friends. I already voted in my primaries, which was really exciting for me. I’m excited to vote in the general election in November. I just got my college laptop, and it’s all ready for my “I voted” sticker.
Watching the protests as a young Black man, I find it very sad and really unfortunate, because this stuff today shouldn’t be happening.
D'Loveantae Allen, 14
D’LOVEANTAE ALLEN, 14, MINNEAPOLIS
D’Loveantae Allen is a 14-year-old rising high school sophomore from the Heritage Park neighborhood. He has been involved with the teen-run community-focused bakery Green Garden for three years and is on its executive team. Green Garden sells vegetable-based desserts made from veggies grown in a community garden. It donates profits back to the local community.
Summertime just represents being free, no worries or cares for three months, aside from COVID. My family usually goes to Virginia to visit our grandmother, but that won’t be happening this summer.
I’ve been involved with Green Garden Bakery for almost three years, since I was 11 or 12. One of our friends in the neighborhood got into a car accident, and she was paralyzed from the neck down. There was a cooking class for young kids in the neighborhood, and one of the recipes was a green tomato cake. So in order to raise money for her medical bills, we took that cake and went to the Midtown Farmers Market, sold it there, and we wanted to raise $500, but we ended up raising $1,500. If you triple what you think you’re going to get, you don’t just stop doing it, and that’s how Green Garden Bakery got its start.
We work out of a community room in our neighborhood, and we also recently got a carriage house, where we host our meetings and we do a little bit of cooking. We have weekly meetings.
There’s over 100 kids involved, but responsibilities are split up into divisions. There are five teens, including me, on our executive team.
I love what we do at Green Garden Bakery and the people that I work with. I’m very passionate about it. I love going to sales, talking to people, doing interviews. That’s the main thing that’s kept me around is what we do for the community and how we help each other. Before coronavirus, Green Garden Bakery had two weekly markets planned, but that got postponed due to COVID. We will be doing that soon hopefully. During the pandemic, we want to keep helping our community and spreading awareness.
A little over a week ago, some of the Green Garden Bakery team made a community safety video. Another executive member and I went to the park and we made a rap about the George Floyd situation, along with sharing ways to make things better. With the video, we’re hoping to raise $10,000 to start this mini-business for African American men to come train people in our neighborhood, Heritage Park, on safety so when something bad happens, instead of calling the police, we would call a community member. So the only time we would get the police involved is if something really serious happened. So far, we’ve raised about $6,000.
My mom wants me to be safe, so she doesn’t allow me to go to any of the protests, so I’m kind of watching from the background, watching the news and stuff, and seeing what’s going on. My mom tells me about the protests, and I look at my friends’ stories on Snapchat. They’ll post if something recently happened, or an upcoming protest. Watching the protests as a young Black man, I find it very sad and really unfortunate, because this stuff today shouldn’t be happening.
I think that some adults are not considering the emotional toll that quarantine will have on young people.
Luke Chinman, 17
LUKE CHINMAN, 17, PITTSBURGH
Luke Chinman is a 17-year-old rising high school senior. After years of being involved in the international youth program CISV, Luke has developed a keen interest in international affairs and global peace education. Because his camp in Denmark was canceled due to COVID-19, Luke will be staying in Pittsburgh for the summer doing an internship.
For the first six weeks after our school shut down, we had no instruction. Next year, if we are back at school at all, they’re going to be doing some sort of staggered school day.
Normally, I would have cross country practices in the summer. And the other thing I’ve been doing the last few summers is a program with CISV, which I was planning to do this summer as well.
CISV is an international youth program. It was founded by a woman named Doris Allen right after World War II as a way to prevent any future world wars from happening by educating youth about peace education and global understanding. There are chapters all over the U.S. and the world. I’ve done a few programs with them. Most of the ones I’ve done have been a summer camp, but with international kids.
This summer I was planning to travel to Denmark. That program is unique from the rest of them because you run the entire camp yourself. There are a few staff from the local chapter that are hosting you, but you do all the planning, all the cooking, all the cleaning, all of the stuff that adults would have done for you previously — all with people you’ve never met before. But in March, they announced that summer programs would be shut down.
Because of CISV, I’ve gotten more interested in international affairs, and diversity and inclusion. That led me to the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, where I ended up getting a virtual internship, and a club at our school called Global Minds.
Coronavirus seems like something like the Black Plague that will be referred to in history books. It’s pretty crazy because I feel this is one of the most major historical events that has happened in my lifetime. It’s definitely hard: My senior year is getting disrupted by coronavirus, and it’s challenging to navigate that. And then with the anti-racism protests and the election, all of that just kind of amplifies everything that’s going on.
I’ve been thinking a lot about police brutality. I’ve definitely been considering what it means to be an ally. That’s something we’re talking about a lot in my internship. I’ve also discussed allyship and police brutality with my friends and my parents.
I get a sense that some adults think that the youth are fine right now because we’re engrossed in technology and social media. I think that some adults are not considering the emotional toll that quarantine will have on young people. All social connection right now is very planned. You have to go out of your way to talk to someone. Whereas in the regular world, when everything isn’t shut down, you can just be in a situation and talk to people that you know tangentially.
This time period has made me realize how much I took for granted. I will definitely appreciate just being in the same room with someone. I’ll appreciate things that felt so mundane.
After the pandemic, I won’t take spending time with my friends or being able to go outside for granted.
Malini Lodhavia, 16
MALINI LODHAVIA, 16, DOVER, DELAWARE
Malini Lodhavia is a rising high school junior. Her family moved to Delaware from New York when she was a baby. She has been in quarantine since March 14 and is going “very stir crazy.”
Summer is a break from everything. It feels like you don’t have to worry about too much and you just spend time with your friends. My family loves traveling, so that’s a big part of my summer usually. Last summer, we went to Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. If quarantine continues, my summer will probably be more deck visits with my friends and just hanging out with my family. We’ve been playing a lot of pingpong.
Usually, we move down to Rehoboth Beach and hang with a group of friends there. We walk around the boardwalk, have dinner on the beach sometimes, just kind of relax. But the pandemic is worse down there, so we don’t go as often. And when we do, we stay in the house.
I’ve been able to see some of my friends in Dover, the ones who have been extra quarantined like us. My mom will let them come over and sit on the deck 6 feet apart for an hour or two, but that’s about it. I miss going into restaurants, shopping and just being able to be in the same car as my friends and going places together.
I want adults to understand that it’s really hard for us not to be able to see our friends. It can be draining because you feel isolated from everybody. You only have the same people to hang out with, and things are different when you’re with your friends. I feel like I can be more of myself in a certain way around them. And with my family, it’s just different. My friends will understand certain things about me better than my family will. And vice versa.
It’s kind of hard to take everything in, but once you think about it and it sets in, it’s just like, “Wow.” There’s not much I can do about the pandemic, but for the anti-racism protests going on, I can help spread awareness about where to donate and sign petitions and stuff. But besides that, I feel like I don’t have control over it. I was thinking about how this will be in textbooks later, and that was kind of crazy. I think that after the pandemic, I won’t take spending time with my friends or being able to go out and spend time outside of my house for granted. I think it will help me stay off my phone more and just live in the world around me.
I also keep thinking about the uncertainty of it all. Will I be in college in two years and have to deal with this?
Tamar Guggenheim, 16
TAMAR GUGGENHEIM, 16, ATLANTA
Tamar Guggenheim is a rising high school junior. Before COVID-19, she was supposed to attend a New York Times Summer Academy in Washington, D.C., and go to sleepaway camp. But now camp has been canceled and the New York Times program has moved online.
During the summer, my family usually travels for a week or two, and then I do some summer working out with friends and get ready for camp. But this year, camp is canceled. In some ways, it’s much slower, but in others I feel like I’m trying to compensate a little bit. I’m taking online physics instead of doing it next year during the school year.
I’ll be attending the New York Times Summer Academy, which was going to be in D.C. for two weeks, and now it’s online. Most people in Atlanta that I know go to Jewish sleepaway summer camp. So the academy is a new experience. The class that I was supposed to be taking was on the election, which, especially in D.C., would have been really cool. I’m still doing it, but it’s obviously going to be different not being able to go places and see everything.
Now that I can drive, I have a lot more freedom. Atlanta has started opening back up, but I personally have not gone out too much. It is nice that more restaurants are open to get takeout, but I’m not running to eat out or do anything like that.
My school is one-third white, Black and Latino, and so a big part of our school culture is being around different races and cultures. It’s definitely different to be staying at home and seeing the Black Lives Matter protests through the TV or my phone. I think this is the first mass movement on social media that I can remember and take part of in a way that I’ll be able to recount in the future.
Once it’s safe to return, I’ll just appreciate being at school with my friends and teachers in more of a community setting. Now when I see a picture of too many people, my mindset is like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s too many people so close together!” I think it’ll take some time to get over that. I also keep thinking about the uncertainty of it all. Will I be in college in two years and have to deal with this?
The photos in this piece were directed by the subjects themselves, taken on their own or by friends and family members, unless credited otherwise.
Additional photos by Damon Dahlen/HuffPost and Cameron White.
Credits : Senior Enterprise Editor: Erin E. Evans; Senior Reporter: Emma Gray; Creative Director: Ivylise Simones; Photo Director: Christy Havranek; Senior Photo Editor: Chris McGonigal