Pioneer Class of 2021 reflects on how the pandemic affected their lives

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  • From relaxation to mental struggles, seniors open up to how they’ve developed over the past year in pandemic life. (Image is free use from

  • Madeline Gupta

  • Martha Laramore-Josey

  • Jenny Meng

  • Muneer Elshaikh

  • Pete Bonasso

  • Rebecca Brewer

  • Renee Starosta

  • Rishika Bhutani

  • Rory Campbell

  • Talia Zakalik

  • Yongwen Zheng

  • Garrett Kracht

  • Heath Monsma

  • Isabelle Dugan

  • Jakob Lorenc

  • James Catanzaro

  • Jessica Sheehan

  • Jillian Giordano

  • Justice Jackson

  • Kaitlyn Fa

  • Kale Lampman

  • Kevin Dancey

  • Kyle Cheng

  • Kyleigh Chambers

  • Allison Gaines

  • Bintou Sylla

  • Bufan Shi

  • Cassandra DeMott

  • Charles Cain

  • Davieon Olive

  • Eliza Shearing

  • Eva Kubacki

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I enjoyed all the time I spent outdoors.” – Talia Zakalik

“This year was an opportunity to take a step back, examine what was important to me and get to know myself better.” – Heath Monsma

“I remember when it first started in 2020 I was happy, but then it started to affect me mentally. But it made me a stronger person because I got to overcome a weakness I didn’t know I had. I will tell people in the future that we had it hard; this was supposed to be the prime of our lives and we couldn’t really enjoy it.” – Davieon Olive

“I will remember this pandemic as a wake up call to never take the little and big things for granted because it can be taken away in an instant.” – Kevin Lawson

“I made the most of the situation, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. This year was certainly a change but that doesn’t make it a bad one.” – Charles Cain

“I realized how well I work by myself when I can self-pace. This year will definitely be one of the most memorable years of my life just because of the fact that my last year of high school was online. This was not the most ideal way to have my senior year because I had a lot of plans. I was excited for prom and the senior party. And I was even excited for graduation at EMU. After everything that has happened in the past year, there are definitely many stories I will be able to tell. Overall, this year has been very hectic, but it has definitely been one of my favorite years of my life.” – Kyleigh Chambers

“This year has been really stressful. But it also made me realize how much I love meeting people and reminded me of the importance of looking for positive things in life.” – Yongwen Zheng

This past year was certainly interesting. Through the dark times, there were definitely moments of light. I was able to make a lot of important realizations and do a lot of self reflection during all of the free time. I now know who the most important people are in my life, I know that I can be independent, and I now have more of an appreciation for the small moments in life. On the more light-hearted side of things, I developed my own style during this past year, I am a really good cook now, and I really strengthened and deepened my relationship with music! This year will most definitely stand out. I think I’ll tell people in the future that this was such a crazy time in our lives, but we were able to keep going through it, and that is something to be proud of.” – Allison Gaines

“A silver lining was having more free time, and time to do homework during the day, and seeing my family more.” – Isabelle Dugan

“It was a very interesting time for sure. I think that the pandemic kind of quickly put my bar for a good year on the floor which wasn’t great but it also meant that anything good was a really nice surprise. For me, a big silver lining was the amount of time it gave me to work on art and my portfolio for college. It gave me a lot of time to reflect and brainstorm on projects in a way that I probably wouldn’t have had time for otherwise. It’s hard to say what I’ll think of this year in the future because we’re still living through it but I know it’s been really impactful in a lot of ways we can’t even imagine yet.” – Eva Kubacki

“This will be an interesting year to reflect on when I’m older. This year has gone by really fast, surprisingly fast, but I think the time away from others has let people grow on a more personal level. For me, I think the pandemic has made me a lot more independent. School, being online, took a lot of self motivation, and I think that coincides with independence and will power. I also value time with friends and family more, because some of them I didn’t see for months in person. Since this is my senior year, I’ll remember this year as one with a mix of emotions. So much has changed in my life since last March and now that school is ending and we’ll be graduating, I feel disconnected to some of my classmates, which makes me really sad, it’s just not the year I imagined. This has been a weird year, and no doubt I’ll be telling people in the future the same thing.” – Eliza Shearing

“It was terrible. I’ve been fortunate enough that I have friends I can see throughout, but I’ve missed seeing people I know. The only silver lining is that I got better with my laptop.” – Jakob Lorenc

“I will tell people in the future that, even though it has been a rough year, we still made it.” – Bintou Sylla

“I think the Pandemic has had an overall negative effect on my well-being. I feel like both my education and mental health have suffered this year due to online school. It makes me so sad to think of all the things I didn’t get to do my senior year.” – Rebecca Brewer

“It was more difficult to stay engaged, as it felt significantly more draining than regular school years.” – Stanley Rhodes

“This year was really tough for me academically, it was hard to be the only one on my back for homework and deadlines. I know I lost connection with a couple friends because it became hard to reach out, but the ones that stayed close became super strong. Overall I feel more independent and really ready to be done with high school forever!” – Renee Starosta

“What I will remember most from this year is how we overcame and met every challenge we faced. I won’t lie, this year wasn’t ideal, and it certainly wasn’t what I had imagined for my senior year. However this year still had its good moments. From virtual game nights with band to monthly book club meetings, we still found a way to come together and make the best of what we had.” – Katherine Ellis

“I realized how much I took casual interactions for granted. The people that I sat next to in class, the people I would wave to in the hallways, those have been the relationships I miss the most. I’ve learned a lot about myself during this time; I’ve always considered myself an introvert, but now I know that as much as I value my alone time, I still need human interaction.” – Martha Laramore-Josey

“This year was a great opportunity to see how I learned- whether I liked online learning or not. Unfortunately I missed some opportunities to get the full experience: for example, I wasn’t able to participate in DECA competitions in person. I will remember this year as a time of resilience and unknown waters. Everyone was in the same boat and everyone didn’t necessarily know what was going on. In the future I’m going to tell people how hard it was to get through the school year and how quickly students and faculty needed to adapt.” – Jessica Sheehan

“This year has been especially impactful on me. I struggled with motivation to finish out my last year of high school without being able to enjoy most senior year highlights. This year was very isolating but pushed me to focus on myself and become the best person I can be. I will remember this year as a period of growth and reflection. In the future I think I will tell people about how infamous it was. I experienced protesting for racial change, some very tumultuous moments in government, and one of the most devastating pandemics. But I also experienced my peers coming together and lifting each other up through these dark moments.” – Jillian Giordano

“The pandemic has been really hard for me and most of my friends. Personally, I lost my appreciation for most things. Being stuck in my house for a year, doing the same things everyday, took a toll on me. What I will probably most remember from my senior year are the really rare moments where I felt happy talking to all of my friends. I think people will think back upon this time and remember it with a bittersweet nostalgia, or remember it as the worst way to spend our senior year.” – Aleks Shameti

“I’ve grown more comfortable being by myself and got used to doing things I enjoyed for me, not for others all the time. It was definitely the year where nothing ever went as planned.” – Rory Campbell

I definitely had lots of time to contemplate life. It’s important to not take anything for granted and to realize the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people, as they are the ones who will always be there to support your awesome endeavors!” – Kevin Dancey

“I liked going to school virtually because it was way more convenient for me. I also felt like I saved a LOT more paper this year since everything was virtual. Honestly, I think this year was a good way of testing new methods and tools for education that we could implement permanently in the future.” – Menny Meng

“This year was definitely trying on my ability to keep up in school, as the workload felt heavier over online school, but nevertheless I believe it made me stronger in the end. One silver lining was I got to spend quality time with family on vacations (once covid had subsided a bit) which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In the future, I will tell people this time was the turning point of our nation’s hygiene everywhere and for a while, everything felt dead.” – Peter Bonasso