New year brings reflection, hope

    Northgate High School students reflect on last year’s experiences


    Margot Smethurst, Northgate High School 

    Senior Margot Smethurst set a 2020 goal to read more and completed 35 books. This year Smethurst, at far right with Northgate friends Emily Titterton, left, and Sarah Bonano at a park in Berkeley, has added fitness goals.

    The arrival of 2020 brought much excitement into the world as we prepared to enter a new decade. Athletes waited in anticipation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which only occurs every four years. Meanwhile, a presidential election loomed in the distance. There were high hopes for this aesthetically-pleasing year. 

    However, the year took an unexpected turn.

    Many people were forced to leave their jobs, evacuate their homes and deal with the emotional burden of a worldwide pandemic due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that took the world by surprise. Our picturesque view of the year 2020 shattered before our eyes, changing everything from March on with shelter-in-place, social distancing, and quarantine policies.

    Most devastating of all is the loss of life, a catastrophe that has caused more casualties than today’s teenagers have known except in history books. At this writing, 2.6 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19, with more than 400,000 deaths in the United States. including 35,000 in California.

    People have been forced to change and adapt to the digital environment, restructure their lives,  and become patient with the changing world. They have stayed determined, encouraging one another to keep going in these tumultuous times. 

    Northgate High School students made time to reflect on last year’s experiences and on their hopes for the future, sharing their understanding, accomplishments and goals.

    “I set a lot of goals each year. My goal for 2020 was to get in shape and just be healthier overall,” Northgate sophomore Emma Majerczak said. She continued by explaining how if not for the pandemic, she may not have achieved that goal. 

     “Around quarantine I made the switch and joined the cross country team. After that I realized I had achieved my goal and gotten into the best shape of my life,” she said. “So, it was really nice to actually see that goal come true.”  

    Noah Bettelheim is a Northgate freshman in orchestra.“The pandemic definitely made me isolated, but it also brought good things. It gave me a lot more time to practice my music, which I really enjoy,” he said. 

    Margot Smethurst explained her ambitious nature that leads her to write down goals often. “One of my main goals for 2020 was to read more. I did accomplish that goal and read over 35 books this past year,” she said, adding that some of her favorites included The Institute by Steven King and Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. 

    Smethurst also looked optimistically at the stay at home order. “I think COVID actually helped [me accomplish my goal] because I had a lot more free time,” she said.

          Northgate junior Lillian Aguilera, better known as Lil, explained how COVID also helped her achieve her goal. “I set a goal to work on self-improvement, more specifically to try and be more confident. I actually think COVID helped with my goal because when I spent more time alone, I realized I stopped comparing myself to others around me,” Aguilera said.

          Northgate senior Fethullah Unal reflected on the difficulties of the past year. His junior year was turbulent, like many other students. “I wanted to be more productive during the year but then the pandemic hit, and I couldn’t get anything done. Dealing with a system you never used before and being an expert at it is not easy at all. I ended up going to summer school because of COVID-19,” Unal explained. 

    Northgate freshman Romtin Pourzand also decided to focus on academics. “When COVID had first started, school became a lot easier because I had more time to do it. I was somewhat wrong to think it would be like that in high school,” he said. “Once high school started, I studied harder and took more time while doing homework.” 

    As we entered the new year, Northgate students looked into their future and shared their plans for 2021. 

    “My goal for 2021 is to learn to play the guitar,” Bettelheim said. “I can already pick some stuff out from knowing music, but otherwise, I am starting fresh.” He explained his passion for music and understanding how to play more instruments, including the guitar. “It sounds cool and I like music,” he said. 

    Majerczak has also set high standards for 2021. “[In English class,] we had to write down one word that describes our resolution and mine is ‘dedication’. I wanted to follow through with the goals that I set for myself and celebrate those little goals that I met. This year is really about following through on realistic goals and working for them,” she said.

    Pourzand described how he is continuing to work on academics in the upcoming year. “I haven’t set too many goals but one of the goals I did set was about improving my grades even more,” he said. “Last semester I had pretty much all A’s except for English. So, my main goal for this year is to improve in English and Spanish.”

    He also said, “If I had to give advice it would be to keep your head up and always try to reach your goal.”

    Smethurst stated, “My 2021 resolutions are to cook more and exercise five times a week. I know that I like to work out – it makes me feel so energized and productive! So, I really want to incorporate that into my schedule regularly.” 

    She also gave good advice to maintain motivation during these trying times. “It doesn’t have to be a life-changing goal. Just checking off the little things can lead to accomplishing a bigger goal.”

    Some students didn’t set specific goals, but are still hopeful for the upcoming year. Freshman Laila Chaudhary offered wise advice to those trying to achieve their goals. “I do not have any written resolutions for 2021, but if I did I would take my time to achieve them and try not to rush myself,” she said.