Lives in the pandemic: Kennedy High series

Students reveal many ways things changed for them

Tara Taylor-McDonald, a teacher at Richmond’s Kennedy High School asked her  beginning journalism students to write about their lives during the pandemic. Their essays have been lightly edited for clarity.

–      Carol Pogash, CCSPIN writing coach



by Jasmine Ku

During the pandemic my grandmother who had 13 children and lived in the state of Yucatan, Mexico caught Covid. She survived the virus but it made her weak. In February of this year she had minor back pain and went to the hospital and got sick again. She died a week later. Recently my uncle, who also lived in Mexico, had a choice to have the vaccine but decided not to.  He caught Covid, was on a ventilator and passed away a few days later, too.  Since they lived in Mexico, I never got to say goodbye. 

My young cousins in the U.S. also got Covid at the start of the pandemic. Luckily, the virus didn’t affect them as much. On a good side note everyone in my family who is old enough has been vaccinated, but it’s still a scary disease. I worry about getting it at school or anywhere else.

School, school. School is bad enough, but online school was the absolute worst. I failed all my classes. I lost motivation to even try because I was overwhelmed with schoolwork and taking care of two little siblings and three little cousins. I had to make sure they were in their online classes. Especially my little sister who had the habit of sleeping while on her Zoom meetings! And I had to look after my little brother who is barely three. There was no one else to take care of them. My relatives have to work long hours in order to support our families. 

My mental and physical health became even worse than ever in my life. I gained weight and had more mental breakdowns than before. I even had insomnia for a bit. My sleep schedule was messed up  — I was only getting about 3-6 hours  a night and sometimes no sleep at all. Often, I felt empty and spaced out. I had a lot of stress having to deal with so much in my life. 

Now that I’ve started school in person again it’s not as bad. 

Some things have changed over the pandemic that are good. I’ve always been a curious person. I’ve started reading a lot more, mostly about history including World War II and ancient civilizations such as ancient Greece and the Maya civilizations. I also read about a Hungarian Jewish doctor who worked at Auschwitz and I read about the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  

I’ve gotten into manga (Japanese comics) as well as others like manhwa (Korean comics) and manhua (Chinese comics). I buy the manga at the bookstore, while I read manhua and manhwa on my phone. During the pandemic, I also watched more anime. It helped me relax. To take the stress away I  started baking too, mostly just bread and desserts. I taught myself how to make pizza and French baguettes. I baked carrot and chocolate cupcakes, too. 

The biggest impact was on my drawing style. Reading manga, manhua, manhwa and watching anime greatly effected my art, which, in the beginning, was very cringy. I wouldn’t show it to anyone even if they gave me a whole load of money…By using more references to practice I gained a drawing style. And soon enough, my drawing became a bit better. And I can say I’m pretty proud of that!

Because of the pandemic, I stayed with my two crazy younger siblings the entire time, always wishing I was an only child. Over the months, I learned to appreciate them and love them even more. They helped me learn that being an only child wouldn’t be as fun as it sounds. Although I have many cousins, without my siblings I would feel alone with no one there to comfort me at my worst times. They still annoy the heck out of me, but that’s fine.

Generally the pandemic was a whole mess, my life was going up and down, swirling all around. 

Would I go through all of that again? No.NO. The bad outweighed the good.

In the aftermath of the pandemic: I got decent grades for my progress report card this year, which proved my point that online school sucked…



by Iyana Lopez

The pandemic made a lot of traits I had stronger. I’m a lot more paranoid than I used to be. Whenever I hear a cough or a sneeze, I start to overthink. I’ve had a few panic attacks because of stress from online school and being scared that I or a loved one has Covid. The pandemic turned me into a germaphobe, and it took a huge toll on my family.

Before the pandemic I was never paranoid about getting sick or about my loved ones dying. Coughing and sneezing didn’t really bother me. My family was fine, definitely more stable. Before the pandemic, everything was calmer. 

When the pandemic hit, I lost a lot of friends because I became distant. It was so hard for me to talk to them, and it was hard to make new ones since we were online. I didn’t go outside much and I usually just lay in bed. My family stressed about their jobs, they didn’t want to lose them. Financially and emotionally, they struggled a lot since my grandpa had passed away. I also struggled with his death because he was like a father to me; we were very close. I’m not sure what caused him to pass, but it had to do with his heart. It made everything that once seemed simple to do much harder. Things have gotten better, which I am very grateful for.


by Brandon Duran

When the pandemic happened I didn’t really worry about it too much. Then my school was shut down. I was so confused at first but then I got the hang of it. My parents kept working the same as usual but had to wear masks. I’ve gotten pretty lazy because I barely got to go outside. 

Online learning was very hard because I didn’t really understand the work they gave us, so I didn’t really learn much.

Now we can go to school but with the mask on. There’s a vaccine now but it’s not required to go to school. And at least we go to school now and we can finally learn. 

I really want the virus to end because so many people are dying because of it. Even if the world is in chaos, we still have hope.


by Jasmine Sanchez

For my family and me, this has been very, very tough to get through and recover from. I’ve had family members get Covid.  I was on the verge of getting Covid and had to quarantine for a bit of time. My mother was sick and it was scary realizing she could’ve been at risk for health issues and had a very bad outcome. She ended up recovering but the whole thing was very emotional. Having to see my mother sick and tired, barely moving and having a hard time even breathing was enough for me. 

School has been affected as well; people haven’t been doing their best in school. The way it was done online broke some people. I’ve been held back from learning and am still trying to improve my education. 

I’m curious how my eighth grade would have gone if the pandemic hadn’t occurred. Last year, I struggled in school because I lacked enthusiasm, and I assumed that this would be a long break and that I would return to class sooner or later. My class work piled up and I felt overwhelmed. I struggled with schoolwork at the end trying to boost my grades so I wouldn’t fail. 

Now that we’re back in school, it has been improving. 

There has been a lot of change, and nothing will be the same for a long time.

During Covid my family was financially struggling with bills and housing. It was never easy, and this added to the stress because my family didn’t have enough work for the money we needed.

The pandemic is a learning experience for the community and everyone worldwide. 

We’ve seen what can happen in such a short time, so we all must be more cautious.


by Monse Sanchez

The pandemic has affected my life because my parents had to stay home for a couple of weeks from their job and I had to stay at home and start online school. Online school for me was really bad, I didn’t learn anything and my grades were really bad.

Five of my family members almost died from Covid. I remember my parents going to visit them and bringing them food because they were unable to make food themselves. When my parents visited those family members they said it smelled like death even when they showered all the time. My relatives are so much better now, they are healthy and back to normal.

Apart from that, quarantine for me was pretty nice. I don’t think I would  have the friends I have now or my way of thinking if it weren’t for quarantine. I also got a cat and I don’t think I would have one if it weren’t for quarantine. 

My life is different now because I have to go to school and need to be careful and stay safe. I can’t see some of my family as much as I used to and I can’t see new places like I would have if it weren’t for Covid. 


by Shayla Mccoy 

 I had trouble with online school because my WiFi would go out and sometimes my computer would freeze and I had a science teacher who didn’t explain the work well. 

The pandemic was hard on me because I couldn’t see my friends, I couldn’t have a birthday party and I also couldn’t go to Six Flags. It was really hard being in the house on Zoom. 

The pandemic has changed my life because we have to wear a mask and be six feet away from each other. 

I can’t be around people now.  I feel uncomfortable around people especially when I hear them sneeze and cough.  I give them a strange look and I move out of the way. 

Going back to school with Covid was scary because you don’t know if kids or teachers have Covid.



by Soriyah Schulz

The pandemic changed my life in so many ways. It made me more aware of life and issues that we have going on today. The pandemic helped me do things that I would’ve never done. I learned how to do nails, how to cut my own hair and how to cook way more. So the pandemic helped me in a way to become better at things that I wasn’t so good at.

My family got closer because of Covid.  We bonded way more because we realized that time is too short. I spent a lot of my time during quarantine with my family. My grandma and aunt got Covid from working in the hospital, but I’m thankful that nobody had any serious, long-lasting damage from Covid

I’m glad that in the end we’re all healthy now. 

I am a little scared of being at school considering that Covid is spreading like crazy. I’m putting myself and others at risk everyday at school because I could have Covid and not know. Therefore, I will be getting tested regularly. 

Life has changed so much since last year from the mask to school and much more. Nothing is really the same anymore. Hopefully one day things can go back to normal.



by Ahmaya Maroney

Online school was a lot to handle. It was quite depressing because I was separated from my friends and everything was just so confusing and I couldn’t do anything about it. My friend group stopped talking to each other and we all went our separate ways. Fortunately I’ve been able to stay connected with one of my best friends and we went through this new experience together. I am very grateful to have her in my life.

Before online school my grades weren’t the best but they weren’t as bad as they were when I started online school, My grades went down because there were  a lot of complications with the online classes  and Zoom meetings. There were technical issues with emails and Google Classroom passwords. Zoom links wouldn’t work sometimes so that would also make me late to some of my classes. Sometimes I would accidentally sleep in and miss classes. My  sleep schedule was a big mess and I felt so depressed and  taken aback about how much my life changed and how much the world has changed because of the pandemic.

During the pandemic my hobbies changed from skateboarding and drawing everyday to only drawing once a week and not riding my skateboard at all.   I’ve just recently started reading books and making wired rings and getting into crystals and spirituality. 


During the pandemic my mental health took a turn for the worse and I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I should have. My mental health wasn’t good to begin with, but once online school started I felt overwhelmed and stressed. I didn’t know what to do about it so I shut down academically because of all the sudden changes. I’m not very good with change and the pandemic really changed me.   I’m still not fully used to these types of changes and I hope they don’t last forever.