“In the beginning, I considered dropping out,” high school student Pete Porch said, explaining the now year-long pandemic’s effect on him after the world went into quarantine. “I lost motivation.”

Students from various backgrounds were interviewed for this story, and most said the beginning of the pandemic and the switch from in-person to virtual learning was the hardest part. Whether students were already used to learning through a computer screen or were leaving desks behind for the first time, the change meant added stress.

High levels of anxiety and concern for friends were expressed by students of many schools, including Moriarty High, Estancia Valley Classical Academy, Highland High, and homeschool.

“I am a pretty social person and it can be difficult for me to keep relationships if I don’t see the people regularly,” Moriarty High senior Alyssa Sanchez said while discussing the beginning of the pandemic.

Other challenges included finding new ways to keep occupied and attempting to stay productive. Teenagers across the area went out looking for work, a way to earn money while keeping the community moving as smoothly as possible.

“I just moved here, so it’s nice to meet everyone in person,” said a homeschool student who wished to remain anonymous. “I’m hoping to go to public school next year, and it’ll be really helpful to have some friends before I come.”

Extracurricular activities became a mental escape for some students, online only a few hours a week for class. With in-person activities such as sports cancelled due to safety concerns, even the most extroverted students had to come up with new creative ways to pass the time. Sports fans created online pages to discuss major games and events, and board game fans played game after game through virtual platforms.

“Sure, it wasn’t the best way to play. A game half an hour long lasted two days by the time everyone got around to it,” full-time online student Martine McGlothlin said. “But it was something, at least. I’d rather do it that way than not at all.”

Still, not everyone agreed that virtual activities were worth the effort. Freshmen preparing to enter high school had different opinions on how the pandemic affected their plans. The nerves and excitement built up during the last year of middle school seemed to disappear along with the hope of seeing friends actively again. Schoolwork, although easier in some aspects, was described as a means to get by rather than a tool for learning.

The ability to be away from peer pressure and other insecurities gave some students the opportunity to reflect on themselves and prepare the next steps for years to come, whether they were to continue in school or move on to adult life.

“It gave me a lot of time to connect with counselors, plan my future, and connect with myself as a person,” said Faith Ridenour, future medical student. “I finally took advantage of the time I had and focused it toward bettering myself.”

As Covid regulations change and schools are able to reintegrate students into full-time, in-person learning, every student is facing a difficult decision. As much as the urge to get back to normal is prevalent in the minds of those from public schools, now the debate is whether to give up the new comfortable routine.

Some seniors and those with full-time jobs don’t see much need to go back so late in the year. The learning environment has already changed so much that they’d prefer to continue earning money and sticking with their self-reliant routines rather than go back to the classroom.

Freshmen and other underclassmen with a more unpredictable daily routine, on the other hand, are eager to get back to the adventures of high school. Just the same, very few are thinking about moving to a permanent online format that would possibly remove them from school events.

No matter if students interviewed here learn online, in person, or a mix of the two, all of them could agree on one thing: This year was nothing like anyone had expected.

No matter what differences there might have been, all could say that they were able to grow in some new way. Some have seen the pandemic as a curse, while others have looked at it as a blessing in disguise.

Isolation from others of the same age was a nightmare for most, but a dream for others. The lack of extra work developed some students’ creativity in socialization, while for others it helped with self-discipline and building a more productive routine.

Students across the area have hope for the future in some way. With this newfound hope, the learners of today—the generation of tomorrow—feel they can face anything thrown at them.