Preface: In March 2020, the TRIP@WTHS'20 session was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the program ended early, our students continued to pursue their interests, to grow, and to adapt. In July, we invited the TRIP@WTHS'20 alumni to reflect on how they spent their time in quarantine. This is Venus's story.
Not only am I putting my thoughts into action, I’m learning.
Venus in quarantine is a different breed to say the absolute least.
When school ended it was weird because they announced that we were just taking a week off, but with the intention of, you know… going back to school the next week. We were told about our mini “break” only after we’d left school. When we didn’t return to school this left everything feeling so unfinished. We weren’t given any closure with our friends who we’ll hopefully see next year, but moreover, we didn’t get any closure with the seniors who we might never see again!
In the beginning of our break, I did absolutely nothing. My schedule was packed when all of this went down; March and April are the busiest months of the year for me, no question. Mix that with the added stress of junior year: AP classes, robotics, the musical, and TRIP… well, you have the most sleep deprived version of me that exists. When everything suddenly stopped, I really had no idea what to do with myself. Taking breaks and having a lax schedule is not something I am familiar with at all; I did not know how to cope! I kind of just walked around my house in distress, texting my friends about how awful life was. That routine got old really fast and I needed some structure in my life (really I just hated that everything ended so abruptly as if the universe doesn’t run on my schedule or something), so I began finding ways to make the things that seemingly couldn't happen, happen. Whether it be having Zoom calls with women in STEM fields (or those pursuing STEM majors in college) in place of my Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) club (I called it Corona Calls--our first call was with Dr. Rhoda Moise, which Dr. Purdy hosted for a career webinar too!); having an online Trivia Night for WISE; participating in an online Hack-A-Thon with the Computer Science Honor Society where my friend Kelly and I won best beginner code (and an Amazon gift card!); having online CAD classes in place of our robotics competitions; getting my peers to register to vote through social media in place of my committee on Student Council’s usual voter registration drive; or watching all of Glee in place of my school work, I found ways to keep my and my friends’ lives as normal as I could make it.
Once AP tests arrived, my organization, sanity, serenity, and peace jumped off a cliff. AP tests were astronomically (that’s a word the kids say nowadays) stressful and unnecessary. I originally planned for three AP tests until I reminded myself that I could barely learn calculus when we had school in person, so I dropped my Calc BC test. The tests I had left were AP Language and Composition (Lang) and AP Physics C: Mechanics. With only two AP tests looming, I felt much more confident about Lang. I was pretty good at writing rhetorical analysis essays and felt really prepared overall. For Physics C, however, all caution went out the window. I was so so SO stressed out about it. Physics C: Mechanics is hands down the hardest class I have ever taken and I was just bracing myself for the worst. My physics teacher also has an insanely high average on his test and I really did not want to be the reason it dipped. When all was said and done, I felt pretty good about my Lang test and my Physics C test did not accept my submission and I wasn’t going to put myself through that torture again, so I got a refund.
The time after AP tests, May to June, was not very good for me. I had experienced the loss of a friend and then the week after was when George Floyd was filmed being murdered. Because of the isolation that comes with being in a pandemic, it was not easy for me to cope with everything that was happening all at once. I was angry. I was angry that I wasn't able to go to my friend’s funeral service, I was angry that people I knew were ignoring COVID and hanging with each other, and I was angry that people were just now opening their ears to the century year old cries of BIPOCs. I very much did not do anything actually productive these months, but tried to escape my thoughts and feelings through TV shows and movies and books. It was also a bit exhausting being the point of contact for some of my friends on issues about race. I took too much of my time, at some point it started to get unhealthy. I knew I had to clean up my act for July. So I did. I got up, dusted myself off, and tried to channel my anger in ways that are productive and impactful.
Some alumni, fellow high school students, and I created a Coalition called Police Free CSD to remove all physical presence of police in our school district, recraft our memorandum of understanding, end punitive disciplinary protocol at our schools, and expand mental health resources and visibility in our district. Being a part of creating a movement that directly impacts my school is not only liberating but reaffirms to me the importance of MY VOICE. We are still working hard to make our demands a reality, but in the meantime follow our instagram, @policefreeCSD, and share our petition with anyone you know that has ties to Cheltenham School District at all!
Not only am I putting my thoughts into action, I’m learning. I am also taking an U.S. History class with Gilder Lehrman History School through Zoom and I am thoroughly enjoying it! This class is very conscious that the way U.S. history is currently taught in schools is insufficient and as a result is unlike any history course I have ever taken. I am learning about things normally excluded from the standard high school history class, such as how Zombies were created by Haitian slaves. This course is giving me a lot of knowledge (or ammunition as I like to say) and helping me add context to what I observe happening in the world today. I also began to take part in a fellowship called the College Key Foundation Fellowship. It is helping students, like myself, navigate the college application process and also pairs us with a mentor who is in or soon to begin college. My mentor’s name is Isabella; she is going to be a freshman at Yale in the fall, and she likes Timothee Chalamet; basically, a match made in heaven. The last thing I started this month was an internship with Dr. David Weisman who does clinical research with Alzheimer's patients. Since I couldn't continue my research at TRIP, I had to find someone to replace the hole in my heart haha. Oh, I am also starting my college applications and trying to figure where I want to spend the next four years of my academic career while sitting in my room which is always fun (not). My Zoom account gets a lot of use to say the least.
As you can see, I’m back to being regular old Venus who leaves herself minimal free time, just the way I like it!! Overall, quarantine hasn’t been the kindest to my family. My mother is a nurse and my sister and I have been spending too much time together, but we’re getting through and making it work. No one has gotten sick and for that I’m more than grateful. I miss my TRIP fam so so so much and am devastated about leaving right as we were getting the hang of our assays. I also miss my larvae and getting to see whether taurine and zoloft made them geniuses. Ultimately, I hope everyone is staying healthy and is finding ways to keep sane and busy in these times when the simulation is doing a bit too much :)