BVH alumni face impacts of COVID-19
April 20, 2020
Naya O’Reily, class of 2017
During the hectic, fully packed final year of an early graduating three-year college student, one would not typically expect to be confronted with the ramifications of a pandemic. In the case of Naya O’ Reily, a Bonita Vista High (BVH) alumna of the class of 2017 and graduating senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, uncertainty undoubtedly clouds the future of her senior year.
Having recently been put on new medication that weakened her immune system, O’Reily began to experience symptoms that resemble COVID-19, commonly referred to as Coronavirus.
“I developed a fever and a cough. And that’s when people were like, ‘Oh, it may be a thing.’ It started ramping up,” O’Reily said. “Because I also have asthma I was automatically way more afraid and was the first person tested at [my school].”
Unlike those allowed to exit their house as long as they are abiding by current social distancing guidelines, O’Reily was quarantined in her home in Boulder awaiting the results of her test.
“I wasn’t allowed to go to my grandfather’s funeral because I couldn’t leave the state. Yeah, no traveling,” O’Reily said. “I was required to wait until my test came back, which at the time took around six or seven days.”
Many universities and schools across the nation shut down in-person teaching for the rest of the school year, initially sparking the excitement of no physical school. However, O’Reily states that this feeling seemingly dissipated after the unforeseeable reality set in.
“A bunch of us were like, ‘Yay, no physical school,’ but then we realized what that meant, how hard that transition would be and how much it sucked,” O’Reily said. “Now, it feels like an overwhelming shadow, what’s happening right now. People are dying.”
Not only does the fear of a pandemic have an impact, O’Reily being the daughter of veterans receives benefits from the Veterans Affairs (VA) with the G.I. bill that helps pay for her housing, education and basic living expenses. These changes to remote courses caused a ripple effect for many.
“When Colorado University (CU) announced [the new policies], they didn’t get it approved by the VA,” O’Reily said. “It felt like they said your benefits may be changed and you may not be able to live in Boulder anymore.”
Ultimately the bill was signed into law which left O’Reily stressed with unpredictability. As a part of the peer counseling program in high school, O’Reily handled varying cases of student mental health; however, no one could foresee a situation like this.
“Mental health sucks so bad right now. My anxiety and depression feels like so much more,” O’Reily said. “I had to finish my thesis in the middle of all of this craziness where I wasn’t able to physically see my advisor, and he wasn’t able to help me get through the last bits. I had to keep calling him and trying to do revisions, testing it out and writing my whole slideshow on my own.”
For seniors at CU, uncertainty surrounds the commencement ceremony that caps off several years of work in the harsh reality that makes up a post-secondary education. Even more so, to O’Reily, who plans on going to the University of Hawaii at Hilo for graduate school.
“I was supposed to be a first gen. I was supposed to be the first one to walk,” O’Reily said. “I’ll get my degree no matter what, but it was something I was looking forward to for so long. And to just have it ripped away from us, I know this is not a time where we’re supposed to be selfish, but it definitely felt like a personal loss.”
Following all of this, many believe that a new outlook on life should be adopted.
“I want to start living for myself more because everything in your world can change within a [vulgarity] second,” O’Reily said. “All of a sudden, it became so much. All of a sudden, it was a pandemic.”
Isabella Medina, class of 2018
For Isabella Medina, a 2018 BVH alumna and a current student at California State University (CSU) San Marcos, quarantine has led to a focus on doing what she can for her community. As a commuting student who resides in Chula Vista and now works and takes classes online, Medina identified her largest struggle to be the restricted manner in which she has to support her community members.
“It’s difficult handling [the impacts of coronavirus] myself because of the lack of motivation and structure that I have, but then [there’s] also making sure that everyone around me is okay because that is my job — not just as a person but also as a peer educator at my job, an orientation team leader and a marketing assistant,” Medina said. “I’m supposed to make sure my community is doing well, and I can’t do that exactly how I usually do if I’m limited to being in my house.”
Medina would usually work at the Latinx Center at CSU San Marcos. Instead of the in-person classes, Medina would typically drive several hours of commute daily. Now, she works from her bedroom.
“[The online class system is] not very structured so it’s difficult to find the motivation to just sit down and be in that ‘it’s class-time’ mode to learn. Also, inconveniently, [my family] just moved houses, so I don’t have much furniture. And we can’t go furniture shopping because we’re supposed to be in quarantine,” Medina said. “I do most of my stuff in my bed, and it’s really bad for my back, one, and two, it’s contributing to the lack of motivation because it’s so easy to just close my laptop and take a nap.”
While Medina’s academic experience has been significantly changed as her professors have started teaching through videos or live sessions, she has not been negatively impacted financially besides having her usual hours cut.
“Luckily my university has decided to continue paying student workers on campus, and we’ve just decided to telecommute, which is working at home. So [while] I do still work, it’s much less than I typically worked because I work in a center where students would come in and do different activities. I’ve mostly just been doing social media posts, checking emails [and] going to meetings.”
Moreover, Medina expressed concern for students, especially international ones, who lost the job they previously had with CSU San Marcos’ partner Sodexo.
“We have a campus partner called Sodexo that handles most of the food on our campus, and all of those student workers have been laid off just because they’re not technically part of the university; they’re partners,” Medina said.
Despite the strain that self-isolating can cause for people, Medina stated that she and her family have been sure to practice social distancing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. She also has an immunocompromised household member and believes that “it’s always good to be safe,” even if one is “young or healthy.”
“I’m not so concerned about myself getting coronavirus, but if I were to get it I would be fearful that I would be someone spreading it to someone who wouldn’t be able to handle it so well. I feel so bad for medical workers because they’re working nonstop, and it’s very stressful for them I’m sure. So, being irresponsible and contracting the virus myself would put more work and pressure on them,” Medina said.
Medina also feels that others during quarantine are feeling a different kind of pressure due to influence on social media. While Medina acknowledged that during her time at home she has been able to devote more time to exercising and engaging in hobbies, she believes that this time may be wrongly promoted as a “productivity contest” for people and that mental health should be prioritized.
“Everyone wants to read 2000 books and learn a bunch of languages and go on miles and miles of running, but that’s not always what productivity looks like. Sometimes being productive is just sitting down and checking in with yourself […] and just making sure that you’re okay first,” Medina said. “It’s not always a linear journey either. You should always be mindful of how you’re feeling in the day. Just because you did well yesterday doesn’t mean you’re going to do better today, so always check in with yourself.”
Emma Rand, class of 2018
When she came to Chula Vista for spring break on March 6, BVH graduate Emma Rand did not plan on staying more than a week. The escalation of COVID-19 changed that, along with the plans of people across the world.
Since Rand graduated from BVH in 2018, she has been attending Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The university barred students from returning to campus while Rand was in Chula Vista, causing her to face significant academic changes. Rand is currently meeting for classes through the online platform Zoom, which has been adopted by educators nationwide amid social distancing.
What would have been labs in her Physics class are now provided data sets for analysis. Rand’s physical education course that previously made use of swords now takes place at 5:30 in the morning and has been modified for distance-learning as well. Rand acknowledged the impacts her current situation will have on her academics in the next semester but does not predict longer effects on her academics or life.
“I don’t think [self-isolation] will have extremely long lasting impacts, but it will likely affect my performance in some of my classes next semester, because I’m taking the first semester of a two semester Calculus course. Because of the transition to online learning, we had to cut a significant amount of material that we are supposed to know before second semester Calculus,” Rand said.
Despite the changes in her lifestyle and plans, Rand acknowledged that her circumstances could be much worse. While the time difference between California and North Carolina resulted in Rand having a class at 5:30 a.m., she mentioned a classmate in Spain who joined her for a Zoom class at 1 a.m. While Rand also had an on-campus job she can no longer perform, her work-study income will not be negatively affected.
“I was disappointed because I had lost my job and would not be earning the work study funds I would have otherwise [if I was still on-campus]. However, I just got an email that I will be receiving all the funds I was allocated but had not yet earned,” Rand said.
While Rand has had to adjust her expectations for classes and is no longer able to participate in campus activities she had been looking forward to, she stated she has experienced some positive aspects of the current situation. For example, while much of her clothes are still at her university, her video game consoles are with her in Chula Vista. She also enjoys now spending her time with her family.
“Spending time with my family has definitely been the nicest part, but since I’m home I’m also able to play some video games that just came out that I wouldn’t have been able to play at school, since my consoles are always at home. So those have been fun and a nice way to relax and take my mind off current events for an hour or two a day,” Rand said.
Jonathan Tacher, class of 2018
A full time student at Mesa Community College and a half time secretary at a real estate agency, BVH alum Jonathan Tacher, felt the impact of COVID-19 from the beginnings of its spread in China. His life was financially impacted within some time as businesses across the world closed.
“It first started by [my employers] cutting my hours. I was working 20-ish hours a week, and then they cut my hours to just working one day, so it’d only be eight hours. Luckily I had some money saved up, so it wasn’t too horrible. I wish I could definitely be working. A lot of my friends have filed for unemployment, so I might go ahead and do that,” Tacher said.
Tacher stated that despite the financial ramifications of unemployment, the worst part of COVID-19 precautions for him has been his inability to help others. He expressed that he was not worried about contracting the virus himself and would rather get sick than have one of his family members or friends do so.
“On TV or on Youtube there’s always an announcement about ‘Oh, the numbers are rising,’ and not being able to do anything, not even being able to volunteer or anything — that hurts. I want to do something,” Tacher said. “It feels like I’m losing hope.”
Although Tacher wished he could contribute to the efforts against coronavirus, he also is still taking multiple classes– now online. Without a structure, however, school has become more difficult, and Tacher dropped a class because it was “literally just me teaching myself, and I couldn’t do that.”
“I don’t know about other schools and I can’t talk about other students, but my experience has been pretty bad because only one of my teachers is going on Zoom. My Physics teacher and my Biology teacher aren’t having Zoom [lessons] so they’re just posting Youtube videos, which yes, it’s helpful but for me as a student that needs to have some structure. It’s really, really hard for me to dedicate some time to watching those videos as opposed to doing anything else,” Tacher said.
Although Tacher hoped he would not experience any long-term impacts of this pandemic on his life, he may have to delay his transfer from community college to a university by a year. With specific laboratory credits left before he can apply to transfer, he will need to take in-person classes in upcoming semesters in order to be ready.
“Recently, I got an email from my school saying that they’re cancelling labs over the summer, which is really unfortunate and scary to me because since I am at a community college and was planning to apply to transfer this year, the only classes that I have left are Physics, Chemistry and Biology, and those all have labs. If quarantine continues or if we can’t figure out a way to have labs, then I might have to stay at community college an extra year just to make up the labs, which scares me,” Tacher said.
In addition to academic concerns, Tacher has faced social drawbacks due to quarantine measures. As a social person, Tacher recognized the important role his relationships played in his life before self-isolation.
“It’s really hard to continue being friends with people through the phone. It’s not the same thing. Yes, you can have facetime conversations, and yeah, you can text everyday, but it’s not the same as actually seeing someone, giving them a hug and talking to them about how they feel,” Tacher said.
After the United States eventually reopens, Tacher hopes people will remember to appreciate things they might have once taken for granted, something he expressed was a positive aspect of quarantine for him.
“I hope that less people have to die, and I really don’t like how the United States in particular has reacted to the entire situation,” Tacher said. “I just hope that people appreciate what they had before, what they were missing out [on and] what was important to them. Remember that when quarantine is over.”