Gracie Sandidge, Ten at the Top Intern with Launch GVL

    My last “normal” day as a high school student was March 13, 2020. My fellow student council members and I were preparing to welcome 800 high school students for the state convention later that day; at 10:00 that morning, the district recommended the state convention be canceled to follow CDC guidelines concerning the quickly growing COVID-19 pandemic. School was canceled for two weeks, which turned into a month, which turned into the rest of the school year. Teachers and students had a massive roadblock: switching to completely online learning with no advance notice.

    For the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, most Greenville County School District students began by going to school in person one day a week, and the rest online. I got to witness the complexities of this hybrid schedule from many different perspectives: as a high school senior on the hybrid schedule myself, as a sister of a high school freshman struggling to adjust, and working at a daycare, supervising elementary school students. It was a significant task for students so young to be responsible for logging onto Google Meets on time, completing schoolwork without the assistance of a teacher, and staying on task as they work from home. Students in this day and age have faced a unique challenge and witnessed firsthand the importance of adaptability in an increasingly digital world; WSPA reports that approximately 22,000 Greenville County students chose remote learning for the 2020-2021 school year.

    These challenges do not seem to fade with age; high schoolers planning to go to college or the workforce are struggling to compete with students who were able to have a traditional four years of high school. According to the Washington Post, high school students are failing in record numbers since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, over the last few months, my classmates and I have struggled with major feelings of loss. We have missed out on so much: prom and homecoming, high school sports games, a normal Spirit Week, even pep rallies and sitting beside each other at lunch. These seemingly insignificant losses have added up as we attempt to find normalcy any place we can, but it is not easy. The past year has not been easy for anyone, and kids my age have a collective wish for those in our lives to be understanding. Being a teenager during a pandemic has been the most difficult thing I have gone through, and I come from a secure home with reliable resources. I am lucky that my personal situation has given me stability even throughout this crazy year, but some students have had no place to turn, while still being expected to perform at the same level as before the pandemic. If this has been an incredibly difficult year for me, I cannot imagine the difficulty of being a high school student in this day and age without reliable food, water, transportation, internet, or supportive family members.

    We high school students are trying our best to maintain optimism and perform well in school, but the added pressure of excelling during a pandemic is too much for many, if not most. As kids, we are living through a very unique experience that nobody other than us will understand, and the challenges faced today will stay with us long into the future. We ask that those around us give us a little more grace to help us through these difficult times, as we keep pushing towards a future influenced by the overcoming of unprecedented obstacles.

    Gracie Sandidge, a senior at Wade Hampton High School, will attend Clemson University this fall and study engineering. She recently completed an internship with Ten at the Top as part of the Launch GVL program.