With each passing day of the pandemic, we hear a lot from the grownups in the room: the politicians, the pundits, the parents. But one group who deserves to be heard—and, really, thanked—are the youth in our city, who’ve responded to the crisis with the kind of resilience, grit, and grace we could all learn from.
Here, a handful of Philly students share what this experience has been like for them, and what they can’t wait to do when it’s behind us.
May their optimism, and values, give us all hope about the future, near and far.
Josiah Carter, 6th grade, Overbrook Educational Center
What I miss most about life before the pandemic is being able to go to the park. Being able to run and play football with friends in the park was very enjoyable for me.
A new activity that I am doing is playing Uno with my family. Each night we sit down together and play Uno as a family. We teach the younger children how to play it, and it has helped them learn their numbers and colors.
We shop for food at least twice a week. We have been very blessed with food and health services during this pandemic. I am thankful to have meals every day. I am thankful to have family who are able to provide these services during a time like this.
What I would most enjoy doing the first day quarantine is over would be going out to eat with my family. I would also go to trampoline parks and take fun trips with family and friends. I’ll be happy I wouldn’t have to wear any more masks as I go inside stores and markets.
Justice L. Passé, 12th grade, Abraham Lincoln High School
Most of my time is being spent on applying for scholarship applications, scrolling on Instagram, and attending free classes offered by businesses and organizations. I’ve started my fourth real estate class this week!
I’ve actually started learning Korean through a free online Zoom class taught by Drexel University students. It’s great to take on hobbies that seemed impossible with my regular schedule. I hope to have basic travel lingo by the end of quarantine—wish me luck.
Being a senior during the age of quarantine is frustrating, especially hearing that graduation and prom are all canceled. I wanted to enjoy my last year with my friends, family, and teachers, being that this time is precious since college decisions and deadlines are nearing.
With this surplus of time I’ve also been able to work on my app business.
Once I can taste the first day of freedom I’ll most likely cherish the time with my friends before we are off to college, whenever that may be.
Franka Gerbec, 5th grade, Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS)
I play a lot of Roblox with my friends through FaceTime. My parents have me go outside every day. And I enjoy making videos through apps like TikTok and KineMaster.
The most frustrating part about being home: My brother.
I miss seeing my friends at school and being able to go to stores and having play dates.
The first day I can go back to your regular routine I’ll probably go to school…and complain about having to go there!
Doha Ibrahim, 12th grade, Abraham Lincoln High School
I have to wake up early in order to get work done for my representational work or school. I also spend the afternoon on virtual meetings but later in the evening I garden, continue building on my cabin project, and work on my business.
Nothing is really frustrating, only the fact that I am a senior and will not be able to spend my last days with my friends and staff at school. I will not be getting a graduation and going to prom, which is a bummer, but I know it is for the better with the current situation.
Some unexpected highlights: Eating food fresh out of the oven, and being comfortable in my sweatpants and hoodie. Also celebrating my 18th birthday on April 17th. But the biggest positive thing is that I will be doing Ramadan at home this year, like fasting and performing all of our long prayers.
Mostly I miss my friends and going shopping at the mall or planning our spontaneous outings to fun places around Philadelphia.
The first thing I’ll do when this is over is return all my items to the stores, since I bought lots of stuff online but they won’t allow me to return it! Also possibly sit in my favorite restaurant and taste what it’s like to be free and not stuck within four walls.
Ranim Albarkawi, 12th grade, JR Masterman School
I have been figuring out what the rest of the school year is going to look like with my classmates (virtual activities) and catching up on all of my favorite tv shows. I am trying to learn how to cook and bake, but at this point I think I’m just wasting food. I have been playing a lot of online games with my friends and finding creative ways to stay in touch.
I also cut my hair, like every other person in quarantine. I am most frustrated about losing all of the little moments that I would have had with my friends during the last half of our senior year. It was supposed to be the end of eight long years together and I was really looking forward to making more memories with them.
I have had a lot more time to spend with my family and it’s been nice because everyone is usually busy. I also love that I am able to sleep in. Online classes are also way more entertaining than I expected. I miss being able to leave the house. I am not a homebody and having to stay inside all day has been pretty awful. I miss not having to use technology for every productive thing I do. (I miss my Transpass.)
The first thing I am probably going to do after quarantine is take a walk, without a mask.
Liliana Souder, 2nd grade, and Samuel Souder, kindergarten, Chester Arthur Elementary
We’ve been hanging out, playing outside, doing homework, building LEGOs, starting a new series of chapter books called Never Girls, and reading Where’s Waldo.
We have a ‘Pandemic Schedule’ for school days, and have also started playing new games like Zingo, Enchanted Forest, and Hungry, Hungry Hippo. And we have been doing science experiments, baking a lot, and doing Zoom yoga!
The worst part about this is not going to school, and missing our friends and teachers. We also miss our grandparents and family we can’t see. And we miss birthday parties.
But it’s been nice that we can watch our aunt’s dog since we are home during the day. And we can play a lot, and do crafts, and we don’t have to rush around and aren’t so busy. But we miss hugging our friends.
Imere Williams, 12th grade, Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School
I’ve been spending a lot of my time watching TV, reading books, and catching up on sleep. I am a huge Survivor fan, so I have more time than I have ever had before to be interacting with the 40th season. I am currently reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.
Since I’ve been home, I’ve been cooking more. On day one of quarantine, I was unable to master a single flip of a pancake, and a scramble of eggs. Now, I think I’ve gotten a lot better when it comes to breakfast.
The most frustrating thing is that all of my senior privileges have dissipated: I will no longer be able to have a prom, a senior trip, or a traditional graduation. These are all things that I’ve been looking forward to since I’ve been in middle school.
The silver lining to being at home is that I get to see my mother a lot more. When I was in school, it seemed like we barely saw each other. Now, I see her a lot more. This is a great thing because I’ll be leaving for college soon. I miss seeing my teachers and friends the most. I think I also even miss the sounds of opened and slammed lockers.
The first day that stay-at-home orders are lifted, I’m going to get ice cream from Sweet Charlie’s and enjoy the sun.
Reece, 4th grade, The Miquon School
A few weekends ago we went to Nana’s and PopPop’s because we haven’t seen them for a while.
When we got there, there were our EZRollers already set out, and inside of them was a baggie of all of our Easter stuff, and our snacks for lunch.
And when we had lunch Nana and Poppop were waving inside through the window. I will always remember them still putting out our Easter gifts, and I will always remember peeing in a bucket at Nana’s house in her garage.
Ciara Kiely, 11th grade, MaST Community Charter School
I have mostly been spending time with family. What I do everyday is homework, run a few miles, and eat. I have started a garden in my backyard and am cooking some new recipes. I have also been interested in photography and videography—I’ve been taking pictures and trying to create fun and positive videos.
It’s hard to go from being around hundreds of people a day to down to four. I miss social interaction and it does make me feel very angry and upset at times.
My workload is a lot less and I am not as stressed. My mental health has been the best it has ever been because I don’t have to worry about tests, SATs, and trying to overwork myself. In a way I feel free.
When I go back to my regular routine, I will go straight to work. My work, at Jardel Recreation Center, is my happy place. It is where I can express my love for gymnastics with younger girls who want to be amazing gymnasts.
Although these have been tough times, I have learned a lot about life. I now learn to appreciate what we have because it can be taken away in an instant. I appreciate nature and the world way more now.