The Student Equity Advocates speak regularly with students about their lived experiences and offer a space for them to express their truth. We highlight some of those expressions here. By centering the identities and perspectives of African American youth, we hope to offer a humanizing portrait of hope, resilience, courage, and authenticity that reminds us who is at the center of education. By bringing the voices from the margins to the center, we offer a counter-narrative to the oversimplified and stereotypical images of historically marginalized youth in their own words.
Candid Conversations – Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic
In our first installment, we asked students how they were coping with the Stay-at-Home orders during COVID-19. Included are responses from representatives of PPS's Student Voice and Student Envoy initiatives.
We discovered messages of hope and encouragement amidst loss.
- What are the top needs facing you and your family right now?
- What are you most grateful for during this time?
- What have you grieved the most during this time?
- What is something new you learned that you wouldn’t have learned in your everyday “normal”?
- What is one thing you wish your future self would have told you about preparing for the pandemic?
- What advice would you give to your peers and younger generation about getting through this difficult time?
CARLOS JAY, CLASS OF 2020, MILLIONES
My family is fortunate enough to have our daily needs met.
I’m grateful for having a strong friendship circle where we hold each other accountable and support each other during this time. I’m thankful for my faith that no one can take away from me during this time.
I lost the chance to attend my senior prom this year. For the last three years I escorted dates to their proms but did not have the opportunity attend my own.
If I could go back in time and tell my future self how to survive during a pandemic, I would tell myself to have faith, it’s going to be okay and we will get through this. Hold your head up high!
The advice I would give my peers and the younger generation would be don’t let this situation break you. Don’t crumble under the weight of the world. Keep looking forward. Every day is a new day! Stay busy, learn a new skill, and educate yourself. Lastly, to the class of 2020 we are strong and united so don’t let this interfere with your goals. In 4 years, we will be walking across the graduation stage just as we should have in 2020. Thank you to my teachers for believing in me and helping me believe I can do anything in this life. As an African American male, that meant a lot to me.
MAKAYLA WILSON, CLASS OF 2020, WESTINGHOUSE
Our top need is housing.
I am most grateful for my family and to be alive and healthy
I have grieved not being able to see my cousin and grandparents
I learned more about myself, not to trust people, and that people will show you their true colors.
I would have told myself to stock up on supplies
Never give up and be open minded.
DONDRE WATSON-ELLIS, CLASS OF 2021, SCI-TECH ACADEMY
Family and the time. I’ve been able to focus, and I’ve been able to work out a few times a day.
Mostly the feeling of not being able to go to a basketball court and see my friends. That’s been really difficult.
Definitely that I need to be more focused. There were some things that I needed to cut back on, mainly social media, so I’ve been able to do that and get focused.
Definitely that it would be very hard. Any lifestyle change is hard but mostly my life involves being outside of the house. It’s been hard to be cooped up in the house and not do the things that I enjoy doing.
Stay focused because the more you do that the more time goes by. I noticed that I’m more focused and productive during this time. If you have a craft that you’re good at, try to perfect it. Cherish your family because they won’t be here forever. You need to take in this time as much as you can.”
SAADIO ABDALLA, CLASS OF 2021, BRASHEAR
It hasn't affected me too much. It was a good thing for my famility. My family was able to really get close together.
When it came to school and learning, I couldn't do all of it but I did some of it. I had to be a caregiver for the young children in our family, but I tried my best.
To my peers, all I want to tell them is I want to know how they are! I am concerned about the students that don't speak English, how they're feeling and how things affect them.
INDIRA ISMAELI-ROBINSON, CLASS OF 2021, CAPA
Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council
Our top need is staying as safe as possible. Other than that, we need financial, health, and educational support.
I am very grateful that everyone in my family is safe. Also, I am grateful that I can spend more time with them and sleep in a little more.
I have grieved the people that have been impacted and died from this virus; I have grieved not being with my friends and dancing. This time was for me to grow in my art form, included participating in summer intensives, senior solos, and preparing for my auditions. Sadly because of covid-19 guidelines these things cannot happen.
I learned how to make a cake from scratch, currently learning how to sew with my grandmother, my work ethic, and multitasking.
I would have told myself to hang out with your friends a little more. Be mentally prepared for your new normal; wearing a mask EVERYWHERE, gloves, not seeing friends, cleaning and disinfecting things, being cautious of how I interact with people, etc. I would have also told myself to try to stay motivated and have a schedule.
Be positive, motivated and active. Do something new and be productive. There is a lot going on and it is ok to take a break from social media.
DEIMAR BARKER, CLASS OF 2022, OBAMA
Not sure, we aren’t doing much, just working out and chilling.
Grateful for life. Not being infected by COVID-19. Grateful for my gift to create stories to occupy my time so I’m not bored.
I don’t have a chance to see my friends. I’m not a phone or social media person; I prefer to hang out in person. It hurts that I can’t go to the movies or somewhere to spend time with my friends.
I learned I was severely depressed and that I needed God in my life. Before the stay-at-home order, I experienced negative thoughts and felt like I was going insane. My mom prayed for my future and was concerned about me not fulling my purpose. This time at home has given me space to get closer to God and my faith, so my thoughts are no longer bad.
Focus on the people around you, especially your younger siblings that follow you and do the things that you do. Stop doing wrong for them.
I check on them and they check on me. I would just say let’s keep doing that.
JADEN WILKES, CLASS OF 2022, OBAMA
I’m most grateful for this extra time I get to spend with my mother. Even though we can’t do anything, I still have her by my side, and I am grateful for that.
I have grieved not seeing my friends. It's weird, like not seeing them every day. It’s like “Oh no school again today, another day not being able to see the people I care about.”
I wish my future self would have told me to stay at home sooner, secure myself at home before we were told to do so and stock up on my supplies.
Even though it’s a scary time, we will get through it. You don’t have to be lonely. You can still reach out to people you care about and check on people. Yes, this is a scary time for all of us, but we will get through this and we are not alone.
CHAN THOMPSON, CLASS OF 2022, CARRICK
The top needs facing me and my family are finding disinfectant supplies, food, and having extended family interaction. I am most grateful for having time to learn more about myself and family. The new thing I learned about myself is that I'm more focused on my school work with no distractions. The things I miss the most are all the times me and my family went out in public and actually enjoying ourselves. The things I would say to my next generation is to learn as much as you can about yourself, what is going on in our society, and how to stay safe and productive.
ASHA LUGUNDI, CLASS OF 2022, BRASHEAR
It wasn't really that good. A lot of things happened. There were good and bad things that happened honestly.
My family kept me strong.
I spend my time working. I have a job at a day care so I was able to get out sometimes.
Self image is real in this time. COVID-19 brought on depression in my life. It's one of the things that happened.
I am still here and won't give up.
CRYSTALINA EDMONDS, CLASS OF 2022, ALLDERDICE
During this time, I choose to be positive and look at the bright side. I'm grateful I get to spend more time doing activities that excite me, along with seeing my family more often. I also choose to use this time to ground myself and I advise others to do the same. Please take this time to learn what truly makes you happy.
FATUMA NOOR, CLASS OF 2022, BRASHEAR
As I think of it, staying at home was boring. I stayed home all day.
Sometimes I'd sit on the porch. Sometimes I'd do people's hair because feeling pretty is important. But mostly I kept to myself, not having friends around me, only a few close people.
A family member died and a husband and wife couple that we know died from COVID-19.
It's sad, but the Sisterhood is strong.
BARAKAT WURAOLA BAOKU, CLASS OF 2023, BRASHEAR
It was rough for me, to be honest. It was a shock. I was always a hands-on and a face to face learner. My grades suffered during remote learning. I tried as hard as I could, but I was with my nephew helping to care for him. Thankfully, my family is doing well. To my friends and all the African and Black students I say: Be safe and be careful.
TYRA CURRINGTON, CLASS OF 2024, OBAMA
I’m grateful for this opportunity to spend more time with my family. We’ve been playing board games and I’ve been spending more time with my grandparents.
I miss my father who passed away and not being in school makes me think of him even more. I also miss seeing my friends in school every day.
I wish my future self could have told me that remote learning is harder and not as fun as learning in the classroom.
I would say that we’re all in this together. No one is alone. If you’re having a hard time, or overthinking, reach out to someone or talk to your parents.