Despite the Pandemic, High School Graduates are Optimistic
Brooklyn Jones | Maui High SchoolIt has officially been more than a year since lockdown and to call these times a rollercoaster would be an understatement. The whole world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic for several months, forcing our communities and busy individual schedules into a sort of hibernation. Since then, scientists have done much more comprehensive research. People have adopted, adapted and now consistently use COVID prevention measures. The wheels of our society are beginning to turn again, slowly returning us to a sense of normalcy.
We cannot, however, say the same for Maui’s schools this year. Both public and privately educated students started their first day of school online. Virtual schooling was the safest option; too many students in a limited area would not be suitable for social distancing, masks or not.
Smaller private schools on Maui have since allowed their students to return to campus for socially distanced, in-person classes. Public schools now have an option, too: blended learning or, the more popular approach, virtual learning. Either way, both teachers and students needed to adapt and learn a completely different style of schooling. As well, the lack of being in an actual classroom, along with being cut off from people socially, affected us all in various ways. I, for one, found myself increasingly reliant on social media such as Instagram and Snapchat to keep in touch with my classmates, something I never did before.
Despite the pandemic, or maybe because of it, today’s students have proven they are resilient. It seems as if the trials of schooling during COVID-19 shaped our Seniors into determined, confident and future-ready young adults. Here are the perspectives of five students from the Class of 2021 on this daunting and wacky year.
Alexis Joy Viloria, daughter of Alex and Juvy Viloria, thinks of time spent in quarantine as a blessing in disguise. Before quarantine, she was “dead set” on focusing her energies towards becoming a doctor-biology major in the pre-medical track in college. Time in quarantine, however, left her wondering if the medical field truly interested her. “I had time to think about what I really wanted. Do I want to spend years and years studying subjects I don’t necessarily enjoy or do I want to spend the rest of my life, including my education, doing what I love?” she recounts. Alexis, president and founder of the Saber Scribes journalism club at Maui High, inspires her fellow members with an unmatched zeal for writing. Combined with her other interest, natural history, Alexis is starting in a new direction this fall at Stanford University: studying for an anthropology major with a minor in journalism.
Maui High School senior Andrew Ryan Bautista misses spending time with his friend group during lunch and playing basketball with them during pre-COVID school. Although he hasn’t been able to see as many of his friends due to distance learning, he describes having school online “very exciting for me.” Andrew says if there was one thing he learned from online learning, it was how to work more independently. “I wasn’t able to do as much for my senior project since everything had to be done with distance. I had to do a lot of things by myself and had to rely more on myself.” He will be applying this hard work ethic next year in the workforce to save money before college. Andrew, son of Anna Liza Bautista, is a gifted artist but plans to go into the culinary field. Using his eye for detail, he already shows his potential through eye-catching lunches he makes at home on school days.
Jadynne Zane knew from the start college was the best fit for her after graduating from Maui High School. She is elated to begin a new chapter of her life at the University of Southern California and the different activities and interests she will encounter there: “The experiences will be unmatched to those that I have experienced.” One of those experiences will be a major in biomedical engineering, emphasizing electrical engineering on the pre-med path. As her first year of college comes closer, she feels increasingly relieved of high school burdens and more free to become her most authentic self. Nonetheless, virtual school did not make applying for colleges easy. She described the process as very intimidating and had trouble adapting to online education at first. When she felt challenged, Jadynne turned to her mom and dad, Jeremy and Darryl Zane, for support. Being able to talk about her worries and receive advice, in turn, was a massive part of her personal growth during the year.
It is safe to say no one realized how much of our lives revolved around being social until the pandemic. Mason Bailey, son of Will and Lani Bailey, names the restrictions on social gatherings as a significant impact on his senior year. Graduation ceremonies, assemblies and social events were all denied this year to reduce the risk of infection. He mentions he misses seeing his friends at school the most. Many people might respond to this with frustration but Mason remarks, “I kinda just live with [it] and accept the fact that there isn’t much I can do.” His calm disposition will be a great advantage in his first year in the Army; after his last high school year, he will join with a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of wheeled vehicle mechanics. Mason admits the pandemic pushed him to choose the path he was considering but is still happy with this decision. The army will let him explore whatever career he chooses to become certified in and allow him to “embrace it and face it head-on.”
Kyson Calibuso, son of Maryann and Dwayne Calibuso, says his entire Junior year was his favorite high school memory. Being able to travel to California for the Maui High School band trip, plan junior prom and become closer with his schoolmates made it “the best year ever!” Then the pandemic hit, unfortunately, and the time for traveling and in-person school came to an end. He mentions initially feeling bitter about losing out on precious twelfth-grade memories. But Kyson ultimately decided holding onto that resentment wasn’t healthy for anyone. Instead, he learned to let go and spend time with his friends to alleviate his vexation. “We all turn to each other for moral support and for a fun time,” he explains. Kyson plans to study nursing with an emphasis on pre-med at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Although this was not his first college choice, Kyson exclaims, “I am still really ecstatic about going to UH Mānoa!” His lively disposition made him a great addition to student government at Maui High and will undoubtedly result in his success on our sister island.
Despite being denied high school rites of passage like prom, class trips and even a regular graduation ceremony, our seniors have never lost their commendable sense of optimism and resilience. Instead of feeling frustrated at their situation, they beat the odds and now thrive in this virtual setting.
Congratulations, Class of 2021! We are all so proud of your hard work this year. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish you all the best in your bright futures.
Google® Is Not Everything is a monthly column authored by high school students. The title of the column emphasizes that education is more than just googling a topic. Google® is a registered trademark. This month’s guest columnist is Brooklyn Jones, a Junior at Maui High School. She is an assistant editor in her school’s journalism program, Saber Scribes, and is a member of the Girls Can STEM Club as well. Brooklyn is in the ACOM Pathway at Maui High, specializing in graphic design. In her free time, she swims for Hawai‘i Swimming Club, bakes and likes to go to the beach. She is the daughter of Melissa Ligot Jones and Darren Jones.