A year of virtual learning as a high school student: How the pandemic gave me renewed confidence

As part of their Report for America service project, corps members and staff reporters Abbey Marshall and H.L. Comeriato worked with an Ellet Community Learning Center news writing class, taught by Emily Lees, to help students write narrative pieces about their lives as high school students during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are student dispatches from various points of the previous school year.

 By Erica Keller

During the pandemic, there’s not much to do besides going on social media. Spending hours online during quarantine affects teens’ confidence and mental health in both positive and negative ways, but for me, it has made me more confident and has had a significant improvement on my mental health.

While we had in-person school, I was extremely insecure and had terrible social anxiety. I felt a need to fit in. But for the past year, I haven’t been worried about others’ opinions because you can’t see anyone during quarantine. This helped me become more confident and express who I am. 

When school shifted to online classes, I took the time to focus on my mental health. I redecorated my room, bought new clothes that made me feel comfortable, started eating healthier and working out more. I stopped focusing on the negative. This helped me a lot and made me feel better about my life. Focusing on the positive can have a huge impact on your life. 

Some of my friends are also using this time to improve themselves. My friend Savanna Collier said, “I grew closer with many of my friends and being around healthy friendships made me love myself.”

But not everyone is feeling as optimistic as I am during this time. While having extra time to be online and improve myself has been good for me, more teenagers are experiencing mental health issues.

A 4-H study analyzing the mental health effects of the pandemic on youth found 55% of teens say they’ve experienced anxiety, 45% excessive stress and 43% depression. The study also found that during the pandemic, teens report spending 75% of their waking hours on screens.

One of my friends told me they had already suffered from anxiety and depression before the pandemic. Isolation has only made those mental health issues worse, they say. 

“I developed an eating disorder during quarantine,” they told me. “I ended up seeing a psychiatrist for it because I was in danger of heart failure and organ shutdown.”

What I’ve learned during this time is that everyone has a different life and therefore different experiences. The pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways, from our confidence to our physical health. Discovering what made me confident is extremely important. I’m planning on continuing to look on the bright side and be grateful for what I have. 

Erica Keller is a sophomore at Ellet Community Learning Center. This piece was published as part of a collaborative project between Report for America corps members Abbey Marshall and H.L. Comeriato and Ellet CLC’s news writing class taught by Emily Lees.