What we have to lose with Trump from a high school student’s perspective

OPINION: Gabrielle, who attends school in Pennsylvania, shares how Trump's response to COVID-19 has changed her life and the lives of students across the nation.

Four years ago, Donald Trump asked Black voters, “what do you have to lose?” Initially, I did not think I had much to lose. However, as a result of Trump’s inept leadership, we are still battling COVID-19, unlike other countries that are returning to normal life. As a Black high school student, I have lost many things. 

First, I have lost a comprehensive high school education. In March, teachers were abruptly asked to rethink their entire curriculum to accommodate an online teaching setting. While some teachers are very tech-savvy, others struggled with online learning.

For students, online learning presents many challenges. For example, I have played the trombone for the past 7 years. Due to coronavirus, however, the band was forced to operate virtually, which obviously was not as effective as it would be in person. The band has also been canceled for the upcoming school year. 

Read More: What we have to lose: Everything Trump has cost Black America in 4 years

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A teacher starts to reset up her classrooms as they begin to prepare to restart school after it was closed in March due to COVID-19 (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

One of my favorite classes, chemistry, relies heavily on group discussion and hands-on lab work; attempting to recreate the intellectually stimulating environment of a chemistry lab was very difficult to do online. Teachers were forced to change virtually everything about their teaching method in the middle of the year, which was a hard adjustment for many students. Several teachers also were not able to cover as much material as they would have if we were in person. 

Next year we will have to play catchup before beginning our new course work, which could result in high schoolers graduating with less knowledge and information than in previous years. Learning online is inherently less engaging than learning in person, so hopefully, schools are working to create an online environment where students can learn as much as before COVID-19. 

I’ve also lost a decent amount of my social life. After an exhausting week of school, being able to hang out with your friends over the weekend was a great way to unwind and mentally prepare for the upcoming week. When COVID-19 struck, that came to an abrupt stop. Students across the country were forced to maintain connections solely through the internet or phone. These forms of communication pale in comparison to seeing each other in person. 

Popular Zoom video conference app icon on a mobile device. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

I have seen my friends three times over quarantine, two of which were drive-by birthday parties. It is also a lot harder to create new relationships or continue to build budding friendships. I have lost relationships with some of my friends just because I have not seen them in such a long time. The only good thing that came out of quarantine regarding social interactions is that I cherish the time I spend with my friends now more than ever before. 

High school is supposed to be a time where people have fun and go out to parties with their friends. The terrible COVID-19 response efforts by Donald Trump have ruined the ability to have regular social interactions, which is extremely important to the mental health of a teenager. 

Read More: What we have to lose with Trump: Black lives and our health

Additionally, I have lost valuable time preparing for standardized tests. Usually, as sophomores, we take the PreACT and the PSAT in the spring. You then use your scores to help you choose whether to take the SAT or ACT to submit to colleges. Due to the coronavirus, I was only able to take the PreACT.

Now I only have one score to help me decide which test to take for college. Assuming the pandemic begins to die down, I will be taking the PSAT this upcoming winter. If I do better on the PSAT and if I like that test more than the PreACT, I have now lost over half a year when I could have been preparing for the SAT. 

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Most colleges have made standardized test results optional for the high school class of 2021. However, most colleges will require test results for the class of 2022 (my year). COVID-19 has significantly reduced my time to prepare and take these necessary tests, which could have been avoided if Trump were willing to make an effort to reduce the spread of this virus.

What’s more, I have lost my junior year soccer season, which is the most crucial year in terms of recruiting because this is when college scouts are allowed to contact you. Although I am not planning on going to college for soccer, many of my close friends and students around the country are relying on their athletic abilities to attend college. 

Read More: What we have to lose with Trump: Education for our Black children

Due to Donald Trump’s COVID-19 prevention work (or lack thereof), the governor of my state, Pennsylvania, has decided that it is not safe to play sports until January 2021. Many schools, however, are still trying to play fall sports for many reasons, including giving juniors a fair chance of being recruited and giving seniors their final year of sports. 

The schools’ priorities are to play, not necessarily to keep the students as safe as possible. At the moment, my school is still planning on playing fall sports, starting mid-September. If Donald Trump had done a better job of preventing the spread of COVID-19 by mandating masks earlier, demanding a shut-down across the country, and relying on sound scientific recommendations, I could have had a safe soccer season. 

Even though I am not old enough to vote, I am old enough to feel the effects of the Trump administration. Donald Trump, if you ever see this, I hope you know how much you have negatively affected the lives of high schoolers across the country. COVID-19 itself was inevitable; however, the severity of it was controllable. 

Gabrielle is a rising high school junior at a Philadelphia independent school.

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