In March 2020, COVID-19 caused most students to be kept away from school for many months. The drastic change resulted in many students of color having to quickly rise to the challenge and take on new responsibilities in the pandemic.
Mountain View High School junior Ariatna Cortez said her experience so far with COVID-19 has helped her discover herself, but also was at times detrimental to her mental health. Cortez had to take on the responsibility of caring for three of her nieces and nephews, on top of keeping up with school, for the first five months of the pandemic.
“I had to grow up quickly, they definitely stressed me out, but they are three amazing kids,” said Cortez. “I loved taking care of them.”
Finding a positive outlook in her struggles, Cortez said she felt privileged during the pandemic in comparison to her extended family.
“I have family in Mexico who don’t have access to hand sanitizer, masks and everything they need to protect themselves,” said Cortez. “I’ve had to watch them suffer, my white peers haven’t.”
Even though Cortez struggled in the beginning, she said she feels she’ll jump back into the world with open arms once everything opens back up.
“I’ve become a much better and happier person from all that self reflection I had,” said Cortez. “I am excited to show people the real me and who I am now versus who I was a year ago.”
Students are more responsible for their own studies and schedule than before the pandemic. Josh DeQuiroz, another senior at Mountain View High School, said he has felt the difficulty of online school.
“Students are given way more responsibility,” said DeQuiroz. “Some peers are a little more spoiled than others so they don’t have many responsibilities to handle.”
Mountain View High School Senior and band member Diego Inzunza had to get a job to support his family after his parents lost theirs.
Inzunza mentioned he felt excluded from his predominately white peers, whose experience, while not invalid, made him feel frustrated.
“Many higher income students didn’t have to get a job, I didn’t have the same opportunity to prepare, I could never afford the [classes] needed for band,” said Inzunza. “I had to cut down on time with instruments to help my family out. At times I didn’t feel acknowledged.”
Despite missing out on a traditional senior year, both Inzuna and Cortez feel at peace with their time spent in school.
“What was most important [to remember] is I can’t make it go away,” said Inzunza. “I can’t make racism go away. It’s something I can’t control.”