One Year Later

Beginning in late February, students across the Valley Catholic campus have been returning to in-person learning. The return back to campus marks a prominent anniversary at Valley Catholic: the one-year mark since the campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve been reflecting on life one year into the pandemic and the new normal that came with it.  We asked some of our students from the class of 2021 to share their thoughts and reflections after one year of remote learning and social distancing.

Avril Gauthier

Nearly every aspect of my life has completely changed since March of last year. I have found and lost myself over and over again. I used to think that success guaranteed happiness. I used to believe that perfect grades meant a perfect life. I used to struggle to see the beauty in life. Despite the tragedy that 2020 was, I have grown for the better. Last year was a reminder that bad things happen to good people, a reminder that we must appreciate all that life has to offer because life is short and happiness is temporary. 

Covid-19 was a reality check for everyone. The months spent locked in my own home, with no outside contact besides my direct family members, I spent a lot of my time wallowing in self pity. Why has this happened to me? Why was I cheated out of my senior year? Why had I worked 11 long years to not receive a grand finale? I had taken everything for granted. From truly learning in class to simply being able to hug my friends. I had lost sight of what was important in life. High school is fleeting as is nearly every other aspect of life. I am thankful for the experiences I have gained in the past 11 months because I can see clearly now. Success does not guarantee happiness, love does. Perfect grades do not mean a perfect life, education is not centered around grades but rather around becoming a well versed individual with original thoughts and opinions. Life is beautiful. 

With the knowledge I have gained, I am confident that I will continue to succeed in college, life, love, and happiness. I will cherish my last experiences at Valley Catholic so that in the years to come I am able to look back fondly on the memories I created with my loved ones.

Chase McCurry

In all honesty, my life hasn’t changed radically since the pandemic struck in March 2020. Outside of school, I didn’t leave my house much anyways; I spent a large portion of my free time in front of the computer and communicated with my friends online. The two most significant adjustments I’ve had to make during quarantine are being more careful about my time management and learning to spend every waking moment with my family. During quarantine there’s been much less of a structured schedule; I have classes that I need to attend at a certain time, but attending those classes from home makes it much easier to get distracted. I’ve learned that every free moment I have is a valuable moment I could be using to accomplish a task.

My family and I live in a tiny house, which I believe is somewhere around 1400 square feet in area. All of us are operating from home; my mom already worked from home as an appraiser’s assistant, but my dad had to move his work setup into our living room in order to continue his IT job at Lewis and Clark College. I hardly ever spend time in my bedroom, so my mom moved her computer in there and I work in the spare “office” room. All three of these rooms are close enough that we can easily hear each other, so we’ve all had to learn to keep our voices contained so as to not disturb each other.

After this pandemic has passed, I think the use of masks will continue. While masks have not only helped slow the spread of Covid-19, they’ve also dramatically reduced the spread of normal colds and flu during the winter. Given that most people I know are not particularly bothered by wearing masks, I can imagine that in future years people will wear masks during cold and flu season as well. One more unfortunate side effect of this pandemic is that we’ve developed means to attend work and school from home, and those means could easily be used in the future. For example, “snow days” could become a thing of the past entirely; if we can’t make it to school, teachers can simply email us and say “log onto Zoom for class today.” In the long run this will probably be beneficial for students and teachers anyways as the flow of school will not be disrupted, but the novelty of snow days may be lost. 

I think one obvious thing that we’ve all come to appreciate during this pandemic is the ability to gather with friends and go out somewhere for a day. Not to say that seeing friends isn’t something we enjoyed in the past, but it’s something we took for granted. I’ve had a few opportunities to see friends in small groups (with masks and keeping a safe distance, of course) and although our activities have been limited, I’ve actually enjoyed seeing people more during the pandemic than ever before. It’s become a rare occasion that we’ve learned to make the most of.

“I think one obvious thing that we’ve all come to appreciate during this pandemic is the ability to gather with friends and go out somewhere for a day. Not to say that seeing friends isn’t something we enjoyed in the past, but it’s something we took for granted”

Jake Bangs

I learned many things in 2020 and throughout this pandemic. I knew I was a people person, but this pandemic really made me realize that. I used to try and work as much as possible because I love my coworkers and serving guests, but now I rarely work. It is also hard to not be able to go hang out with my friends after school. I had to think of more than just me. I also learned how much I love the outdoors. Before the pandemic, I would rarely go on long walks and now it is something I do everyday. I realized the importance of nature and how it can impact one’s life. There is so much inequality in the world and that really came to light in 2020. I learned how privileged I am living in such a nice city and going to a private school. I have invested time into learning more about mutual aid and investing into communities.

Life is very different now. I have gained friends and lost some. Some of my old friends have not taken the pandemic seriously, so I began to drift away from them. My priorities have also changed. I used to be so focused on pleasing others and trying to fit in. Now I don’t care! So what if I go to the grocery store in my pajamas and people stare? Those are people I will most likely never see again. Things will also be different in the future. I am anxious to see what college will look like, and I am hoping to be living on campus at Southern Oregon University next year but things are changing everyday. I think we all have a renewed appreciation for going on walks or going on hikes. Walking through a forest with huge trees next to me is almost like an escape from reality, while it is also very calming. 

Garratt Alles

Since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown began back in March of 2020 I have spent time thinking about my values and priorities and have learned a lot about myself. When sports were stopped and I could not play club soccer it was the first time in my life I truly realized how much I identify as being a soccer player. The first few weeks were really hard, not being able to play soccer competitively which I had done almost every week since I was six. As the pandemic went on, however, I realized that it was not the competitiveness I was missing rather I was just missing playing a sport I love. I started to go in my backyard and do soccer drills on my own and get lost in my own head. Going out to my backyard and just kicking a ball around was my time to disconnect from the world for a little bit and just think about random things. 

The biggest challenge that the pandemic created was of course, online school. Online school gave me a new appreciation for in-person learning and all the interactions I have during a school day. The connections that I’ve gained the highest appreciation for were the friendships where we did not usually talk outside of class but in class we were like best friends. I also realized how much a routine helped me get my work done at a decent time. The second quarter I began getting myself into a routine of getting my homework done early so I could have the rest of the night to relax and do whatever I wanted to do. I think in the future kids that went through the pandemic will have a much greater appreciation for in-person learning and no longer wish that they were not at school. 

Besides school going online, the biggest change for me was having to think about who I am hanging out with and limiting the number of people I am seeing. Instead of hanging out with all of my friends early on in a pandemic, I had to choose a group of people that I would see so we could have a bubble. By only being able to see a few of my friends in person, I valued social media a lot for what it was originally made to be a way to talk with friends instead of what it has developed into as a place to show off your life. Before the pandemic I thought I was an introvert and would not be that affected by having to stay in my house for a long period of time. But, only being able to see a few people every once in a while also showed me that I am more extroverted than I thought. In the future I will have a greater appreciation for any interaction I have in person because I know that Zoom can not make up for the in-person connection. 

I believe that in the future people will be much more cautious about going out in public at least for a year after society opens again. I also think that wearing masks in public will be commonplace now. Hopefully in the future people will be more conscious about their hygiene and how their actions can impact on others. 

“The biggest challenge that the pandemic created was of course, online school. Online school gave me a new appreciation for in-person learning and all the interactions I have during a school day.”

Iain Demarest

Since the pandemic started…

What have you learned? 

Throughout the pandemic, I experienced many moments of self growth and became more aware of my true self. Being isolated for many months allowed me to look inward and appreciate myself more. I became aware of more interests and hobbies of mine, including that I have a deep passion for fashion and design. I’ve learned more about me than I might’ve if we hadn’t had this pandemic. 

How priorities and values changed since March 2020?

My priorities have shifted to focusing on myself and my mental health, rather than worrying about where I’m going to school. By creating a better environment for my mental health, I have strengthened my belief that I will go to a good college. Since focusing on my mental health, I have been accepted into three great schools and I’m glad I have a wide variety to choose from. 

How are things different in your life now? 

The biggest difference is not being able to see friends as much, and everywhere you look you see people with masks on. Along with those two, the impact the pandemic has had on my sport has been immense. My club went from being a social hub to a place that you spend a limited amount of time just practicing because of all the restrictions. 

How will things be different in the future?

I think that even after everyone has received the vaccine, masks will still have to be worn in public spaces.  Along with that, I believe people will be more skeptical or cautious when approaching or talking to others because of the virus. A lot of more sanitizing stations too will pop up throughout cities I bet. 

What activities, routines and people do we have a renewed appreciation for in our lives?

My best friend, Quinlan, was a big reason for helping me through the lockdown. We called each other almost everyday and talked even though she was in Alaska and I was here in Oregon. Working out everyday for an hour also helped pass the time in a healthy and productive way. This allowed me to take time and just zone into something besides what was happening in the world around me. 

Galen Dunlap

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I learned how to skateboard. I picked up skateboarding at the beginning of quarantine because I had an abundance of free time since many of my other activities were cancelled. To fill all of my empty time, I went skateboarding two or three times a week, especially during the summer and spring. Learning new tricks and being able to skate down steeper hills as I got better has been a very satisfying and rewarding experience. Skateboarding also gave me an excuse to go outside every week.

During quarantine, my priorities have been changing. My focus has begun to shift away from high school, and more towards my social life and college preparation. I have been spending less time on school overall, and been going out with my small friend group more often than ever before. Probably because I have more free time. My academic focus has shifted away from high school and more towards preparing myself for college. I have been spending time on writing applications and securing scholarships. Making sure that I am prepared for college socially, academically, and financially is more important to me now than maintaining perfect grades in high school. 

Because of COVID, my lifestyle has changed drastically. I spend more time at home than before because I am not at school, and all of my sports have been cancelled. I have begun to watch more TV, and find new hobbies that I would not otherwise have time for. I learned how to skateboard, I have started shooting, and I have been going on drives with my family. I also have more time for fishing trips and water sports. In the future, hopefully, the COVID outbreak will soon come to an end. Next year I will be in college, and hopefully life will be more normal than it is now. I want to attend college in person and not virtually. During the summer, if restrictions are lifted, I want to spend time with family and friends on vacation to make the best of our last summer all together. 

I would say that since quarantine has started, I definitely appreciate my friends and my athletics more than I did before. I did not realize how much I enjoyed sports until everything was cancelled.

I am grateful for my friends because they have helped me get out of the house whether it was for skiing trips, wakeboarding, or just hanging out on the weekends, they have done a lot to make my COVID experience better.

“I would say that since quarantine has started, I definitely appreciate my friends and my athletics more than I did before.”