One Year In

One year after going into shelter in place, Paly students reflect on the hardships and triumphs they have faced


Rachel Ho, Freshman

“It all came on pretty suddenly,” said freshman Rachel Ho. “I remember one week, I was skipping a couple days of school because of some random virus on the news, and then suddenly it all locked down.” 

Before the pandemic Ho described herself as “scattered” and unorganized, she struggled with time management and relied on others for reminders. Ironically, the pandemic has been good for her. “I’ve become a lot more organized, surprisingly, because it’s been a lot more important now. It’s been a lot more responsibility on me to remember to do stuff.”

As a freshman at Paly during the pandemic, Ho struggled to keep in touch with her friends when she graduated from JLS to Paly and some of her friends went to Gunn. “I think it’s been difficult because most people were able to find a lunch group that they have established or a club they could go to,” Ho said. “I think it’s just hard because you kind of knew who you were going to hang out with at school, but it all kind of falls apart when you have to make an active effort to plan a zoom lunch and stuff like that.”

Despite the zoom difficulties of the pandemic, the transition from middle to high school has become, surprisingly, more convenient. “It’s been almost normal how they’ve enforced a routine on everyone, and it’s been kind of helpful. I’m definitely more focused, I’m definitely learning a lot more,” Ho said. “It’s actually been easier, because I’m able to do homework during passing periods [and] there’s a lot of time to do homework.”

Ho is also an active member of the Paly dance team and Paly speech and debate team, and has been able to keep motivated in school by keeping in touch with her friends. “Just being around friends helps me stay motivated and continue to push myself even when it’s kind of hard,” Ho said.

Ho has learned to appreciate the little things and after the pandemic, she hopes that everything will return back to normal and that she can socialize with her friends again without guidelines. 

Addie McCarter, Sophomore

“In the beginning they were all like, ‘oh the vaccine won’t be ready for at least another year,’ and I was just like ‘oh god, a year, that’s so far away,’ said Addie McCarter, a sophomore at Paly. As the pandemic began, McCarter found it hard to find motivation for both school and her athletics. 

When students were told that this was going to be a long journey, with little to no end in sight, it was discouraging. It disheartened McCarter to see all the soccer practices, games and tournaments canceled, however, she quickly found a way to make the best of this situation as she knew it would eventually return to normal. “This was a good time to work on things that I didn’t usually work on at normal practices,” McCarter said. “I could take time to work on things that I specifically needed to get better at rather than the things we needed to work on as a team.” 

When McCarter wasn’t playing soccer, she found herself trying to knit or reading books. “It was nice to slow down for a little bit,” she said. “But it definitely got old pretty fast.” 

McCarter recognizes that the desire teenagers have to be social with friends is strong and not being able to hang out with them has been really challenging. “I’m definitely looking forward to giving my friends a hug, and having a sense of normality,” she said. As McCarter looks to what the future holds, she is hopeful that normalcy will soon come and she is thankful to have gotten through a year that tested her in so many ways.

Aaron Yuan, Junior

At the beginning of the pandemic, Paly junior, Aaron Yuan rarely attended zoom meetings and wasn’t involved with his classes, but after a challenging year of online school, Yuan has adapted to the circumstances. 

“I’ve been more comfortable participating in class, and also presenting is more comfortable,” Yuan said. “I’ve become a lot better at checking Schoology maybe a bit too, too much sometimes. And also make sure to keep mental notes of what I have to do.”

As a junior during the pandemic, Yuan has realized that he has to be more independent in his studies and is expected to learn on his own. In his classes his teachers have been giving  fewer lectures and more assignments for him to work on his own. “I feel like it’s sometimes a lot more helpful to have a teacher that can guide you,” Yuan said. “But sometimes learning by yourself at your own pace is better.”

Although there have been many downsides to the pandemic, Yuan has been able to connect with different peers from both Paly and Gunn since school has moved to online. Yuan and his friends use Discord which allows them to talk over voice, video, and text with each other while on school zoom. “Before the pandemic I lost all contact with my friends who went to JLS because they’re at Gunn now,” Yuan said. “But now I spend all day on a discord call with them, I also feel like there’s a lot of people at Paly that I usually wouldn’t talk to in person, that I spend more time [on Discord] with now as well.” Yuan has been using Discord since 6th grade to talk to his friends and communicate when playing video games, but has increased his usage of the app to keep in touch with his friends and even form new relationships with people he may not have talked to in person. 

Before the pandemic, Yuan was an avid runner for the cross country and track team, but after the pandemic hit, Yuan began to run slower and was a final blow towards his motivation to run. When the pandemic is over, Yuan is looking forward to seeing people in person again and regaining his motivation to run with his friends.

Rachel Owens, Senior

When the pandemic first hit, Paly senior Rachel Owens thought like every other student that this was just a three-week vacation from school and that it would be a fun break. However, she soon realized this was not the case and the uncertainty and confusion she felt about the situation started to intensify. 

“I don’t think that very many people grasped the reality of the situation,” Owens said. As reality started to set in, it became clear that this was going to be a long journey, and sure enough that has proven to be true. “Now everyone’s just kind of become desensitized to everything,” she said, “They’ve just become really exhausted of the pandemic way of life.”

As a senior, Owens shared that it has been an especially disappointing year for her and her classmates, as the traditions and events they had been looking forward to this year were cancelled. “I think socially we’ve been hit the hardest just because we had much higher expectations for this year that other grades may have had,” Owens said. 

In addition to having social events cancelled, Owens and her family have been especially careful about socializing. “My parents are concerned about covid-19 and have been pretty strict about adhering to guidelines which means that it has definitely been a bit harder to socialize and see people, especially in the beginning,” Owens said. Resultantly, as important as it has been to limit our social interactions, this limit has caused Owens to adapt with having more time alone. “As someone who is a pretty social person it has been hard to not be able to see people in my day to day life” Owens said. 

Although it is hard to see the silver lining in this whole experience, Owens was able to reflect on the year and see the growth she had. “I’m a lot more comfortable with who I am now,” Owens said. “I think that when you’re alone, you are really thinking about who you are, and not who you are in terms of other people’s opinions of you.” 

While this year has been a challenge for Owens, as well as many people across the world, Owens capitalized on the free time she had to improve and strengthen herself to be ready for whatever life throws at her next. 

• Art by Kellyn Scheel