Students reflect on impact of three years of pandemic disruption to education

Akshaj Mehta

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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education in ways previous generations of students didn’t experience. As the third “pandemic class” graduated from Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep (NP3) High School, class of 2022 seniors and advisors reflected on their eventful year back on campus following multiple semesters dominated by remote learning. 

Dominic Williams, who just graduated from NP3 High School explained how it felt coming into senior year at Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep in August 2021, and how he feels about it now.

“It feels surreal like I never really thought about how it would feel but now I’m actually here and it’s crazy. My expectations were low. I thought it would be essential like hybrid learning over zoom. My expectations were succeeded,” said Williams. 

Williams’s situation was particularly different, as he switched schools from moving areas when he was a sophomore. “I had fun when I came back from distance learning but it kind of sucked not knowing anyone since I switched schools mid 10th grade and schools got stopped basically a few months after I switched,” said Williams. 

Dilraj Singh, another graduate, explained how his completion of high school is filled with mixed emotions.

“Completing high school is great and all but at the same time it’s sad. All the connections you have made over the four years are soon about to disappear and you will probably never see that person again. The only plus side is that now you get to live in the real world where it’s harder to get things done,” said Singh. 

Singh did not have any expectations coming from distance learning, and viewed it as if he was at college.

“I personally didn’t have any expectations coming back from distance learning because I just thought of it like college. Sometimes you get to take online classes and never go to an actual classroom but sometimes you are stuck with that one class that you have to go to campus for,” Singh explained.

Despite this, he did enjoy his high school experience.  

“I personally loved my high school experience from all the rough times we had to all the good times we had together. Even if we were in distance learning, it’s all about finding the right group to be around and making the best out of the worst. Even in person, times are rough, you lose friends and you make new ones but it’s all about how you choose to make it,” he said.

Senior advisor Peter Riehl was initially apprehensive about convening in-person with students in his morning advisory group. Senior advisory classes are “homeroom” classes students attend in the morning, where instructors focus on promoting healthy social relationships among students. 

I was apprehensive because of the health parts of it, and the unknown, how much we can actually do. The emphasis was to put us together as much as we can, potlucks, I really found the sharing circles to be crucial,” said Riehl.

However, he said he ultimately had a great time with his advisor.

“By the end it was just fun. Graduation was fun, the last potlucks and get-togethers were fun, lamost like a proud father’s big brother, impressed with the things they did with usual circumstances, doing well in the classroom,” said Riehl.

One part of advisory is the completion of a senior project, which is a group service or volunteer project students complete during their advisory cohorts.

“It was crazy at times. They were some really well laid out plans that didn’t come through. Couldn’t visit some places, as some places had too many volunteers,” said Riehl.

Teacher Thersea Huang, another senior advisor, also explained what the senior project was like for her class.

“That was also interesting, because I had no experience with service projects. Junior year we didn’t do any service projects, so coming in senior year I felt like I was new to senior projects, and I had no idea what to expect. So I felt like because of that it was ever changing and ever evolving, (and) we’ll play it by what the world would allow us to do,” said Huang. 

Despite these challenges, both Riehl and Huang agreed seeing the growth of the students throughout four years was an experience.

“It was really cool, I came in with them as freshmen, the beginning to the end thing. I saw  a lot of growth, I learned a lot as it went along with them, and from them,” said Riehl.

“It’s bittersweet. I came into NP3 as a student teacher and was a baby teacher and I felt like I was at their freshman orientation so I felt like I grew up with them, and I’m going into my fourth year of teaching next year. And then it’s like I have to do this again!” said Huang.