SBE Student Representative: “Seniors, Let’s Finish Strong”

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By Shelby Dean, the senior student representative on the Mississippi State Board of Education and a student at Clinton High School

I don’t think anyone, especially us high school seniors, saw this coming. I keep thinking back to mid-January, a few weeks after coming back to school from Christmas break, when I heard about the virus outbreak in China. It came up in small talk among my Biomedical Research class, and the conversation always ended with, “Well, it will end soon,” or “Wouldn’t it be crazy if it made it all the way to us?”

Fast forward to the present: everything has changed. School is canceled for a month. All extracurricular activities have come to a halt. Even prom has been canceled. To most, if not all of the seniors, this means so much to us. It’s as if we lost OUR time. Instead of spending the best year of our youth together, it’s now being spent on social media, in our houses, isolated from one another. This sedentary state of mind can have a profound effect on our physical and mental health. That being said, let’s take advantage of the ways that we can exercise our maximum physical and mental capabilities!

Shelby Dean. Photo courtesy of MDE

Online schooling has officially started for my district this week. I have to say: homeschoolers-you guys deserve a round of applause. It’s hard personally to find the initiative to read an online passage or to take a quiz for my classes when I could be painting, sleeping, singing and dancing, or many more desirable options that are available when I am at home. Nonetheless, it is so crucial that we all keep our studies at the forefront of our minds. For all of the seniors graduating and planning on attending college next year, we can’t take six months off of learning new material and then expect to excel in college-level courses. Let’s finish out this school year strong.

Along with keeping school at the forefront of our minds, we must make sure that we are communicating with other people about our current situations. Keep in contact with your friends. Call them. Text them. Video chat them. Mail them letters. An important part of keeping our mental states positive is communicating with others and saying what we feel. This is also a great opportunity to spend time with family before we do move onto college or the workforce next year. By diligently keeping up with our studies and continuing to communicate without friends and family, we can make the most out of this dreary situation.

To any student, grades K-12 or college age, we are living in history! One day, our present situation is going to be right in that history textbook you love to read. Let’s make sure that we are doing all that we can to keep ourselves and each other safe so that one day we can tell these stories to our kids and grandkids. Make sure you’re washing your hands, not touching your face, and, as hard for me as it is to say, practicing social distancing. The fact that we may not be in the “highest risk of injury” category due to our age does not give us any right to think we should be exempt from these policies and continue to pass the virus along. We all need to make sure we are doing our own individual parts to overcome this obstacle.

If you are a parent/guardian of a student, a loved one of a student, or even just know a student, reach out to them. Remind them that they will get through this and that they matter. We want to hear from you. We want to have a conversation. A simple word of encouragement can ripple into an ocean of confidence, of joy.

To all teachers, administrators, and school workers, thank you for the vast amount of time that you are spending making sure that we are healthy and cared for. As a student, I can tell you that while I was saddened that I could not come back to school after spring break, you all are being so generous and supportive that you are turning my home into your classroom. It’s nice for now, but please don’t change it for good!

I know I speak for the rest of the seniors when I say that we all can’t wait to get back to school, hopefully, sooner than later. In the meantime, I have found one of the best ways to cope with the effect of the virus on my current state is reading about it. The CDC is keeping track of the number of confirmed cases in each state on its website. I have been reading articles on John Hopkins Medicine, Healthline, and the National Institutes of Health. Gaining as much knowledge about the virus has helped me in feeling prepared and not fearful of what is to come.

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