Sign up for The Alabama Education Lab’s weekly newsletter, Ed Chat, here.
A global pandemic that affected their own families. A nationwide reckoning with race that impacted their classroom discussions. A mental health crisis that hit home with friends.
At the Alabama Education Lab, we know students bring an essential perspective to these issues.
We invited students from schools around the state to tell us what the 2020-21 school year was like. They are from small towns like Attalla, communities in the Birmingham and Mobile metros and rural communities.
This project aimed to pass the mic to these young adults, and they were creative — sending in written essays, video essays, a photo project and answers to Q&As. One even roped in a teacher to contribute.
Read their stories here.
“My specific struggles with COVID were mostly about not being able to go anywhere fun. I rarely had time to go out and do something, but when I did have time, there was nowhere to go, so I just talked to friends while I played video games,” said Jarrett Davis, of Mobile, who helped take care of his dad after they both got sick from COVID-19.
Many students said they struggled with loneliness, stress and feelings of isolation brought on by remote learning or, even if they were in-person, constant changes to school, family and sports schedules and expectations.
“My family was scared to visit our grandparents due to the chance of giving them the deadly sickness, and my church was trying to learn how to hold services online to prevent further spread to our elderly congregation,” said Brianna Davis, of Jack.
“I, like many of my peers, have struggled with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues resulting in a more difficult school year,” said Mckinley Beavers, of Cleveland. “Being online made it harder to reach out and ask questions when I needed support.”
But while COVID loomed large for many students, it wasn’t the only issue at the forefront of their minds.
“Seeing the videos of people being killed by police and learning about the events that led to death takes a lot of mental strength,” Jarrett Davis said. “There were multiple times that I had to take a break from social media just to avoid seeing somebody else dying.”
Students also talked about how friends, classmates, coaches and teachers helped them push through difficult experiences and finish the year or graduate high school.
We aim to make first-person essays a recurring feature of Ed Lab coverage. If you’d like to share your own experience with Alabama schools, contact Editor Ruth Serven Smith at email@example.com to learn more about guidelines.
The Ed Lab is a team of journalists who cover solutions to persistent problems in Alabama’s K-12 educational system. See other stories here. To financially support the Ed Lab and other efforts from AL.com, become a contributor.