The last few weeks have turned people’s lives completely upside down. With Washington Township (WT) online until May, many students and teachers have been struggling to navigate this unprecedented situation. At the same time, the WT community has shown incredible strength and resilience thus far.
Determined to succeed
With e-learning three days a week, teachers like Miss Tara Hamstra have been innovating ways to keep their students engaged using Google Hangouts, which allows teachers to give lessons and talk interactively with their students. Hamstra also makes weekly videos, vlogs of sorts, to send to her middle school students.
“To me, being a teacher has always been more about building relationships with my students,” Hamstra said. “This is forcing me to become more creative with my lesson plans.”
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Hamstra is also the varsity Track coach. Going into the season, she was excited about all the talent and dedication the runners displayed. Now, team will have a short season beginning in May at the least to give the seniors the closure they desperately desire. She still sends daily workouts to everybody and even hosted a selfie challenge so the runners could prove they were still being active.
“As difficult as this situation is, I think a lot of good can come out of it,” she said. “I am trusting both my students and team to take ownership of themselves –and that’s the ultimate goal –for them to be able to do these things on their own and take responsibility for their actions.”
Junior Melissa Krawcyzk is just one of the runners keeping up with the physical exercise. She enjoys the workouts because they keep her busy.
The increased time spent at home has also inspired many high schoolers to pursue an artistic skill. This form of self-care allows students to keep their brains creatively active.
Allanna McGuffey, a senior at WT, fills her free time with painting. She’s done a few canvases, but is most proud of her recent work on her Vans shoes. McGuffey painted her shoes with different Disney characters, adding her own flare to them.
“Being able to paint allows me to get out of my head and escape the world for a bit. This whole situation is incredibly upsetting to me because I can’t control any of it, but painting helps,” she said.
McGuffey is not the only student to find an outlet in art. Last year, during finals, junior Alexa Mecchia and her friends picked up origami as a hobby. In her attempt to fill her boredom now, she has perfected the squid and hopes to learn how to do an elephant next.
The people of WT have not failed to better themselves despite current circumstances. Their perseverance to remain physically and mentally healthy can inspire others to do the same.
Coming Together as a Community
The ironic yet beautiful thing about isolation is that people are inventing new ways to be with one another.
Local families are becoming closer than ever with their increased time spent together. Senior Katie Evans and Washington alumni Sydney Evans devised an escape room for their family.
“We were really bored and recognized how stressed our parents were with the quarantine,” Katie said.
The Evans sisters searched their house for random objects and created a phrase that her parents have to piece together in order to escape. Instead of closing themselves off in their individual rooms, their ingenuity provided an outlet for family bonding.
One of the most difficult aspects of staying home during this time period is missing out on opportunities to grow and develop relationships with people. Craving this connection with others, Allison Haines has sent out many letters with words of encouragement to her friends. Letters like these help people have something to look forward to as the days go on.
Another important part of young people’s wellbeing during this tribulation is social media. Challenges on Instagram stories unite teenagers and help them feel less alone during this time. Popular forms of these challenges are a type of, “see this, do this,” whether that be dropping to give 10 push-ups, sharing a Bible verse, or temporarily posting an embarrassing picture of oneself. Social media has brought young people together and the benefits reach far beyond our local region as these challenges have spread across the nation as well, providing an unparalleled way for teenagers to belong.
Claire Horvath, WT sophomore, enjoys these challenges.
“They help us stay positive and give us something else to focus on other than the things going on outside our homes,” she said.
One student even created his own challenge for high schoolers in the area. Charlie Schmidgall hosted his very own “Charlie’s Quarantine Challenge.” Daily challenges included building forts and filming silly videos as a team or individually. Out of 72 original contestants, Schmidgall plans to crown one person the victor.
“I originally created them because I saw everyone was bored, and I wanted to entertain them,” he said. “I wanted to make challenges that had them use their brains in ways they typically wouldn’t during this break.”
However, he also noted that his intentions shifted as it progressed; he never expected that much response or involvement.
“I loved knowing that the challenges gave them something to look forward to in the otherwise uneventful days,” he said.
In the past few weeks, students, teachers, and families alike have been a light to others during this frightening time. While some people are able to rest comfortably in their homes, the WT community has not forgotten those who put themselves at risk for the sake of others. Far beyond how people are keeping themselves productive in new ways, WT’s response should embolden others to pursue a period of selflessness during this ordeal and encourage others in any way they can. Regardless of the heartaches and hardships, this community will overcome.