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Borderland seniors reflect on high school journey through COVID pandemic

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The class of 2024 is remembering their high school journey, which was marked by a global pandemic, as commencement ceremonies continue throughout El Paso, Las Cruces and the surrounding areas.

These students began their high school journey remotely, only connecting with peers and teachers via Zoom.

“It’s not easy. My first day of school, I spent on my bed, but I didn't learn as much as I would have liked to online. I just felt really out of touch. And so my freshman year, I always felt like I slacked off a lot," said Silva Health Magnet High School valedictorian Maritza Serrano.

Jefferson High School valedictorian Alexa Ozuna said her freshman year of high school taught her to be a go-getter.

"It was just online. It was kind of felt surreal in a way where, like, it doesn't like you're in cooped up in a room, you know, everything's online. You're kind of trying to learn. It's like watching YouTube videos. Right?  But some of the teachers, like I like that was in my learning style. So I struggled," Ozuna said.

Silva Health Magnet High School salutatorian Bhakti Pareshbhai Ahir Ahir said the pandemic also impacted her communication with peers.

“I definitely feel it with friends. It was I mean, the most conversations, they revolved around homework classes instead of all the normal things that you would talk at school, you know, like how you dress or I like your outfit or what you eat, like things like that with your teachers. Yeah, because there was a barrier, and you kind of like talk to them as much as you'd like," she said.

On Monday, the Jefferson and Silva Health Magnet High Schools silver foxes entered a packed Don Haskins Center filled with loved ones. Four years ago, the pandemic forced the world to isolate and mask up. Students also had to practice social distancing inside the classroom and on school campuses.

Ozuna told ABC-7 that COVID-19 also impacted extracurricular activities.

"The first time I started playing with a mask, nobody was there. I was just a coach, like, just the teammates. If you were you, we cut in like high-five each other. We would have to wave from afar, which was different for the first time," she explained.

The seniors said the pandemic impacted them both emotionally and mentally.

"That whole time of isolation and solitude, it just made me reflect like, who is my real friend? You know, because everything was online and I formed bonds, like through mutuals. So once we came back, like it was slightly different, but it just kind of more self-reflection on who's, like, real, you know?, Ozuna said.

Natalia Martinez, Jefferson High School salutatorian, said her freshman year was marked by feelings of loneliness. She said when students did return to the classroom, they had to social distance and communication was limited amongst eachother.

"I was mostly just really lonely. I kept seeing like all the five feet of hard science and all the tables and stuff.  I just felt really sad. I slept through a lot of my classes. I would get my work done in like the first half hour and just sleep the rest of the day," she said.

Despite this, they said there were many lessons learned through all of this.

“To be resilient. Mostly to kind of plan for my future regardless of what's happening in the present, because it's going to move forward, regardless," Serrano said.

Probably tell them that it wasn't going to last as long as they thought it was. I thought this is going to go on for, like a couple more years. They're going to meet some of their best friends in their sophomore year and pay a little more attention in math class," Martinez said.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Rosemary Montañez

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