FAMILY LIFE DURING COVID'S YEAR-AND-A-HALF: SECOND PRIZE IN EAST COUNTY LEADERSHIP COUNCIL'S ESSAY CONTEST

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This essay won second prize in the East County Leadership Council (ECLC) 2021 COVID-19 essay contest. Prize money has been provided through the generosity of ECLC donors and a grant from the Foundation for Economic Justice.

By Anonymous Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) student in East County Leadership Council’s (ECLC) COVID-19 Essay Contest (Second Prize)

July 14, 2021 (San Diego's East County) -- Every single one of us has been affected by the current COVID-19 virus whether it was in a positive or negative way. However, the pandemic has affected people differently depending on our social status and our income. While some are adapting to school online and staying home for quarantine others are adapting to losing their jobs. COVID-19 has caused many businesses to go out of business, resulting in an overall of 25% of U.S. adults being laid off or losing their job. This doesn’t only have an effect on the adults but even on the children. From personal experience, I constantly think and stress about bills being paid because the idea of being homeless again is terrifying. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused low-income families to struggle to put food on the table and struggle with paying household bills as well as medical bills. It has been proven that the pandemic has hit low-income families the hardest, specifically African American and Hispanic households. 

Moreover, when COVID-19 first struck, I was in the middle of my sophomore year in high school. I had just finished my freshman year with a GPA of 4.3 and being captain of the freshman volleyball team so I was very proud of myself. Meaning that I was ready to start my sophomore year and achieve another 4.3 as well as be on the varsity volleyball team. Not too far into my sophomore year is when the COVID-19 virus began. All families were informed that we were to stay at home and quarantine for a couple of weeks. That was great news for most students because students loved the idea of not having to go to school. However, for me, that was horrible news.

Going to school was my only escape from being at home. I lived in the smallest two-bedroom apartment with my four brothers, my sister-in-law, and my mother. I shared a room with my twin brother and older brother, while my mom’s room was the living room, which she shared with my oldest brother. The room next to mine was my second oldest brother’s room that he shared with his girlfriend. As you can see, it was a packed place. Therefore, when the pandemic started, I begged my sister to stay with her in Mission Valley so that I could join Zoom meetings without being disturbed and so that I could finish homework without distractions at all times of the day. 

Furthermore, it was difficult for me to adjust to doing school online because I do a lot better with learning in person. It was a bit of a challenge but was a lot smoother since we at least got to be on campus with one another for the beginning of the school year. This made it easier for students to communicate with one another as well as with their teachers since we already knew each other. On the other hand, I had finally come back home after being in quarantine for a few weeks at my sister’s house when I received terrible news. My mother informed me that we had an eviction notice and only had a month to pack and be out of the apartment. This changed the game completely.

My mom was always broke because she paid most of the bills by herself, and now she had to begin looking for a new place to live. Most would look at this as a good thing since we were in such a bad situation in that apartment, but it was actually an even more stressful situation. My mother had terrible credit and a terrible history of having been an ex-con twice in her life. This meant that there was a very slim chance of us getting somewhere to live. Therefore, I began going street to street getting applications for my mom to fill out so that we could have a place by the time the eviction was up. It was almost as if I was the only one who was willing to put in the work to find a new home. This is understandable due to the fact that we have been in a motel several times in our life and had to move houses every couple of years. However, it was too much for a 16-year old to carry on her shoulders while trying to be successful in AP and honors classes.  

In addition, my mom said that it was time for us to start looking for jobs and helping out, which was kind of difficult during a pandemic. I began to make a resume and fill out applications anywhere that 16-year-olds were able to work. One of the first places I -applied to was Boston Market, and it was also the first place to get back to me for an interview. I went to the interview, was hired on the spot, and was officially employed on May 22, 2020.

I began working five days a week about six to eight hours a day. Every shift I worked was the closing shift, so I wouldn’t get home until around 11:00 pm. Being so young and just starting my first official job, I did not realize that they were overworking me and scheduling me a lot more than they should have, but my family and I needed the income so I never once complained about it. Instead, I went to work every day and worked my very best and came “home” and did homework until I fell asleep.

Then, early one morning my twin brother and I were awakened by bangs on the door. When we entered the living room, there were about five sheriffs in our home. This was when we realized that we were being physically kicked out of our apartment. No one was home but my twin brother, our four animals, and me. That meant that just the two of us had to remove all our belongings and everyone else’s in the house as well. We were responsible for taking everything out as well as putting all of our animals in their carriers. The whole time the sheriffs were breathing down our necks saying that they did not come here to wait on us.  We got out as much as we could in 5 minutes. My twin and I were left sitting outside with all our belongings and our four animals in the sun until my mom could make it home. 

For this reason, we had to sit in our car all day with our pets until we could find a motel we could afford. I put in as much money as I could, and so did my mom and eldest brother. We were the only ones who worked for our money, the rest of my brothers were unemployed.

We struggled for a couple of months living out of our car and in motels. This meant that I was working non-stop and always had no wifi. The motel we were staying at was very cheap and dirty so at the time they did not have a wifi system for guests. This meant that I never had any wifi for my Chromebook so it was hard to complete any schoolwork. By this point in time, I had already started my Junior year so the classes that I had were all AP classes or honors classes, and I did not personally know any of my teachers. This made it hard for me to communicate with them and for them to truly understand my struggles since they had never met me before. The only encounter I had with any of them was through email or Zoom meetings. As a result, every time I tried to do homework I would have to ask friends if I could go over and complete as much homework as I could. Usually, I would go to Starbucks whenever I did not have wifi ,but since the pandemic, all restaurants were closed, which meant that was no longer an option.

Unable to complete my schoolwork on time, I fell behind in my classes and went from having a 4.3 GPA my freshman and sophomore years to a 3.0 by my junior year. COVID-19 affected my family financially which made it hard to pay bills and have healthy meals as well as affecting my academic performance.  All in all, though COVID-19 has caused many hardships for my family and me, it has also taught me to appreciate life more. The virus has taken away so many lives and opportunities that it has shown me that you don’t need a lot in life to be happy. If you have support from family and friends, then you’ll be just fine. COVID-19 has also taught me to be more independent and has shown me how to be my own self-advocate. I have had to get a job on my own and have been able to maintain this job for an entire year now. It has allowed me to have my own voice and express my personal life to my mentors in school. It has caused my academic performance to not be at its best but also caused me to communicate better and solve problems. This is one of the hardest years of my life and definitely one I will never forget.

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Reprints of this essay must credit the author as follows: “Second Prize Winner in the East County Leadership Council 2021 COVID-19 Essay Contest.”

©2021 East County Leadership Council. Reprint permission granted if attribution properly noted.

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The other winning essays:

WITH CHALLENGE COMES CHANGE: FIRST PRIZE IN EAST COUNTY LEADERSHIP COUNCIL'S COVID-19 ESSAY CONTEST

TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL - A CANDID ACCOUNT OF COVID-19  By: Maryam Hashimi

NEW NORMAL By: Merna Poulis

COVID AFFECTED US ALL By: Julia Baxter

Originally published at: www.ecleadership.org