In the midst of the pandemic, Christel House students found a way of expressing themselves through writing. Three Christel House Academy teachers—Ms. Wolters, Mr. Stewart, and Ms. Brown—worked with the Indiana Writers Center to enter their students in an essay competition about how Hoosiers experienced the pandemic. Eleven Christel House students between the ages of 8 to 17—Noelia, Jada, Nyeshia, Jacquelin, Jason, Jonathan, Maritza, Tony, Autumn, Keira, and Dyann—were selected to have their work featured alongside the words of college students, and professional writers. Their published work- titled “What Was and What Will Be: Life in the Time of COVID-19”- is not only a cause of celebration and a point of pride during a difficult year, but also a record of the tenacity of Christel House students and their teachers during the COVID-19 crisis.During the spring, students experienced isolation, depression, fear, and anxiety. Homebound students felt entrapped. Autumn, age 12, wrote about her home, “My safe place had become a prison cell for my mind with endless days sitting in a dark room alone.” Tony, reflecting on his experience, wrote, “Staying here for a constant six months was diminishing. I had no social contact, and for anyone that knows me knows that I thrive in social situations and it’s where I’m happiest.” Students worried about the future, such as Maritza, age 9, who wrote that she was “wondering if after all this life will ever be back to normal or whether we’ll have a new normal life.”Some students—like 10-year old Kiera—even lost relatives to the virus. Kiera reflected about her grandfather, “My grandpa was in the hospital for days before he died, and we knew it was coming. We just didn’t want it to. This taught me a lesson. It taught me to not take life for granted. I will never regret not doing something if I do what I want to. My grandpa was kind, loving and funny and I'm going to miss him.”
Christel House teachers prompted students by asking them where they would choose to quarantine, if given the choice. Despite being unable to travel internationally due to the pandemic, the global imaginations of Christel House students took hold. 9-year old Jada fantasized about being quarantined at the Royal Conservatory of Music with her father and brother. She wrote “There would be a faint smell of hard work from the people that used to be there. This conservatory used to hold thousands of people in it but now it would only hold three people living inside its walls. The two people I love the most and me. At night, you would feel like you can hear notes bouncing off the walls as if someone were playing an instrument, but no one would play. It would be like an ongoing echo that just lasted forever.”Other students wished to be quarantined with faraway family members. Dyann, whose relatives live in Mexico, wrote about how she wished she could be quarantined with her grandmother, saying “She cooks the best food and bakes desserts. I would want to help her with her baking business. Just make up the time lost over all these years.” The guidance of Christel House teachers allowed students to open their imaginations to the world, even when everyone was trapped at home.
More than just serving as a record of this unusual time, student essays were a testament to hope. 10-year old Jason wrote, “During the quarantine members of my community have come together to help each other, lending each other items that the other needs because we know it is tough times for everyone.” In addition to feeling connected to their community, students also wrote about how the crisis made them better appreciate everyday life. Maritza wrote “These times make you aware that life is short and not take anything for granted.” Students encouraged each other to follow guidelines. Noelia, age 17, wrote, “All we have to do is follow the safety rules, sit back and wait and, hopefully, 2020 or 2021 will be the year that Coronavirus ends."
Christel House teachers inspired students to use their words to document and process their experiences, and to connect with others in their community through writing. The students’ writing will live on in perpetuity through this publication as a record of their resilience. 12-year old Autumn wrote she “wants everyone to know that quarantine has been really hard for all of us and just wanted to remind everyone that it'll get better with time!” Readers of “What Was and What Will Be: Life in the Time of COVID-19” will forever remember the difficult times through which Christel House kids persevered—even when things get better.
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