Highlighting Students’ Personal Growth Despite the Past Year’s Challenges


Amy Carranza, Reporter

Flashback to when people existed without masks, when students heard the hundreds of feet pitter pattering down classrooms daily, and hung out face to face without safety protocols. Now that the post-pandemic is here, it’s a lot more… strange. 

Strange, here, means having to return to school grounds two grades older, realizing that the struggle of searching for colleges is real, and perhaps finishing it off with a whirlwind of fried brain cells.

Throughout the whole COVID-19 pandemic, a universal experience all people went through was change. These differences may have affected lifestyle, physical, or even mental health, and as we begin to see the world reopen its doors, the students of Venice High now abundantly roam the school halls with stories to share.

“Last year didn’t really affect me personally that much,” said sophomore Byran Castro, who felt like he had adapted well to his home environment during the pandemic, but he also discussed the adjustments he faced as a person.

During early 2020, Castro enjoyed dancing and even continued this hobby through Zoom, but the passion eventually dissolved. 

“After the first month and a half of the pandemic, that’s when my dance studio closed down, that’s when I stopped doing much physical activity,” he said. 

As the year rapidly progressed towards summer, Castro didn’t do much of anything, mostly resorting to his computer, his games, and his best friend. Even though spending time indoors made him a bit “anti-social,” as Castro put it, it kept him busy.


Along with this, Castro also had a lifestyle revelation with his lack of activity beginning to affect his health. 

“I actually started my own routine,” he said. “I built one because I was just like, why am I not doing anything, and I was putting on weight. I started working out, I started being on my computer less, and I lost pounds.”

Castro struggled to keep up with this new behavior but eventually became accustomed to it. Now, he’s proud of who he has grown into because of his persistence.

“I can actually take care of myself and take responsibility for what I do,” he said. 

Junior Taylor Mah spent the COVID-19 pandemic in a similar way, feeling trapped inside her own thoughts. 

“My life was a hot mix of emotions,” she said. “Being alone sucked. I had no social skills before COVID-19 hit and I never really had any connections to the real world, so I was alone a lot,” she said. 

Furthermore, this struggle wasn’t the only pre-existing complication before the pandemic, as Mah began her life at Venice High as a freshman, and wrestled with emotional breakthroughs. She also briefly shared the difficulty of what it was like to go through this isolation from an out-going everyday life with her family. 

However, Mah overcame these trials, as she discovered tranquility through creative expression, along with comical literature, martial arts, and of course, sleep.

“This pandemic made me learn who I am, and not what people want me to be,” she said. “If you constantly put others before yourself, you won’t be able to focus on the questions, ‘What do I want? What do I want my future to look like?’” Mah said.

Now in her junior year, Mah wants to pursue art professionally after senior graduation and believes she can still improve herself with the advances she has made from the pandemic.


Combining all aspects of the underclassmen’s growing pains is senior Chaya Forman. She can say a thing or two about being a social butterfly, even after the year and a half Venice High students have spent apart from people they interact with regularly. 

“I don’t like to stay still, I don’t like to be bored. I always like to have stuff to do, and it can be so overwhelming because I can take on too much, but I definitely enjoy my life more when I have many different projects going on,” she said.

While Forman loves being on the go, she found it difficult to do so over the year in lockdown.

“The beginning of quarantine was really hard for me because, as I said, I’m a super social person, and there wasn’t a lot to do, especially when they closed on the beaches, the public parks, and the trails,” she said. “I love being in nature, so that was really hard for me to cope with.”

Although her social connection was heavily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Forman was able to hone in on some hobbies and learned how to be comfortable in her own company, while still juggling online school in the process. 

“The pandemic helped me create a space to just be with myself and enjoy spending time with myself,” she said. “You know, just listening to music, painting, being alone, like it’s okay to be alone and enjoy your own company,” she said.

Forman also shared her developed interest in the community, as well as her knowledge in social justice through podcasts she listened to during the COVID-19 pandemic as a means to extend her lessons in history class.

“Even though the beginning pandemic was hard, I got super involved in community organizing later on, and it was really good for me,” she said. “I started volunteering at some local organizations working to preserve some historically Black Monuments in the community.”

“I also listened to a lot of podcasts. I got super interested in radical thought, and when I took my AP U.S. History class, I got some more of that from school. My favorite podcast to listen to, even now post-pandemic, is called Hoodrat to Headwrap and the other one is called All My Relations.”

After she graduates, Forman plans to go to college and major in Environmental Studies or study a major under the umbrella of social justice, like Ethnic Studies or Gender and Sexuality Studies. 

Overall, Forman gained a better understanding of herself throughout the pandemic, and emphasized the importance of listening to her voice.

“I think I’m a better communicator with myself, even though I lost some communication skills with other people being in isolation,” she said. “I’m really good at figuring out what I want, knowing what steps I need to take to achieve a goal, and just holding space for myself.”

 All these experiences go to show that many students have gone through unexpected stages of life during the last year and a half, and even if people don’t notice, they know what went down. 

It’s all about perspective now, and as the world has seen throughout the entire reopening post-COVID-19, these students’ stories will impact and connect the roots to their new beginnings.