With teachers juggling in-person and virtual classes, parents integrating school work during the work day and a general lack of accessible internet in urban and rural areas, high school life during COVID-19 is a stark difference from the usual expectations. When the first lockdowns were ordered in March, many were heading into Spring Break, optimistic but unsure how long things would be closed. Now as we head into the fall and scientists warn of a third wave, Illinois has the sixth highest number of cases in the country. (Also when was the second wave? Did the first wave every stop?) with outbreaks already affecting schools.
If my work as a teaching artist and youth poetry organizer has taught me anything, it’s that teenagers are often the most important voices not in the room. They navigate these complicated realities every day, and need outlets to express themselves and tools to process and heal just like everyone else. My Future My World aims to be a place for students aged 14-19 to share their stories of the pandemic. In this first iteration, we partnered with 826Chi for submissions, which were open to works in fiction, nonfiction and video categories. It wasn’t the plan to receive all poems, but I’m ecstatic that we did.
Each one honors this year as a milestone for growth and rediscovering what’s important and precious in life.There’s declarations of strength, discovery and growth through everything we’ve had to lay to rest for this new world. The poems push through fear and honors that we are our heroes. Meet each student and read their incredible work below:
- Isabel R., “Obituary to 2020”
- Yasmine T., “growth”
- Katelyn L., “Star Matter & Sunsets”
- Henry F., “Ode to Breakfast”
This story was made possible by a reporting grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, in collaboration with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Polk Bros. Foundation, and the Field Foundation.