Figuring it Out

The night before Marisa Andoni-Savas went back to in-person school — for the first time in 14 months — she sorted through her masks, deciding which one to wear. A sophomore at CHS, Andoni-Savas’s high school experience has been far from what she expected.

“I didn’t think I’d be wearing a mask and worrying that different [Covid-19] variants were going to put us back in virtual school,” Andoni-Savas said. 

Adoni Savas’s last full year of in-person school was her seventh grade year. She

spent half of eighth and most of ninth grade attending school via her computer at home. After spending so much time virtual, Andoni-Savas is having to relearn parts of in-person school.

“When we took tests and quizzes online, we always had [access to our] notes,” Andoni Savas said. “In-person, we don’t have open note tests and that has really made me crack down and study and be able to know the information without having the notebook sitting right next to me.”

Although Andoni-Savas has found it hard to get used to some aspects of in-person learning such as wearing masks and social distancing, overall she is very thankful to be back. Andoni-Savas feels she has a different perspective on life after having to do school online. “I wouldn’t be as grateful for what I have right now if I hadn’t had it all taken away,” Andoni-Savas said.

One part of online school Andoni-Savas enjoyed was being able to get to know a lot of people.

“It was surprising how open people were if you just reached out to them,” Andoni-Savas said. “I think everybody was yearning for friendship and everybody was open to the aspect of just making a friend because we were all losing that connection, face to face.”

Leah Eddins, another member of the Class of 2024, found it difficult to meet her CHS classmates over online school. Eddins feels there wasn’t very much social interaction last year and it made it hard for her to connect with peers. She has found classmates are much more approachable in-person. Although Eddins has found it much easier to connect with peers in-person, she is still trying to figure out where she fits in at Community.

“I’m just trying to get back into the social aspect [of school],” Eddins said. “Everyone has their groups and I’m just trying to find my little group.”

Stephanie Hadley, another CHS sophomore, had trouble connecting with her teachers last year through zoom and email.  It just wasn’t the same as being with them in-person for Hadley.  She is much more comfortable with her teachers now. Being able to meet them in-person has made a big difference. She is finding it a lot easier to reach out to her teachers for advice, help or anything she needs. Andoni-Savas feels this way too.

“I think I’ve been able to create more of a bond with my teachers in-person,” Andoni-Savas said. “On Zoom, I was always afraid to say what I wanted to say, but now I feel like I can just say what I feel like.”

Being on Zoom changed the way sophomores communicated with their school. For Andoni-Savas, communicating virtually was very difficult.

“I was so scared to ask a question and speak up and be myself that I lost touch with a part of myself,” Andoni-Savas said.  “Covid hurt who I really am in [that] way. I lost this connection with myself when I was on Zoom. I wouldn’t talk a lot and I would turn my camera off because that was the easiest way for me to stay away and not have to put myself out there.”

Being in-person has helped Andoni-Savas rebuild that part of herself. She is beginning to speak up for herself again. 

“I’m working on not being so scared, and just putting myself out there in a way that will help me further my education,” Andoni-Savas said. “I’m reconnecting with that part of me, bit by bit.”

One part of being in-person Andoni-Savas has enjoyed is Community’s open campus.  She feels the open campus has made her more responsible. It has helped Andoni-Savas learn how to self regulate, which is something she believes will help her to become more independent. Hadley also appreciates the open campus, but for a different reason.

“I think the open campus is a really important part of Community,” Hadley said. “It gives us the extra chance to socialize outside of the school building. Being able to have that freedom and build relationships with our community outside of school, within Ann Arbor, is really important.”

Andoni-Savas hopes that what she is experiencing now will help her going forward.

“I’m grateful that I have had this experience because I really think by the end of my high school career, it’s going to pay off,” Andoni-Savas said. “I’m going to have these experiences and I’m going to have memories, good and bad, and they’re going to really shape who I am. I don’t want them to vanish. I want to keep them forever and keep them alive, so that when I’m older, I can look back on them and have these experiences to teach me and make my actions smarter.”

Starting high school in a pandemic has given Andoni-Savas a different perspective on life. 

“Covid-19 kind of came out of nowhere and knowing that anything could happen at any moment in our lives and everything could change in an instant is kind of scary,” Andoni-Savas said. “But it also makes me want to seize the day and not be scared because you never know when everything is going to be taken away from you.”

Andoni-Savas, Eddins and Hadley are all looking forward to experiencing their first full year of in-person education.

“I feel like we’re creating history right now,” Andoni-Savas said. “We’re the class of 2024. We can do anything.”