East Lansing High Students Taking Varied Paths During School Closure

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Above: Ava Renfer, a junior at Okemos Highschool, has been reading to pass time while stuck inside. Minnie enjoys Ava’s company. (Photo through the window by Gary Caldwell for ELi)

For many students of East Lansing High, the coronavirus started out like a rumor that felt more like myth than fact – something seemingly harmless that parents and teachers were talking about. Then it shifted to a violent blindside hit to unsuspecting bystanders, suddenly demanding acknowledgement, attention, and the emergency response we now know it deserved from the start.

The overall impact of this pandemic has been catastrophic to the economy and overwhelming to healthcare systems, but its effect on basic day-to-day life now resonates with everyone, including East Lansing students like Nick Lane, who carry the real fears and real anxieties of this new reality.

“My biggest concern at the moment is definitely my mother who works in the Heart Center at Sparrow Hospital,” Lane told ELi in a recent interview. “She is having to apply for a new position during this time of crisis in order to keep PTO [paid time off], but also not get laid off. And with all facilities being closed, my job as a lifeguard at the YMCA has been postponed until further notice, so I have no way of providing a sustainable pay to assist with bills.”

The financial strain has been acutely felt by many high school students.

And students are not just looking at the now of the situation – a longer spring break – but at the long-term educational consequences of this mandated sabbatical. Some students have taken time to try to either prepare themselves for a school reboot, or simply taken time to relax – with the most common approach appearing to be a mixture of the two.

Lane is an early college attendee at Lansing Community College (LCC), dual-enrolled with ELHS. His LCC classes are keeping him about as busy as usual. He gives a look at his current daily routine:

“I wake up at 6 a.m. to take my mom to work,” Lane explained. “I then travel back home to take an hour nap. I then wake up and begin studying or preparing for my 10 a.m. class online. From 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., I am in my online Pre-calc class. From 12-12:45, I eat and take a nap. Then at 1:30, I do an at-home workout. Then at 2:00, I eat again, and by 2:35, it’s time to go pick up my mom. The only part of my day that is different is the fact that I get to work-out during the day instead of at night.”

Many East Lansing student-athletes are still trying to stay in shape in hopes that their spring seasons will only be postponed and not cancelled outright. Some have been heading to the track regularly to try to stay in shape for their respective sports.

Asher Gregory, an ELHS sophomore, told ELi, “I do hope there is gonna be a track season, because our team definitely had goals to achieve this season.”

If the track season is cancelled, Gregory hopes that his efforts to stay in shape will bear fruits during the upcoming varsity football season this fall.

Thalia Centeno, a junior at ELHS, told ELi she misses school and talking with her friends face-to-face.

“Being at home all day isn’t that bad, but at times it can be boring,” she explained. “It’s not exactly what I expected it to be though. I thought I was going to have time to hang out with my friends during break before I understood how serious it was to stay home as much as you can.”

“There are many concerns I have about this situation,” Centeno told ELi. “One being that people are not taking it as seriously as they should with staying home and doing self-quarantine. Another being how long will this affect us? Will we be able to go back to school anytime soon?”

ELHS freshman Grace Liggett has been disoriented by the forced hard-stop, and is worried about how life will go on after this all ends.

“It’s nice being home because I don’t have to do anything, but it got boring after the third day. . . . I’m just wondering how school is gonna be when we get back.”

Even with all of the negative news, many East Lansing students seem to be finding their own silver linings through this situation.

Lane mentioned the upside of being around his family everyday: “The joy of this time is having all my siblings back home under the same roof. With them [usually] living in different states, it’s always good to see them every day when I wake up. It’s very reassuring and it brings me happiness.”

Doing the simplest things such as going on social media and staying in touch with friends gives some a sense of lucidity and comfort during what has felt like a nightmare at times.

“It gives me time to do stuff I didn’t have as much time for, like working out more, reading more,” Centeno said. “I try to take my dog out for a walk before dinner so we both can get out of the house and get some fresh air.”

Lane mentions the enjoyment he obtains from “being able to interact with my friends” now that he has more time.

For at least some high school students in East Lansing, things that would be taken for granted in any ordinary situation are being cherished and revealed as the blessings they were all along.

ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi’s mailer to stay informed

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