The Young Adult Perspective On Going Back To School: Shealanin Mendes
The Young Adult Perspective On Going Back To School: Shealanin Mendes

Tell me a bit about yourself:

My name is Shealanin Mendes. I am 15 years old and a dual enrolled honors student. I am originally from New York City, born and raised at 72nd and Lenox on the East Side. My concentrated educational path is political science with a focus in international law. I love traveling, great food, laughing with friends and family, reading, board games, international fashion, and shopping. I am a huge advocate for women’s rights and world issues that affect the Afro American people. I am a thinker, and I don’t like pity. I am a young person living with epilepsy.

What state do you live in?

I live in Florida

What grade are you going into?

I’m going into 10th grade.

What’s your favorite class?

My favorite classes (I don’t have just one!) are psychology, songwriting, and French.

What is your school doing for going back this year? How do you feel about the decision?

My school is insisting on social distancing, wearing masks, washing our hands etc., but our principal today, made visual online announcements without wearing a mask on her face. She wore it around her neck. Now, what message does that send to students? This is frustrating as a student and young girl of color because it seems there is no real plan in place from leadership, and it seems like decisions are more about money and politics than health. So, teachers, students, and community workers are having to risk their lives because no one in authority is heeding their own advice! And think about it—we were abruptly yanked from our schools 5 months ago, thinking by now there’d be a cure or solution to the global pandemic but there isn’t, and that’s super stressful for all kids. Stressful because personally I am reminded of the historical events like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study where the medical community took advantage of African Americans. So at this point it almost feels like the country is stuck between two stubborn parents with one saying “wear a mask, wash your hands, stay 6 feet apart and we’ll all get through this together” while the other parent is saying “don’t infringe upon my rights I don’t have to wear a mask.”

For school this year, I’ve chosen to take all my courses online.

How did things change for you back in March?

For me, it didn’t change because although I’ve gone through traditional schooling (both private and Montessori), my parents have always indirectly home schooled me. So my school work and home routine continued. But I do miss seeing my friends and teachers face-to-face. But one thing I really love about virtual learning is now I can take my time and think about answers and questions posed by my teachers. More than that, March-July is usually brutal with my allergies and epilepsy. Since I was 5-years-old those were generally the hardest months because I’d always be in the hospital because of weather changes, being around kids who might be sneezing or coughing in class who may not wash their hands, kids sharing foods, etc. But social distancing has been great for my health because I haven’t had any seizures or allergic outbreaks.

What are you most excited about this fall? What are you most concerned about?

Since March, I’ve had countless hours of FaceTime, Zoom, Big Blue Button, Instagram and Facebook Lives all with my friends and extended family that lives out of town. But I want everyone to be safe, and this COVID-19 has taken a lot of lives. For that reason and that reason alone I am both concerned and excited. I’m concerned that people aren’t taking this pandemic seriously but I’m excited and hopeful because of my faith in God. I believe that even in darkness, we are protected.

What things are you considering as you prepare for going back to school?

I’m considering will my choice out of state colleges adjust their rules about online courses? That could set me back if they don’t, no matter how rigorous my classes are. I’m considering my social life with friends. I’m considering what this “new normal” will settle into. I love the clubs I’m apart of (President of the Ocoee Youth Council, CIS, CLIP, NHS et al) and how this virus will affect us getting together again because you can only zoom so much before people need human contact.

How are your thoughts about going back to school similar or different from your friends/peers?

Both me and my friends of all genders, nationalities, and cultures are thinking about the SAT and ACT, Homecoming, Prom, and Graduation, and what the classrooms will really be like more than what is on the news because realistically we haven’t seen each other face-to-face for months so resisting hugging each other or laughing and sitting at the same table will be different.

What things are you considering as you prepare for going back to school?

I’m considering if my government-mandated dual enrolled online courses will be accepted at my future four-year university and law school of my choice. I’m also considering my Class of 2023 High School year book and what that will look like. I also don’t want to miss out on what makes high school fun– I’m also considering having 15 of my friends quarantined so we can have a “normal” spring break on my uncle’s boat in Manhattan. I’m considering my grandma, my dad, and anyone over fifty being safe through all this madness. I’m considering my teachers and the stress they must feel.

Follow Shealanin Mendes on Instagram @shea.lanin.

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