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Nothing Feels Normal Anymore

High school junior Rosie Molina shares how she is coping while juggling remote learning, a part-time job, and an uncertain future.

By Laura Zingg

May 12, 2020

Teach For America student Rosie Molina

Rosie Molina is a junior at John F. Kennedy High School in Denver, Colorado, and lives with her grandparents. On top of going to school, she works part-time at a real estate title company to help support her family and occasionally helps look after her young cousin. She is also a Future10X fellow, a student-led research and design fellowship incubated at Teach For America Colorado.

A self-described people-person and planner, Rosie is finding that her strengths are being tested by social distancing and the uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. And while she has a lot on her plate with figuring out remote learning and balancing her work schedule, she is staying positive. In our latest installment of “COVID-19: Community Voices,” Rosie shares what the past few months have been like and how writing, art, and Disney movies are helping her cope with social distancing.

‘I’m Trying to Do the Best I Can From Home’

How have you been coping with the quarantine? 

Honestly, I've been doing really well. I'm kind of surprised by myself. But it’s also really stressful. 

I live with my grandparents. I worry about them because they're part of the vulnerable population in this situation that we're currently in. I’m also working at a job on top of school and that has been stressful. There have been a few times where we’ve been exposed to someone at work who has coronavirus. So there have been a couple of scares.

But I've been handling it well, surprisingly. I'm usually a very anxious person. So I'm very happy that I'm doing okay right now. I’m kind of settling with things and I'm just hoping that first responders and everyone in the medical field are doing all right. And all the students who are at home with their parents--that everyone is doing good. I'm trying to do the best I can from home. 

What is helping you stay positive right now?

TV shows. I really love CSI and watch it with my grandparents all the time. I have Disney+, so I watch all of my childhood shows from the early-two-thousands. That's been really helpful because it brings me back to that mindset of not really having a care in the world.

Rosie loves to draw and has found a positive outlet for her anxiety through digital illustration.

‘I Haven’t Really Had a Normal Day’

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’ve been trying to figure that for the past three weeks and it's been a little off. I haven't really had a normal day. 

What I’m trying to do now is to go to work Monday through Wednesday from nine to three, and then I'll come home and do schoolwork. So while I'm at work I'll hop on one of the Google Meet calls for school because those are mandatory. 

My work schedule has been all over the place because only a few of us can be in the office at one time to be safe. And we are getting a lot of schoolwork so I'm having a really hard time juggling that. There are 10 different assignments for each class and each of them has two steps. So it's been very unbalanced.

What does remote learning look like at your school?

Every Monday we have an advisory meeting with students in our grade. Our advisor gives us an update on grading and any changes that are happening since things are changing every day. We also talk about how we’re doing and if we need any help.

With classes, there aren't mandatory meetings online, just office hours. Most of the class assignments involve reading or watching a video and answering questions. Sometimes we have to do interactive stuff with our house or our family, which I've only done once.

Are you getting the support you need from teachers?

My teachers have been supportive, which I really appreciate. But you have to advocate for yourself. That can be really challenging, especially when you're remote and you're not able to walk over to your teacher's desk or pop in.

One thing that has been helpful is office hours. For about an hour every day, our teachers are online and we can go and ask them questions and they’ve been really responsive. They will share their screen with us and do some live instruction. 

I haven't had time to go on office hours because I'm at work while they're doing it. But when I message my teachers, they get back to me pretty fast. So that's been good. 

Do you have access to all the things you need to continue doing school at home?

I have a desktop computer at home. But I'm the type of person who doesn't like to stay in one spot all day. So my school provided me with a laptop, which was really helpful. Students can also pick up hotspots from the school. I'm very lucky that I have internet at home and a laptop or desktop computer to be able to do my work.

Rosie has been learning new mediums for creating colorful artwork to hang up in her room.

‘I Miss the Sense of Community’

Do you have time for any activities outside of school and work? What do you do during your downtime? 

I like to write stories so I've been doing that, but less than I want to be doing. I've also been drawing and making artwork to hang up my room. I’ve probably rearranged my room five times, moving my furniture in different places.

I'm lucky to have a nice backyard because I'm able to sit back there in peace. Just being outside helps my creative flow and brings up my mood a little bit too. 

How are you keeping in touch with friends?

I’ve been mostly FaceTiming and texting. It sounds really weird because I'm a teenager, but I'm usually not on my phone that much. I'm usually pretty busy. 

What do you miss the most about school?

Mostly I miss my teachers. I've had a really hard time in my education journey. Middle school was pretty rough. I didn’t have a lot of support from teachers at that time. 

I think this is the first year since elementary school that I’ve had a good set of teachers who support me and talk to me like I’m an equal. I saw them every day for six or seven months, and now I don't see them at all and that's really weird. I miss interacting with them. 

Also, I miss hearing people laugh, whether it's teachers talking to students or students goofing around with each other. I miss the sense of community. I’m a very social person. I love people and I love doing community work and interacting with people and I think that's the thing I miss the most. Online connections don’t make up for that

Rosie describes herself as a people-person and has struggled being separated from her community.

‘I Have to Just Go With the Flow’

What are some of your biggest concerns if this goes on for a long time?

My biggest concern is the health of people. I don’t want to see anyone get sick. In my community especially, there are a lot of essential workers. I guess I'm included in that too. I just don't want to see my community get hurt any more than they are right now whether it's the loss of jobs or seeing the virus spread in our community. I am trying to help with food banks and pantries and get some of my friends involved, just to be able to help.

My personal concerns are about what college admissions will look like next year. I will be a first-generation college student and I'm going to college either way. I know that some districts, including Denver Public Schools, have switched to a credit/no credit system and you can’t opt-in or out to that. But I'm just wondering how that's going to compare to other districts and states when it comes time to apply.

When it comes to my education journey I like to have a plan. And I can't have a plan right now. I have to just go with the flow. I think that’s the hardest part.

What do you think is most important for people to understand about the situation students are in right now?

Adults need to understand that during this time you can't expect us to learn and understand everything that they are giving us. If we were to switch places and you had to learn online when you’ve never done it before--it’s really difficult. It's hard to take a test online. It's hard to watch someone who has never taught you and then answer questions.

Mental health is a big thing too. It's bigger than academics. It's bigger than the SAT. Especially for younger students, but even high school students are having a hard time coping right now.

Isolating yourself from the world because you don't want to contract the virus or be a carrier can make you feel really lonely and it can put you in the spiral. I hope that teachers, students, and parents are checking in on each other to make sure that everyone's okay. I hope everyone has a friend to call if they need something.

More Community Voices

COVID-19: Community Voices” offers a glimpse of life and learning during the coronavirus school closures, in the words of students and parents in the communities we serve. Read other stories in the series:

A ‘Hope Dealer’ and Her Kids Face Online School Together

‘I Walked Out of My High School for the Last Time Without Knowing It’

If you'd like to tell your story or would like to suggest a story for us to cover, please email us. And find resources for educators supporting students through the coronavirus outbreak at Teach For America's educator resource hub.