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Teen Talk: Muted celebrations as school ends with a whimper

As we wrap up our school year virtually, teens are facing unprecedented barriers.

Recently, one of my friends took an online AP test. Despite his constant preparation, he was not able to submit his answers due to a technological fluke. Though he has the opportunity of an upcoming retake test, his constant preparation over the past few months was done in vain, because the organization that administers these exams would not accept his work.

He explained the situation to me in a distraught phone call. “What the #%!$* were they thinking,” he exclaimed, “creating a defective website and then refusing my work!”

He is not alone. Though the College Board, the administration providing AP tests, claims that less than 1% of students encountered errors submitting their work, that number includes over 20,000 test takers.

Videos have surfaced of desperate teens recording the digital clock ticking down on the AP website while the platform refuses to accept their work. Though the College Board suggests that outdated browsers were the primary cause of issues, both parents and students disagree. Many describe the disappointment they are feeling that months of strenuous studying were done in vain.

For students from low-income households, the problem is far worse. Not all teens have access to a computer, a reliable source of Internet, or a quiet place to study. These challenges could heighten the income gap between students, and put additional stress on teens from struggling homes. One teenager, an article read, is working six days a week at a pizza parlor, because he is the only one in his family who still has a source of income.

The financial hardships that come with COVID-19 extend far beyond the sphere of adults and heavily impact teenagers. Nearly three in four teens have discussed their financial situation as a result of COVID-19 with their parents. One in four say their families are struggling to pay bills, and one in seven share that their parent has lost a job. Around half of teens are concerned about the impending impacts of coronavirus, and many are altering our college plans due to this global pandemic.

Coronavirus is impacting far more than our education. It’s affecting our future.

Even during quarantine, we are still finding ways to celebrate our graduating seniors. Watching a video created by my senior class officers, it was disappointing to know that their time at Saint Bernard ended in such a dismal way. Although they made light of the situation (“We definitely won senior skip day,” one quipped), it is still dispiriting for all teens to see our fellow peers, or perhaps ourselves, leave school without a proper sendoff.

The coronavirus pandemic has extended far beyond our expectations. With uncertainty about what is to come in the next few months, and when we students will return to school, we need to ensure all teens have access to the education they deserve.

Maria Proulx of Ledyard is a sophomore at Saint Bernard School.

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