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Teen Talk: Dealing with the ‘summer of nothing’

For many teens, summer is about more than fun and relaxation. Many of us had lined up summer jobs or internships as a way to build our resume, earn money and prepare for the future. Now, the “summer of nothing” has dashed our prospects and deprived us of the invaluable skills crucial to life after the pandemic.

As we teenagers progress through life and prepare to forge our own path in the world, we view summer as a vital opportunity to grow and learn outside a school environment. Rather than attending to a wide scope of topics, we can pursue our individual interests and learn the skills that can’t be taught in a classroom, such as accountability, initiative and passion.

One teenager fondly describes waking up at 6 in the morning to travel to her job at the hospital last summer. “When you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work,” she says.

When we teens are allowed to follow our ambitions, we view it as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Another teenager was hoping to land a summer job at a grocery store to escape from the monotony of quarantine and earn money for his future car. However, concern over his family’s health prevented him from taking the job.

Yet another teen had planned to travel through Europe. Others planned to intern at a nonprofit in Washington, volunteer at a summer camp for children with special needs, or take a summer course at a local college.

COVID-19 is disrupting more than a summer for us teens. This pandemic has deprived us of the essential skills we need to succeed in our future endeavors.

Many teens preparing for or attending college find themselves stuck in their childhood bedrooms rather than living independently and embarking on a new stretch of life. Rather than a summer full of consequential occurrences that will launch their college experience, many students are at home, completing lessons and preparing for the coming school year online. One teen describes her situation as hopeless, feeling as if the clock has turned back and all her progress over the last few years has come to a standstill.

What was supposed to be a summer full of change and excitement turned into one of abeyance and anticipation of the future.

Millennials and Generation Z suffer the highest unemployment rates as a result of the pandemic. Nearly a quarter of workers in at-risk industries are 16 to 24 years old, further reducing the chances of teenagers returning to the workplace.

Though certain companies are offering virtual jobs and internships, it can be challenging to gain invaluable skills like communication and collaboration over a video conferencing app. As a result, many teens have taken the initiative to use their summer to create essential programs that benefit their communities, ranging from socially distanced volunteering to arranging grocery deliveries to vulnerable citizens. Rather than waiting until COVID-19 fades away, these teens are taking action and contributing to its decline.

Though we are faced with an uncertain and tumultuous future, we teens can employ the resistance, courage and hope we gained during the pandemic to enter the world and make it ours. We may not have the summer we expected, but we can still join together to make it one we’ll never forget.

Maria Proulx of Ledyard is a rising junior at Saint Bernard School.

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