Black Lives Matter and the coronavirus have etched deep memories, as well as life lessons, this year for Richmond area students. Here are reflections from students and recent graduates, based on interviews conducted by participants in the West Contra Costa Student Reporting Project. Except for graduates, their class levels indicate their status in the upcoming school year.
Irene Kou, 15, junior, De Anza High
“The Black Lives Matter movement has been a revolution that will be in the history books. I hope to share it with my children. I would tell them that in 2020, I was a part of an advanced society that believes in change, and that I believed that we owed it to those in the past who advocated for such rights to carry on their legacies. I would mention someone who inspired me and others during this revolution, Marsha P. Johnson. A self-identified drag queen, she was an activist who advocated for gay liberation. Not only this, but she was also a strong, independent woman of color who stepped out to be a symbol of progress. I would tell my kids about rerouting our idols from people who are just pretty faces on social media to powerful leaders who make change in their world.”
Steven Da Anoy, 16, junior, Richmond High
“I will remember the first half of 2020 as a mess because of the coronavirus. Despite that, I will always remember distance learning. I was so stressed out about not being able to keep up with my assignments. I was scared that I wasn’t going to pass my classes and once my parents found out, they yelled at me about it. I know they did it so I can start putting in more effort, but I cried really hard due to the stress. Having good grades was never a problem for me, but this was the year when I procrastinated and almost did not pass my classes.”
Evany Cruz, 15, junior, Richmond High
“The first half of 2020 felt like a nightmare. So many things were occurring, but I know I will remember every part for my future children. I will tell them about how coronavirus changed my day-to-day life, that it did not allow me to physically attend school. I want to explain how not only did it ruin my daily life, but it also ruined my mental state. I also want to tell them about the Black Lives Matter movement. I will tell them that racism has occurred for generations and in the year 2020, we really made the effort to stop that. We should all learn from the past to improve our reality.”
Isaac Lanton, 15, junior, Richmond High
“This year has been so chaotic, it often feels like a movie. The one event I will 100% remember is the Black Lives Matter movement. If we were to compare the previous years of this movement to today, we are doing almost everything we can to get the justice that has been needed for years. That is something I won’t forget, especially since I partook in it and will continue doing so.”
Sarahi Bosquez, 17, senior, Richmond High
“When I look back on the year of 2020, I will always think about the Black Lives Matter movement. It is an ongoing movement that I know will bring justice to black women and men who experience racism. I will look at 2020 and remember that many of us came together as a community to fight for what is right. We created petitions, encouraged others to vote and protested in crowds — despite coronavirus. This is an historical moment that is so important to me as my community took the steps needed for people of color to not experience prejudice again.”
Natalia Gomez, 18, freshman, Contra Costa College
“This year has been a disaster. The virus is expanding every day, leaving families to grieve lost ones. Online learning is not ideal for those who can’t stay focused on a screen. Protests have been both peaceful and violent. Four months into ‘shelter in place’ and we go out in public with masks thinking everything will be okay but not really knowing if it will be. I can’t remember a time that has been this chaotic.
“This was my senior year. I was getting ready for all the exciting events like senior rally, senior picnic, senior ditch day and, most importantly, prom. I was looking forward to all these once-in-a-lifetime events that have been canceled. I didn’t get a chance to enjoy my last year of high school as everyone else does. This year showed me not to take anything for granted. When I become a parent, that’s the mindset I want to teach my kids because they’ll never know when their enjoyment or experiences will be cut short.”
Jonathan Alexander Mejia, 18, freshman, UC Merced
“A rollercoaster is a perfect way to explain this year, although we might all be wanting to get off it at this point. Aside from all the obvious global events, the most memorable for me was when I got the call that schools had closed. In that moment I felt both happiness and stress. It felt like an early start to summer, which I quickly found out was anything but. I still had classes and assignments, as well as a huge research paper to do. After schools closed, I slowly fell into depression. I wasn’t communicating with anyone; it didn’t feel the same talking to friends through a screen rather than face to face. Life got hard. Trying to balance online school, work and home was very stressful. Thankfully, I am now feeling much better. I’ve started to reconnect with friends and maintain my social life. This year may not have been ideal but it’s been a pretty crazy moment in my life that I’ll be telling stories to my kids and grandkids in the future about.”
Alejandro Duarte, 17, graduate, Richmond High, 2020
“The biggest event that has affected my life this year would have to be the coronavirus outbreak. My senior year, which is arguably one of the most important years of my life, was canceled. During this year, I had to make one of the hardest decisions in my life, deciding what to do after high school. This time has been really stressful for me. I have thought a lot about my football team and my last season. It’s a memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I believe this year will be a big one in history textbooks due to the pandemic and the protests that have been going on around the world. Although I’m sure the focus is going to be around the pandemic as black history is usually over shadowed or forgotten quite often. Looking forward in time to when I become a parent, I hope to tell my kids how I graduated during a pandemic and revolution and against all odds.”
Ryan Saechao, 18, freshman, Contra Costa College
“I’ll remember everything from this year! Even though the pandemic may have ended my senior year, I think it has been an experience that I would have never thought in a million years would’ve happened. I’ll remember how my last memories of K-12 ended abruptly. Being at home distancing myself form everyone has made me appreciate and cherish the memories I had with my class. Besides the pandemic, the BLM movement has arisen once again. This year has been full of surprises and self-reflection. The first half of the year was rough with college applications and awaiting my statuses. Having this global pandemic has taught us lessons and shown us that during this time we need to self-reflect and try new things.”
Tamara Flores, 17, senior, Richmond High
“What I will remember about this year is constantly hearing coronavirus updates on the news and watching our world slowly collapse. I will remember people discriminating against other races, most importantly the Chinese because of the virus. I’ll remember people being paranoid about the virus, even with their own families. It’s changed everything.
“The hardest part of this year for me was the transition from school to distance learning. My motivation plummeted and so did my grades. On the bright side of all this, I actually enjoyed spending time with my family and being able to help them during these tough times.
“I think this year will be viewed in history as something unbelievable or a tragedy because not only was there a lot going on such as BLM protests and the spread of the virus but many people died. When I am a parent, I will tell my kids I lived through this difficult time. I would teach them to not take anything for granted and enjoy every moment of school and their lives because you won’t know when something might happen and you won’t be able to do what you wanted to do anymore.”
Nair Garcia Ceja, 18, Richmond High graduate, 2020
“When I am a parent I will tell my kids that this year was one of the most traumatic years of my life, and not just for me but for others as well. I will tell them this year had so many bad changes due to the Covid-19 and good changes due to the BLM movement. I will tell them how many people started to fight for what they want and how people can make a difference no matter what anyone says. It’s a big movement in history because people are coming together and bringing the movement together.”
Justin Manahan Montances, 19, Richmond High graduate, 2020
“I will probably remember the protest of George Floyd and the coronavirus and having our classes on Zoom for two months in my senior year. If I were a parent, I would tell an interesting story of how my friends and I survived 2020 when so much happened. A quote from Will Smith stands out to me: ‘Racism Is Not Getting Worse, It’s Getting Filmed.’ Is America still a place where we can find freedom or is it a place where we find fear?”
Joselyn Gonzales, 18, Kennedy High graduate, 2020
“I feel like the saddest thing about this quarantine is not being able to graduate in front of my family. My parents won’t be able to see me walk across the stage at graduation as the first in my family to graduate. I’ve gone through so many struggles in my education and personal life and won’t be able to have this milestone in my life.I think of all the sacrifices that my parents have made for my brother and me to have a better opportunity at life.
“Because of the quarantine, my family is struggling financially and using our saved up money to buy groceries and to pay bills. My mom doesn’t work, and they only call my dad for work when they need him. My brother and I don’t go to school anymore.The most upsetting part of the quarantine is the fact that I won’t have my senior trip, grad night at Disneyland and prom. And there were so many more events that I was going to be a part of.”
Ramon Lopez, 19, Richmond High graduate, 2020
“One thing that will always stick with me is the fact that the schools closed down, and we had online classes. Many people didn’t want to do online classes. Especially in my senior year, I didn’t have any motivation and everything got canceled. I wasn’t able to graduate on stage or hang out with friends. A lot of people who are going to big universities wanted to have a fun summer before going to college and just focus on the books.”
Alejandra Garcia, 16, junior, Richmond High
“When I’m a parent, I’ll tell my kids that in this year, we had a lot of things happening. There was a lot of injustice towards people of color and although there was a pandemic, they came out and protested. The virus also impacted many people and many died because of it.”
Sarahi Yupit, 16, junior, Richmond High
“When I’m a parent I would tell my kids that this year had many obstacles, and we had to get used to things like staying home and wearing a mask everywhere we went. I would also tell them this year repeated things from history like racism that happened for years.”
Jennifer Mora, 16, junior, Richmond High
“I’ll tell my kids, the year 2020 was the year the pandemic killed hundreds of thousands of people and at that same time, there was a lot of police brutality and racism. Many people were trying to end it.”
Helen Hernandez, 16, junior, Richmond High
“What I’ll remember about this year is that there was a huge pandemic and people were dying because of it. I’ll also take away the fact that there was so much police brutality and racism that during the pandemic everyone came out to protest.”
Gloria Vazquez, 15, junior, Richmond High
“I will tell my kids that 2020 was a really hard year because of the pandemic. The school year was stressful, and we had to take classes online. The year also became scary real quick because of the protests. Then the pandemic kept getting worse and it seemed like there was no end to it.”
Valeria Echeverria, Ronishlla Maharaj, Karina Mascorro and David Sanchez are students at Richmond High School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. They’re staff writers of the West Contra Costa Student Reporting Project.
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