By Milla Surjadi from the Los Angeles Times
It had only been a week since graduation and these teenagers were giddy. Summer sprawled out in front of them. College is just a few months away — a future some still can’t believe will be theirs.
One will be leaving soon to take prep classes at UC Berkeley. Another has an apprenticeship at a Bank of America branch. One dreams of being a congresswoman. But this recent afternoon was not so much about the future as it was about the past.
These students, who attended Los Angeles Unified schools in the Eastside and South Los Angeles, see themselves as the COVID class of 2023. They were first-year high school students when the pandemic forced campus closures in March 2020. Now, when so many have moved on to normalcy, these students explained how the pandemic left a transformative mark on their high school years.
They returned to the classroom as juniors, lives upended, academics in tatters and the pandemic’s emotional fallout palpable.
Gathering at InnerCity Struggle, a nonprofit in Boyle Heights, they described an urgent resilience, a compulsion toward a better future that carried them through waves of grief, the rebuilding of relationships and the stress of college applications. Some talked of their experiences with food insecurity, housing instability, increased anxiety and depression. All of them mentioned the teachers, family and friends who carried them through their four years.