Oink, Quack, Moo and Service Hours Too
Here at Valwood students require a certain number of service or volunteer hours in order to graduate. Some students choose to keep the gate and collect money at sports games. Other students bring items for food drives or serve as mentors during lunch. I get service hours for volunteering at Fifth Day Farm.
Fifth Day Farm is a petting zoo with many types of animals. From adorable goats and pigs to exotic cows and emus, Fifth Day Farm has many amazing and personable animals. At Fifth Day Farm students have the opportunity to work with animals and help out. It is a great opportunity to get service hours all taken care of in one weekend and to gain experience with animals if you want a career with animals. My future career is in animal education and conservation, so the farm is a great place for me to gain the needed experience for the field of my choice.
The animals at the farm all have their own personalities and it is awesome to get to know all of them. Sam was a therapy pig in his former life and is the friendliest pig I’ve ever met. He loves getting scratched and flops over on his side whenever anyone walks up to him. Tank and Kong are two of three sulcata tortoises at the farm. Kong is less than a foot long where Tank is almost four feet long. Kong always tries to fight Tank and it’s quite funny because he’s so determined. Zeke is a zebu cow and my personal favorite cow at the farm. He loves attention and is very affectionate to everyone he meets. Finn is one of many goats at the farm and one of the funniest animals there. The goats like to follow visitors around if they think they have food, but Finn takes it to another level. He is the only goat I have seen that likes Kona Ice. It is hilarious to see him eat it and he does not like sharing, which is even funnier.
If you like animals and are looking for service hours, Fifth Day Farm is a great place to volunteer. I highly recommend it. They are open on the weekends.
The Teenage Covid Experience
Typically, the teenage experience consists of driving around with friends, staying up late studying, and practicing our extracurriculars. None of this was the case in 2020. We were confined to our houses, unable to hang out with friends for fear of exposure. All our classes were online with fluctuating schedules. No sports or band or plays were happening so none of our pastimes were available. We were stuck inside, glued to our computers and couches.
COVID obviously came with its anxieties and setbacks. Valwood school went back to in-person classes for the 2020-2021 school year. Three days before the start of school, a Valwood student tested positive for COVID. “The symptoms came on gradually, starting with feeling tired and having a slight cough. Then, the cough deepened and settled in the bottom of my lungs, making it hard to breathe. The fatigue only got worse with the constant coughing. The fever came a few days later, but only lasted two days. It felt like a really bad version of the flu mixed with pneumonia. In the end, the shortness of breath lasted for almost a month while the lack of smell and taste lasted for two.”
The student felt more isolated than ever. “With school starting and me having the most dreaded sickness of the year, it felt odd. Everyone would be attending school, setting their routine, meeting their teachers, and finding their cliques while I was trapped behind a computer screen. I would miss that, but being an introvert, I was also thrilled. Yes, I did greatly miss my friends and yes, spending every single minute with your family for two weeks can wear you down, but it was still mildly enjoyable despite the pains of Covid.”
COVID also brought about many changes to the learning environment. March to May was incredibly difficult. AP students everywhere panicked about how the most important exams of the year would go. When College Board announced the abbreviated virtual exam, everyone was relieved and worried at the same time. Students were happy that their work would not go to waste, but the fear of this strange format and potential technical difficulties weighed on their minds. Junior Chloe Lynn Collins experienced just these setbacks when taking her AP exams. “I had to find a location with stable internet to take mine. Even after I found a building to use, the internet glitched and my entire essay was lost. Even though I had the essay they would not let me email it to them. So in the middle of worrying about the virus, and so many unknowns, I had to take the exam again.”
Even after returning to school, students still had to adjust to the growing pains of COVID. Junior George Tidmore returned to school as a hybrid student, meaning he studied partially online, and partially in-person.
“Since the beginning of the school year, I have come to campus only for the two periods that constitute my AP Chemistry class each day. I drive during my third period class, which is conducted virtually, join a class in the parking lot on Google Meet, then leave during lunch after physically attending Chemistry. While I am accustomed to online learning now, adjusting to learning remotely, as I’m sure teachers and others who have experienced it, presented several hurdles. For the first two weeks of school, I FaceTimed friends to attend class as the recording devices and other technology for virtual meets were yet to be installed and instituted. To add to the remoteness, I was also the only online participant in my classes for the first quarter. I have not experienced issues with assignments or grades, though maintaining focus is trickier online, and occasionally information gets lost in translation as it flows from the classroom to a blurry screen. With a semester behind us, most technical kinks have been smoothed, but I still miss interacting with my classmates and teachers. I’ve never talked so little in class (or at all), and participation remains a challenge. I am grateful for the efforts my teachers have invested to ensure I and other students can experience their classes and instruction as effectively and comfortably as possible.”
One of my greatest frustrations with COVID is extracurricular activities having to bend over backwards to try to keep going. Events are cancelled at the drop of a hat if a member tests positive for COVID. Spectators have been severely limited, meaning my Grandma cannot watch me play volleyball anymore. Most of my performances have been cancelled and replaced with digital recordings. I am a competitive singer, and I have to deal with the awkwardness that now comes with lessons and competitions. All of my lessons had to become digital during quarantine. I could no longer be in the same room as my voice teacher when rehearsing. It was incredibly difficult to ever stay on the same page as my teacher because we constantly had delays and connection issues. If I needed to hear my melody played, she couldn’t just plunk it out on the piano because neither of us had good enough audio equipment for me to hear it through the computer. She would have to record herself on her phone then email it to me. All the limitations made practice way more difficult than it had any reason to be, and I had a much harder time learning my music. Come September, I was finally able to go back to in-person lessons as long as I stayed socially distanced from my teacher. The competition for the season was to be online, so I had to record my pieces. My teacher and I ended up having lessons in her backyard. She would sit on her elevated porch and I would stand in the grass about 20 feet away. It was not ideal, but we had to make do.
Despite all the frustration and pain, we persevered, and even managed to find some good. 2020 was the year of slowing down. We were able to pause and examine our lives. We had time to change ourselves, if we wished. Normally, we are always rushing to our next thing, appointment, etc. But during quarantine we had an abundance of time and we couldn’t go anywhere. Hopefully, we all used the time to better ourselves. We learned how great our healthcare workers are—may we never lose our gratitude for them. We learned the importance of relationships. It’s lonely all by ourselves—we need community. We learned to never take for granted “normal” because of how quickly the entire world can turn upside down. 2020 was indeed the year of enlightenment.