Students reflect on goal and mindset shifts throughout the pandemic


Graphic courtesy of Canva.

Elizabeth Duerholz

No one has been immune to disappointments in the realm of goals and future aspirations over the past year, but many students in Emmaus High School believe adaptation is not the end of the world and neither is facing the future head-on with a fresh mindset.

Sports, summer camps, musicals, concerts, school trips and vacations, and delays in driver’s licenses, to name a few, have all been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic. 

Senior Eva Patt speaks for most of her peers when she says the pandemic put a damper on big plans she had for her senior year: football games, homecoming, and celebrating their last year in high school.

“My biggest goal that I truly never saw COVID affecting was having a really fun senior year,” Patt says. “As everyone else I know can relate to, COVID took away a lot of things we were all looking forward to.”

As a junior last spring, Patt was excited to go into her third track season, building her athleticism in preparations for pole vaulting.

“Right before we were locked down I could see myself improving and getting stronger, so it was really disappointing when our season was cut short,” she says.

Everyone involved in theater as well as those who simply love performing had major set-backs throughout the pandemic. Senior Robert Pierno had high hopes for the spring musical, Hello Dolly!, as he looked forward to achieving his goal of playing a role in the production.

“The hardest part of this quarantine was when our spring musical Hello Dolly! was canceled because a lot of people put in great efforts to make that show amazing,” Pierno says.

Community-motivated students such as senior Allie Hafner struggle with the limited face-to-face interactions with others. As part of fulfilling her goal of helping the community, Hafner volunteers for the organization Camelot for Children. She looks forward to participating in their events, including the annual summer camp, which luckily, was able to be held virtually this year.

“It was a great experience for the volunteers and for the kids that were there with special needs and we got to interact with them on that personal level–it’s a lot more fun [and] it’s a better experience,” says Hafner. “…I am really hoping to get back to doing stuff in person with them soon.”

Students with goals of travel and exploration continue to deal with alterations in their travel plans. Junior Jocelyn Chow holds anticipation to complete her goals of participating in upcoming trips that unfortunately suffered postponement or cancellation.

“I was looking forward to our school trip to France, which would have happened in November 2020,” says Chow. “My family was also supposed to go on a vacation to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.” 

The school trip to France currently is scheduled for the summer of 2022, and like a lot of teenagers, she tries to keep her hopes up: “I’m still really excited for it!” Chow says.

Luckily, the practice of optimism has not been completely forgotten. A handful of students still hold the same aspirations as before COVID. If any changes have been made, it is a drastic increase in passion.

Hafner built up extra enthusiasm towards her goal of going to college and still has high expectations for next year.

“I am hoping that by the time I get to college next year, things will hopefully be a little bit back to normal, [and] I will have a normal freshman college experience,” Hafner says. “That’s something I am definitely hoping for in the future.”

Pierno sticks with his goal of attending a four-year school in or outside of New York City to study directing for the stage. His passion for theater and going to college did not alter over the pandemic.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of starting your own life and prospering in your work once high school has ended because it allows for a sense of individuality,” says Pierno.

With the extra time provided by quarantine and event cancellations, developments of entirely new goals and mindsets are not scarce.

Chow used quarantine to spend time with her loved ones, watching a family movie every Friday night, playing games such as poker and mahjong, and doing Youtube workouts with her mom. She also developed a goal commonly unfamiliar to hard-working teens: relaxing.

“Being at home all the time forced me to find new things to do so I wasn’t bored,” Chow says. “…I wanted to spend a lot of time with my family and do things that made me happy.”

New hobbies became main sources of entertainment and a lot of students, such as Pierno, are coming out the other end of the pandemic with entirely new skills.

“Something cool about quarantine was I picked up painting as a skill and digital designing,” Pierno says. “If the shutdown didn’t happen, I probably wouldn’t have started either of those hobbies but I am very happy that I did.”

Hafner developed a stronger mandate to stay connected with her loved ones. To pursue her newly strengthened priorities, she participates in regular FaceTime calls with friends and frequent family zooms.

“I think staying connected with people was a big thing I worked on during quarantine and learned a lot from,” says Hafner.

Productivity levels always differ depending on the individual, but quarantine switched things up for many students. Sophomore Eric Welp learned the importance of setting goals, overall feeling that he accomplished more over COVID than in previous years.

“[Before], I felt like I needed to just get things done,” says Welp. “I now have a better list of projects that I want to complete, rather than just telling myself that I wanted to get something done,” says Welp.

Pierno utilizes the time to focus on college applications and research. Because he wishes to study stage directing, he must complete an application, audition, and interview for each school. In that aspect of COVID, Pierno benefitted.

“The shutdown was actually nice because I was able to focus and do my research on each school to prepare me for each interview,” he said. “I can’t imagine how stressful this process would have been if school was in person and all activities were happening.”

Similarly, Patt takes advantage of online school and uses the time to work on her personal goals.

“I have more time to work out, get work done, and give more time to myself versus the constant chaos of a normal school year,” says Patt. 

Aside from tangible goals, many students’ mindsets underwent a huge shift. Although COVID temporarily discouraged people from achieving their pre-pandemic goals, it gave them time to deeply think about life and what matters.

Hafner learned the importance of smaller things in life, rather than always thinking big.

“Sometimes you have to appreciate what you have and you can’t really have everything,” says Hafner. “I have learned and thought a lot about appreciating little moments and being grateful for what I do have.”

Although hesitant to continue in the theater business after the pandemic set-backs, Pierno made an inspiring discovery of what he wants for his life.

“I realized you gotta do what you love in life because [if you don’t], you’re not truly living,” says Pierno.

Patt was originally disappointed by the change in plans and the not-so-celebratory senior year, but she found a way to look at this year and life differently than she had before.

“What inspired [my] shift in mentality was accepting that there was nothing I could do to change the fact of the matter; there was no getting back what was lost. I wanted to stop feeling sorry for myself and for my class and start embracing what I still had,” said Patt. “…I’ve learned to adapt to the changes, the best I can of course, and be thankful for what I do have and the time I get to spend with the people I love.”

Featured graphic courtesy of Canva.