This story is a part of a collection on the experiences of scholars attending three totally different California college districts in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, in spring 2022. It was produced via a partnership with CatchLight Native and CalMatters.
At Buttonwillow Elementary College, Lorena Hernandez ended the varsity yr able to graduate eighth grade and begin highschool, one thing she thought she could not do after her expertise with distance studying in the course of the pandemic.
Lorena stated as she did her college work on-line she struggled to take care of her grades. Her mom was usually sick, so she additionally cared for her youngest sister and two brothers.
“It was simply terrible. That yr (2020) I failed as a result of it was too terrible for me, and I could not focus as a lot as a result of I had my child sister and my brothers yelling and stuff like that,” Lorena stated.
That yr COVID-19 drastically affected the Latino neighborhood in California. In Could 2020, Latinos made up greater than half of COVID-19 circumstances and 38% of deaths in California, in line with the California Division of Public Well being.
The newest California information present Latinos made up almost half of all COVID-19 circumstances statewide and about 44% of deaths, greater than some other racial or ethnic group.
Within the rural city of Buttonwillow, in Kern County, the inhabitants is nearly 80% Latino. In Kern County, as of June 2022, there are almost 250,000 residents who had been contaminated with COVID-19 and recovered for the reason that begin of the pandemic. Of these, 38% are Hispanic/Latino, in line with Kern County Public Well being Companies.
As she handled so many distractions, Lorena additionally struggled to get on-line, on condition that she shared the house’s bandwidth with three different siblings additionally attending college on-line. She stated even with the varsity offering sizzling spots for college students’ properties, the battle to remain on-line affected her grades.
“However within the second yr, once we might go to highschool, I used to be pleased as a result of I acquired to be taught in entrance of my trainer and enhance my grades,” she stated.
Returning to highschool in individual helped enhance Lorena’s grades however introduced a brand new expertise.
“We had border shields round our desks, and we needed to keep six ft aside,” she stated. “Then we needed to have our masks on contained in the classroom. However as quickly as we had been out at recess, we needed to keep separate. We might take off our masks. We had been solely allowed to eat exterior, not inside.
“It was laborious for me to maintain the masks on all day. It felt uncomfortable and laborious to breathe, so I stored taking it off. It did not really feel unsafe being again, however I used to be simply nervous about getting COVID.”
In eighth grade, Lorena turned sick with COVID and was despatched house for per week to get better.
“It was horrible. You get a fever, runny nostril, cough and also you could not breathe as a lot due to your nostril. You additionally get horrible complications. I informed my dad I believed I used to be going to die however I acquired higher,” she stated.
Returning to highschool after quarantine was a reduction however she fearful about catching COVID once more. As the varsity yr progressed, restrictions started to raise. The protect borders had been taken off desks, and on March 11 college students had been not compelled to put on a masks in lecture rooms. Assemblies started for the primary time in two years. In March, Lorena joined the varsity’s softball group after its two-year hiatus.
On Could 26, Lorena attended her eighth-grade commencement ceremony.
“I used to be actually excited to graduate, particularly since I did not know if I’d be capable to make it as a result of my grades in seventh grade throughout COVID,” she stated. “It was laborious getting my grades there, however I did it. And it was nice having my household right here as a result of they supported me and helped me get right here.”