The phone call came in late May. I wasn’t home at the time, but I learned about the contents of the call from my parents: school was going virtual. I was ecstatic; not only had school gone completely virtual, classes had also shortened from roughly six hours to four. Previously, I had been completely submerged under the constant deadlines of essays and upcoming tests. Sometimes I would go days with roughly three hours of sleep. I was stressed, anxious, and constantly on edge. But thanks to the changed schedule, I would have more time to do assignments and my strained mental health would finally be given a chance to recover. Yet in the words of Aristotle, “Man is by nature a social animal. Society is something that precedes the individual.” While the stress that came from going to school disappeared, I was starting to feel empty, craving the chatter I would have with my friends and classmates. When I mentioned my feeling of wanting to go back to school, everyone I talked to felt the same. People would mention things like, “I miss hanging out with my friends,” and “I’m starting to feel restless being stuck at home.” Teachers would constantly mention how much they missed us and how empty their classrooms felt. Even though school was sometimes seen as a hassle, it provided everyone with a sense of community, something that was now being destroyed by the wall built by virtual learning.
In a survey conducted by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 71% of students reported increased stress from isolation and constant worry as a result of the pandemic. Deciding that I wanted to do something about the loneliness that was plaguing me and the teachers and students at my school, I started brainstorming ideas. What I wanted was something that could hit the root of the mental health problem leading to feelings of loneliness among students. My solution came in the form of art, particularly photography and writing. Because one of the most vital parts of school consists of peer feedback and sharing one’s work, I wanted to create a magazine in order to connect students, who were stuck at home, while also providing a sense of normalcy. As a result, I created The Raindrop Magazine, a place that any student could share their writing and photography. But most importantly, this was a magazine that seeked to give students a community, similar to a classroom. I wanted everyone to know that people wanted to see what they have been doing during the pandemic and that they could always share pictures and writings about their experiences, or even random thoughts; this was a place devoted to driving away the feeling of isolation caused by the pandemic.
I contacted Dr. Duckham, my AP English Language and Composition teacher, to discuss and decide how to spread this idea. A few weeks later I had set up the magazine website (https://theraindropmagazine.wixsite.com/raindrop) and started emailing teachers I knew, such as Mr. Miller and Mrs. Blank, to share the online magazine with their students. Dr. Duckham helped spread the word to her students and shared copies of the flyer I created through her Google Classroom. I gathered together a team of students that would edit submissions and provide comments and feedback, aiming to provide students a writing environment that mirrored an english class. By the time it was November, I was constantly receiving email notifications from students signing up; The Raindrop Magazine was officially running.
Having spread the word of The Raindrop Magazine at my school, I wanted to reach out to more students. My desire to help more students who are struggling at home, feeling lonely with little to no friends to talk to, kept on growing. I began emailing teachers at various schools, searching their staff directories for emails; at first, I was scared, worried that this wouldn’t work. After all, how would a teacher in California feel if an unknown high schooler from Missouri emailed them? But when I received my first notification that a sophomore from Wisconsin signed up, I was filled with disbelief and excitement. With every flash of my phone, I would look at my screen, hoping to see another student signing up. As the days went on, my magazine soon became filled with different types of essays and pictures, ranging from a piece of writing about middle school to a picture of a tractor ride that a girl from Oregon went on.
While the pandemic has continued to cause struggles for thousands of families, I hope that my magazine will be able to provide students with a support system that they might have lost because of the virtual school environment. Thanks to my experiences from the pandemic, I have grown to understand how vital a community is for students around my age. Community helps bring everyone together. Community provides people a pillar of support when things go wrong in their lives. And by building an online community through my magazine, I hope students, who are currently stuck in their homes, understand there is a place opened to them to share their stories so they no longer have to feel isolated and detached from the world around them.
The Hindu. “Man as a Social Animal.” The Hindu, The Hindu, 12 Mar. 2012, www.thehindu.com/features/education/research/man-as-a-social-animal/article2988145.e ce.
Son1, Changwon, et al. “Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, JMIR Publications Inc., Toronto, Canada, www.jmir.org/2020/9/e21279/.