Covid-19 has thrown my generation a high-speed curve ball. And while we miss out on prom, senior trips, yearbook signings and formal graduations, I remind myself that I've faced far worse circumstances than this -- and I've come out the other side.
When I was 9 years old, my father died of a brain tumor, forcing my mother to assume dual parenting roles. She said being a single mother was not an easy task, but she did a terrific job of providing a life for my sister and me.
Less than 10 years later, in the fall of 2018, my family lost everything we owned in a house fire. Fortunately, we were not home when the fire started, so while we lost our material belongings, we still had each other. But we also had a secret weapon -- a loving and supportive community of relatives and friends who helped us start over.
From phone calls to financial support, nearly all of our relatives reached out to us to make sure that we had what we needed. Even some of my teachers stepped up, supplying clothes, toiletries, food and school supplies for my younger sister and me. A few weeks later, we found a new home and began the process of moving in and furnishing it.
Then tragedy struck again -- only a month after the fire, my mother suddenly passed away from diabetes. As devastating as it was, I remain proud of my mother for taking such good care of us up until her death. I always like to say that she cared more about my sister and me than she ever did about herself.
I decided to return to school immediately. Some teachers encouraged me to take a few days off, but I knew that my mother would want me to continue my education. Of course, it was a struggle, but once again my community of friends, family and counselors came to my aid -- and made sure I finished my high school education. They reminded me of important dates and deadlines, so I could complete my school work on time and not miss tests or assignments.
While I am disappointed I don't get to celebrate this milestone with the many people who helped me get to graduation day, I also know that I can handle this curve ball -- and any more that come my way. Why? Because I am fortunate enough to have a community of folks who are genuinely invested in my success, and, well, I can't let them down. Personal tragedies couldn't stop me; Covid-19 won't either.
Nile Francis is a recent graduate of South Cobb High School in Austell, Georgia.
Airreona Godfrey: I found strength in the unlikeliest of places
Imagine living in a household with 10 other people and one of them gets coronavirus. Within days, nearly everyone in that house is infected, each to varying degrees of severity. It's a frightening possibility, though in my case it also happened to become a reality.
A senior in high school, I was looking forward to celebrating all the milestones graduates do -- prom, senior week celebrations, and graduation itself. Then Covid-19 interrupted my life, taking a particularly tough toll on my family.
In mid-March, my stepfather became infected with the virus. In his 40s, he struggled with fever, chills, dry mouth and body aches for several weeks, before making a full recovery. In the meantime, my oldest brother tested positive, becoming quite ill himself. Shortly after that, two of my other brothers got sick, too. Days later, my younger siblings and I began to experience flu-like symptoms, as the virus took hold of our home.
While my younger siblings and I had milder cases, we struggled to care for our parents and older brothers. Still, I kept reminding myself -- it could be worse: one of them could die, and thankfully their cases weren't nearly that severe.