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From job loss, to balancing work from home to the isolation of following stay-at-home orders, coronavirus has changed our everyday lives. WUSF is giving you a voice to share those experiences.

The Pandemic Year: High School Grad Navigates College Without A Campus

Courtesy Of Elijah Seay
Elijah Seay graduated from Lennard High School in Ruskin in 2020 before going to the University of South Florida.

This week, we're featuring everyday Floridians speaking in their own words about how their lives were affected by COVID. Today, we hear from a high school grad who started at USF over the past year.

Around this time last year, COVID-19 began forcing the nation to shut down. Just about everyone's life was disrupted.

This week, we're featuring everyday Floridians, speaking in their own words about how their lives were affected by the pandemic. Today we hear from Elijah Seay, who graduated from Lennard High School in Ruskin in May and started at the University of South Florida over the summer.

The end of the school year really began for me March 15, 2020 was when we went on spring break vacation my senior year. And they told us that we weren't going to be coming back because of the pandemic.

We had no graduation. And that was also a stressful situation because they kept pushing it back. So they ended up putting together a PowerPoint that they put on the county website. And that was our graduation.

Besides the people that I am really close with, that I communicate with on a regular basis, I never had an opportunity to say goodbye to my friends, and that hurt a lot. And it's making me emotional thinking about it now, because I'm a very sentimental person. And I'm very, I'm sensitive, as well.

So I did work. I started at Publix in March because I was working at the movie theaters and I got laid off because they shut down due to the pandemic. So I was working at Publix. And I started my first semester at the University of South Florida that summer as well, I took two classes. I just wanted to get started. I really didn't want to have a break, especially since it felt like I had like four months’ worth of a break. So I really was eager to get back into school, even though I wouldn't be able to go on campus, I was still looking forward to starting my journey in college.

I was planning on doing the traditional college: going to class every day on campus, being in the lecture halls, staying in the dorms. So when the pandemic hit, I decided that I would just stay at home, do all my classes virtually. Because I'm at risk myself, I have asthma. And I live with people in my house who are at risk, too. It was kind of painful, because I knew that I was missing out on something that every kid who wants to go to college dreams of. It was it was a struggle. And it took some time to get over. But again, time, healed that a little bit.

But I know when I'm old enough and I have children, I won't be able to tell them about those things that you know people from other generations would be able to tell them about. I can't tell them about my high school graduation. I can't tell them about prom. I can't tell them about Grad Bash, can't tell them about living in a dorm for my first year in college.

And I also have the thought that things may never exactly be how they were before. And for me again, I'm an affectionate person. So I love giving hugs and kisses and all this stuff. So I'm in fear that I may never be able to hug, you know, certain people again. Not being able to socialize, like I would like to because I'm an extrovert.

There was a point in time, towards the end of the summer, where I had a big problem with not being able to socialize and the extrovert in me was suffering. And I even started to struggle a little bit from the anxiety and a minor bout of depression. That was difficult. But I got over that.

I've always had an understanding of what I wanted to do. And once I make my decision about something, it's unmoving. So there's nothing that this pandemic could do that could change my mind or thwart my goals. I might even say that this pandemic has even made me want to fight even harder for my goals. Because again, I want to provide counseling for people who suffer from anxiety, depression and trauma. And I'm sure everyone who has survived through this pandemic has been through some bout of depression, or a bout of anxiety or has experienced some form of trauma. So I know that there's definitely going to be a need for my help in my work.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.