After three years of chaos, six American teenagers are telling us how different school could be education in the USA

Ttrying to learn AP physics through Zoom. Canceled standardized tests. End of Ds and Fs. Masked balls without slow dancing. While Covid has undeniably changed the world for everyone, one place that was truly overturned was high school.

What began as a short break from personal teaching has now affected three different school years. Some of the changes were difficult: hybrid schedules, masking of eight-hour days, suspended extracurricular programs. But drastic changes also raised the question: what else could be possible? Could school be more fun, more inclusive, different?

Six seniors from across the United States offer their best ideas on how high school could be better.

Cory Michalec, 17, Tallmadge High School, Tallmadge, Ohio.

I have cerebral palsy and I am in a wheelchair. Awareness of special needs grew in my school. However, some things are still not accessible. I get to every classroom on campus, but in some I only have access to the right front corner. There are tables at lunch that will fit in my chair, but only some, and if my friends don’t have one, I can’t join them. Honestly, it’s a little unsettling. I have an open nature and I like talking to people. But I usually have lunch alone.

It is really important for schools to be inclusive, because they can open up a whole new world for wheelchair students. At my school, we have a wheelchair basketball team, and when our team plays a home game, we can fill one side of the stands. After we finished second at the state championships, the mayor closed the roundabout in Tallmadge and provided us with a police and fire brigade on the way back. We felt happy, exceptional and part of the community. People recognized our achievements!

I am also the manager of the football team. I go out, shake hands with the other players and hang out in the locker room. Being part of a team was really helpful for making friends. Everyone knows me. We joke that I could be the next mayor of Tallmadge.

High schools must make sure that a student with special needs is part of a committee preparing to return home and graduate. This year I will be able to go to graduation because my school moved it to a football stadium with a ramp that the old place did not have. My goal is to walk over it with a walker, not a chair. Most of my classmates and teachers have only seen me in a chair, so when they start walking, their minds will be impoverished.

Eric Thompson, 17, Waldorf, Maryland.

I don’t think high schools should put as much pressure on colleges as they do. The path to college is not always the right one. Many people do not have the money to pay for school and will not be able to afford the debt. But the program I’m in is free. I believe it will help me with my future.

In my first and second year, I went to regular school. I thought it would be like high school, but I was woken up by an indecent awakening. My grades were not the best and I had no relationship with the teachers. I was ashamed to ask questions. One day my mom received an email about career and technical education programs. I did my research and signed up for the program. I love school now. I’m really good at practical things – I work with tools and I know how things work. I want to be great in my craft. I stand behind it.

Now I have learned how to solder copper pipes. I have experience in the supply of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). I’ve been there for about a month and a half and I have to learn all the parts so I can help customers.

I’m well on my way to graduation in the spring and I want to join the union – Steamfitters 602. I will work and go to school at night, two nights a week, 15 Saturdays a year. You go to college, take four years and then graduate, but you still have to find a job. I’ll get a job with this program like this. Right after high school, I’ll have a good chance of supporting my family.

In the end, I want to start my own business. But right now he’s teaching me how to do the job. There are 15 people in my class and I feel like family.

Annie Weeden, 18, Rio Americano High School, Sacramento, California.

Schools should really consider starting later and offer more flexible schedules. Students will have more downtime and will concentrate more when they reach campus.

I’m an extrovert and I don’t like doing online school. But I’m also self-motivated and I was able to create my own schedule so I could do things I enjoyed during the school day – like yoga. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in that time. The start of school at 8:05 was rough this year as well. I get up at 5:30, but I have a lot of work to do, so it limited what I could do an hour ago. A lot of my friends sleep until the last minute and get out of bed and come to school without brushing their hair. An extra half hour would make the adjustment easier. It also seemed strange to me to go back to school and ask for the toilet to be used. My friends felt it too.

I work in an extracurricular program. During the quarantine, many children worked during the day and worked at school late at night. One of my friends works at Starbucks. His school gives him time off in the first part of the day and works from 4:30 to 7:30 and then goes to school

Melissa Morales, 17, Mission High School, Oakland, California.

I am the child of a single mother who is an immigrant. My mom only got a high school education, and when she came to the United States, she got a job cleaning houses so I could live a better life. I always thought that higher education was not an option for me. But thanks to school programs, I realized that it was possible.

Right now, I’m one of 10 students who share their contributions and experiences within the public school system to help create an intensive, one-year program for students of various high schools in San Francisco who want to get into a career focused on Stem, called Mission Bay. Hub. We hope it will offer the tools and equipment that real scientists use. I told them that it was really important to have a large open space, because many of our classrooms are cramped. When volunteers come to the center, they should be a diverse and representative group – like us.

Frankly, being part of the program is a wonderful feeling – I feel like I’m doing something positive for my younger siblings and cousins ​​in this system. I feel like I’m making a difference in our education.

Schools should allow students to meet with the principal and board members instead of one-minute opportunities once a month.

Rylie Spaulding, 17, Wagoner High School, Wagoner, Oklahoma.

Last year, I started community college courses during high school. Next spring, I will finish community college three weeks before graduating from high school with 62 hours of university credit.

The state of Oklahoma covers a large portion of tuition fees for concurrently enrolled students. And Creek Nation, of which I am a member, covered most of the rest. My mom estimates that my parents paid for a few books – that’s all.

Everyone should have the opportunity to study in the same way as me. It helps students to get acquainted with the university application process, how to navigate the various departments of the university and the difference between high school and university classes. In high school, you are with the same group of children and the teacher is pushing you to do your job. In college, it’s all up to you. I have an edge over my future. I should graduate in two and a half years – and save my parents about $ 50,000.

It prepares students for college and is a huge booster. I look at it and I say to myself, “I he did it.”

Jenna Fuehrer, 17, McCool Junction High School, York, Nebraska.

A lot of kids my age can’t even sew a button.

If I went to change high school, I would ensure that students learn the basic life skills you need outside of school. Personally, I don’t know anything about cars. When I was in school, something happened to my tire and my friend and I had to call another friend to show us how to change it. So I would do the first quarter of the class in the automotive industry – how to check the oil and coolant, change the tire – such things.

In the second quarter, you could teach students to cook from scratch. It’s cheaper than fast food, plus healthier. And I would know. One of my three jobs is working at McDonald’s as a shift manager. I’ve been a member of the Future Farmers of America youth organization, which prepares students for careers in agriculture, since I was a freshman, and it has had a huge impact on my life. Now I know different breeds of pigs and cattle and what they are for.

The third quarter will focus on sewing. I learned to sew only recently, when I made veils with my grandmother during the pandemic. I don’t want to pay a fee every time I want to fix something.

The fourth quarter would be more about financial literacy and setting up a savings account. In the first year, the teacher taught us how to write a check. But I’m going to graduate here, and that’s as far as I got.

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