Commentary by: Thomas E. Edmund, Jr., Gateway Regional High School
Who would have thought that when we began this new decade, it would be one that none of us would ever forget. From being quarantined in our homes, to virtual learning, to not being sure if my classmates would see each other again, this has been a time that our country needs to come together more than ever.
At the end of January, I was matched with the opportunity to intern at the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey in Camden directly across from Cooper University Hospital through Gateway Regional High School’s Gateway2Careers program. The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home that families reside in while their children are undergoing medical procedures. I was interviewing families and some of the volunteers to get their perspectives as to what the Ronald McDonald House meant to them. I was asked by the director to create a blog that highlighted these interviews to be used on their website. This information would help other families that might be interested in staying there.
Gateway2Careers is a two-semester course that I, along with a select group of my fellow classmates, have the privileged ability to be a part of. This course matches students with a company or profession that they are interested in pursuing as a full-time career. Unfortunately due to the novel coronavirus that has ravaged our world since mid-to-late December 2019, my volunteer/internship work at the Ronald McDonald House had been suspended in early March. I received the dreaded news in a letter delivered by Gateway’s career counselor, Mrs. Melissa Eckstein, on one of the scheduled Thursdays that I was to travel to work in Camden.
After the disappointment of not being able to work at the Ronald McDonald House, I received a phone call from Mrs. Eckstein in which she informed me that I would be working as an intern at SNJToday.com. This article will be the first in a series where I will virtually interview fellow classmates about how this quarantine is affecting them. Since this is my senior year of high school, I could never have fathomed that a virus could have so much power in dictating how the last chapter of my high school academic career was supposed to end. Ever since freshman year, I have dreamed about all of the prime opportunities I would be given, in terms of extracurricular activities, class trips, and even career planning but to think back then that a quarantine would deprive me of these chances that my younger self had long been pondering is simply heartbreaking.
As a freshman, I joined Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a national organization dedicated to promoting family and consumer sciences. This year, I would have attended my final state leadership conference in Cherry Hill where my project on Interpersonal Communications could have made me eligible for Nationals in the nation’s capital for 2020. I have always been a committed member to my extracurriculars whether that be FCCLA, National Honor Society, The Chomp, our school newspaper, or even the clubs that I was only involved in for a short time. In the last few months of my senior year and looking forward, I do not care if I cannot attend prom or even the senior trip to Orlando, Florida, because after this pandemic has ceased, I can travel to Walt Disney World for my first time with my parents, but I just wish that my fellow seniors can make the most of what they have, as I do the same.
Going into the third week of this quarantine, I have realized now that instead of conflict, it is time for conflict resolution because this unexpected extended break from school is no vacation, but I can make the most of it because I may never get this extra time with my loved ones ever again.
Thomas E. Edmund, Jr., “TJ”, is a senior at Gateway Regional High School in Woodbury Heights, NJ. After graduation, he will be attending Rowan College of Southern New Jersey to begin his quest to become a journalist.
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