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RevolTeens: Quaranteens – Proving Just How Incredible Teens Are, by Christine Lively

Being quarantined has been a stressful, scary, and bizarre time for all Americans. As I am writing this, nearly 60,000 Americans have died from this terrifying and new disease. The numbers continue to climb and very little is known about the virus itself. School has been canceled for the rest of the year nearly everywhere, and it all seemed to have happened in an instant. The line between our lives before and our lives after seems bright and now long ago.

In my house, I am quarantined with two teenage sons. My sixteen year old son was at first elated not to have to go to school because he doesn’t enjoy it and feels overwhelmed by the demands of the work he has to do. He has now been struggling through as his school system has been scheduling and canceling synchronous classes every day or week for a month. Their online system has only started working this week and the platform for classes has changed several times making for a whole new form of stress and uncertainty. My 19 year old son has been devastated to lose all of the friends he had made in his freshman year of college. He’s also mourning the loss of freedom now that he has to live back at home where his parents are giving him chores and where he doesn’t have a choice for what he eats at most of his meals. He’s our extrovert in a family of introverts. It’s been terrible and frustrating for him. My daughter will be coming home this weekend and will stay a week at home where we will be celebrating on May 7th. That is the day she’s been working toward for five years when she was supposed to be having a party with friends and family to commemorate her graduation from graduate school and her twenty-third birthday which were to fall on the very same day.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you that this is no fun.

And yet, amid all of this bad news, teens – QuaranTeens (what our RevolTeens are called for now this – are showing the world how amazing they are even in the face of a pandemic.

Senior citizens have been hit especially hard by the quarantine rules. So many have become even more isolated and lonely as their visitors have been banned from entering their homes or living facilities. Teens have answered their needs in heartfelt and creative ways.

‘“We are Generation Z and we are here to help.” That’s the motto on a website created to help seniors receive items they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The site, ZoomerstoBoomers.com, was created by Daniel Goldberg, a junior at San Marcos High School in San Marcos, Calif. It has six outposts in the nation — one of which is in Greenwich.

Greenwich High School juniors Kate Rubich and Hayley Schmidt launched the local Zoomers to Boomers chapter several days ago. The service enlists high school volunteers to deliver groceries to individuals in the community who are elderly or immuno-compromised and are staying in their homes.’

According to Greenwich Time, Zoomers to Boomers has provided groceries and items to more than 300 people and as of Monday, has 40 high school volunteers nationwide. Besides Greenwich, the online service includes outposts in Santa Barbara, Calif., Denver, Miami, Honolulu and Salt Lake City.

Another group of teens has started delivering groceries to the elderly in Maryland. Here is their story from CNN 

‘Like many teenagers, 16-year-old Dhruv Pai and 15-year-old Matt Casertano have been out of school for weeks.

“We were both helping out our families, delivering groceries to our grandparents, and we thought ‘what about the people who do not have family in the area?'” Casertano told CNN.

“‘What if we started some organization to connect teens to the senior citizens and anyone who has a compromised immune system, where going outside is a substantial risk to them?'”

Dhruv and Matt are providing contactless grocery deliveries for elderly people in their communities. Their volunteers follow CDC guidelines and leave the groceries on people’s doorsteps to cut out contact, and they pick up the check or cash that their customers leave for them.  These amazing QuaranTeens already have 65 teen volunteers and more signing on every day proving that teens are eager to help and ready to reach out when given the opportunity. As the RevolTeens columns I write always emphasize, teens are underestimated and disregarded all too often. These two teens are no exception, and they know what most adults think of teens. They’ve decided to challenge that perception through their efforts.

“There is a negative portrayal of teens and I think our organization is reversing that stereotype, and people are seeing that teens can really benefit the community,” Pai told CNN. “I think there is still altruism in this generation, and we can spread that. Spreading kindness is a good message.”

The teens’ calls often go beyond just groceries.

“A lot of these seniors need someone to talk to and the opportunity to connect for a bit,” explained Pai. “It inspires me that we might be able to bridge the generational gap.”

Hailey Wilson from Montgomery County, Maryland has been working to help elderly people in her community to get connected and stay connected with their families and friends for a lot longer than the COVID-19 crisis has been around according to WJLA TV  The high school sophomore signed up for an entrepreneur class at her high school at the beginning of this school year and decided that her target market would be seniors. She launched The Ethel Project named for her beloved grandmother. She has been visiting a local assisted living and memory facility where she donated iPads and has taught the residents how to use Skype to stay connected with their families.

“They loved it! She made a lot of friends here when she was able to come in the building,” said Tom Clarke, the Executive Director at Spring Hills Mount Vernon.

Hailey also has a GoFundMe fundraiser page where she is working to raise $50,000 to expand The Ethel Project into more communities to help many more seniors to get more connected to their families and friends.

Teens are finding ways to help younger people as well. QuaranTunes was founded by sixteen year old Julia Segal after watching her ten year old sister getting frustrated with being cooped up on quarantine. Julia decided to teach her little sister some music lessons. A few weeks later as a favor for a family friend, Julia taught a group of 40 Elementary school kids. Seeing the kids enthusiasm for learning music and having something fun to do inspired Julia to ask her other musical friends if they’d like to help expand the lessons to more kids and so QuaranTunes was born. All money raised by QuaranTunes is donated to the CDC Foundation which is fighting the virus that is keeping all these kids at home. 

According to The Mercury News Stanford-bound Naama Bejerano, a 17 year-old senior at Gunn who plays the flute and has performed in Carnegie Hall, is the chief operating officer at QuaranTunes.

“Definitely the start of it was small scale and it’s sort of grown globally,” said Bejerano, noting that some students who take lessons hail from the East Coast, Europe and India. “It doesn’t matter where you are around the world, you can participate in this either as a teacher or the student just because it is a strictly online platform.”

Of course, there are technical challenges as well as musical ones, but these teens seem to have that covered as well:

‘Bejerano is focused on the website’s automation as traffic increases.

“I didn’t expect it to happen as quickly,” she said. “But from the start, I’ve been working on simple methods for us to be able to scale up very quickly.”

The fundraising effort for QuaranTunes already surpassed $1,000.

“I think that although we may not be the ones on the frontlines fighting the virus directly, we’re all playing a really important role in helping the world fight the pandemic through what it is that we do best,” Segal said. “Which is music.”

Teens have also found meaningful ways to support each other during quarantine. LGBTQ kids across the country have lost the accepting communities that they may have had at school and among friends and many are isolated in homes where they may not be accepted or able to live the way they want.The Insider reports.

‘”We know that when school provides that kind of support young queer people thrive,” Willingham-Jaggers told Insider. “Part of what is difficult about this COVID-19 moment is that what’s needed for public health is people being physically apart from one another.”

Both the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project predict separation from a queer “chosen family” at school could have a significant negative impact on the mental health of LGBTQ youth — as prolonged quarantines could also mean higher exposure to triggers like familial abuse from unsupportive guardians.

A recent report released by the Trevor Project — the world’s largest LGBTQ suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization — found queer youth might be at a higher risk for depression and suicide because of the negative impacts of physical distancing restrictions.

“What we experience is a rupture of a physical school community across our country, so that provides additional significant challenges for all marginalized kids,” Willingham-Jaggers said.’

Many Gay Straight Alliance groups created at schools are now able to meet via Zoom or other video conferencing platforms to connect and support each other.

From the Insider:

‘Online spaces like Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube are also popular places for young LGBTQ people to connect and build community. #Trans and #nonbinary Tik Tok is a booming place for teens to connect, talk about serious issues like gender dysphoria and unsupportive parents, and have a laugh.

Some queer teens and organizations are even using social media platforms and digital spaces like Zoom to organize rallies in support of LGBTQ rights across platforms.

On April 24, over 8,000 high school LGBTQ groups across the country, including Oliver’s and Darid’s, tuned into GLSEN’s 25th annual Day of Silence — a demonstration where high school students silently protest anti-LGBTQ bullying.‘

With students missing major celebratory milestone events, parents and others are struggling to find ways to help their QuaranTeens cope. There is so much to mourn from the loss of graduation to those last exams and sharing college acceptances. NPR reports some great advice from experts to help parents to support their teen and young adult kids.

Psychologist Lynn Bufka, spokesperson for the American Psychological Association offers a few strategies for parents. First, parents can acknowledge their teens feelings and not minimize what they’re experiencing. 

‘Parents should recognize that for many young people, “this is the biggest thing they’ve experienced in their lives,” she says. “They’re too young to remember 9/11. Collectively as a generation, this is a really big experience for them.”

When you’re young, understanding that life is just not as predictable as they might have thought can be scary, she says. Parents can help by letting them talk about it.’

Next, parents can encourage teens to stay connected with their friends and their families. Virtual meetups, phone calls, texts, social media, family dinners, and movie or game nights are all great ways for teens to maintain their social ties during this quarantine.

We can also help teens to focus on what they can control. This has definitely been a strategy that we’ve employed at our house. Though teens and young adults have lost many opportunities and events that they had anticipated for months and years, they can make decisions about what to do with their lives now and after the quarantine is over. Planning dinners, picking movies, making lists of everything they want to do with their friends to celebrate the end of quarantine are all great ways to shift their focus to what they have to look forward to rather than what they’ve lost.

Finally, Bufka suggests that we help teens to focus on the greater good which all the teens highlighted here have done. Staying at home and giving up so many of the things they love is painful, they are helping the world and so many people through their sacrifices. While they may feel like they are not able to do anything to help, doing nothing right now is an heroic act.

Bufka continues, ‘”We understand these sacrifices need to be made, and we know that we are doing our part in this, doing what we can for society,” she says.

In the end, Bufka says once young people get through this crisis, they will realize they can handle tough situations and get to the other side.

“It will make us stronger — sometimes we surprise ourselves.”

Teenagers definitely surprise us. The QuaranTeens are out in the world, confined to home and missing out on school. My teens are home finding ways to cope. They’re having good days and bad days and we are all making the best of things. The teens who are finding ways to help support each other, help seniors find groceries and say connected to families, teach kids music lessons online, and support others in the LGBTQ community are making the world better. They’re RevolTeens in extraordinary times, and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

About Christine Lively

Christine Lively a school librarian in Virginia. I read voraciously, exchange ideas with students, and am a perpetual student. I raise monarch butterflies, cook, clean infrequently and enjoy an extensive hippo collection. Christine blogs at https://hippodillycircus.com/ and you can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/XineLively

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