Sarahi, 17, is one of seven Girls Inc. teens who recently participated in peer conversations on the impact of COVID-19. Read the full teen exchange here. In 2019, Sarahi was selected to participate in the Girls Inc. National Teen Advocacy Council. She is one of 12 teens from across the country advising Girls Inc. National on issues important to teens. She was also the featured Teen Speaker at the 2019 Celebration Luncheon. She has attended Girls Inc. since the third grade.
How are you coping with the “new normal”?
It’s harder for my family. We live in a studio and have no privacy. I think we ‘re all coping in different ways. My mom is working more, which I understand but that is one of the disagreements I have had with her. I am glad she has a job, but she works too much so she is coping in a different way. My brother is coping in a different way than me. I need all doors and windows open to have sunlight and fresh air not to feel trapped. At the end of the day we make up and get along. We try our best. I am grateful for the opportunity to have a roof over my head, and have food and a bed and a shower. I am grateful for those things.
What are you learning about yourself during the pandemic?
I need to be consistent or I lose focus. When I was at school, I had a routine: wake up, go to school, socialize with friends, go to Girls Inc. I was never bored. I’ve learned I need to be doing something and I need to be able to entertain myself.
How has being quarantined affected how you relate to your family now?
The first two weeks it was good. It was just my brother and I at the house when my mom was at work. It was the first time we got along with each other for a while. With my mom, she works 6 AM-7PM and I don’t get to see her as much. We are really close but our relationship has been iffy. There hasn’t been much connection between us lately. But my relationship with my brother has grown.
What are you most optimistic about now?
I’m in the [Girls Inc. National] Teen Advocacy Council and we are doing a project making a video about girls and leadership and being a leader at any age. I’m excited about that. We’ve been working on that for a long time – it’s coming out in a couple of weeks.
How is Girls Inc. helping you stay connected?
Girls Inc. has given me a platform to communicate with my friends and for us high school-ers to have our own space listen to one another and have a conversation. I enjoy being able to hear the stories everyone has during the pandemic and how they are coping. I like seeing their faces and hearing their troubles and stresses. I joined a [Girls Inc.] call last week after an AP test when I was super stressed. [Teen Center Director] Brenda said I could join a Zoom call whenever I like. That gave me an opportunity to let go of the stress I had – that keeps me connected.
What do you wish adults better understood about your experience during the pandemic?
I want teachers to know that yes, we have so much time during the pandemic and we aren’t as busy as normally that doesn’t mean we have all the time to do assignments for six classes. We are stuck at home, and for those who have family problems and responsibilities at home they aren’t able to focus, and their mental health may not be as good as it was before. I want adults to understand that yes, while we are younger and may not be as experienced, but we have a lot of things going on, too.
What resources do you wish you or your family had access to?
For my family, we don’t have any room at home, so we don’t have any privacy – all of us are in one big room so we constantly see each other without any doors and without any walls. It’s nice at times, but it gets a little frustrating and overwhelming. I want people who feel overwhelmed to be able to go to a (Girls Inc.) Zoom call and express themselves and say something to someone so they don’t bottle up their stress.
We are stuck at home, and for those who have family problems and responsibilities at home they aren’t able to focus, and their mental health may not be as good as it was before. I want adults to understand that yes, while we are younger and may not be as experienced, but we have a lot of things going on, too.