In new book, NJ high school seniors give inside look at COVID-19 impact
Imagine a global pandemic landing in the middle of your senior year of high school.
Worse still, imagine the disease responsible for the public health crisis taking the life of your coach. Or the tediousness of quarantine causing a family member to slide back into addiction.
That's a small sample of the pandemic stories experienced and told by Cliffside Park High School seniors (now graduates) in a book they wrote, edited and helped publish, and that's now for sale online.
The Class of Covid19: Insights from the Inside features 43 chapters, from as many students, that give readers a look at the loss — beyond prom and a true graduation — experienced by teenagers during an extraordinary emergency.
Shawn Adler, teacher of English composition at the high school, came up with the idea for a collection of memoirs after hearing his students talk about their pandemic-impacted lives during virtual learning sessions.
"I really thought this was profound, and I had the experience of really believing that their voices and their stories should be heard by everyone," Adler told New Jersey 101.5. "This book would be a proud addition to any publisher's shelf."
Adler said he found the senior class to be "amazingly mature" dealing with loss. Early on in the pandemic, the school's varsity baseball coach Ben Luderer lost his life due to COVID-19 complications at age 30.
Some chapters of the book focus on the less grim realities of the health crisis. Carlos Moreno, for example, chose to talk about his aunt's gender reveal party that almost didn't happen due to gathering restrictions. To make it work, the family decided to meet in a parking lot on Easter Sunday and celebrate the reveal in a socially-distanced fashion.
"The simple things, family gatherings — you take those for granted until you can't have them anymore," Moreno said.
An entry by Natalie Garay, who will be a freshman at Montclair State University next month, makes up the last chapter of the book. In it, she reminds readers that these odd times happen to make up just one chapter of our lives. Not all loss has to be final, she notes.
"I ended up just writing about how things happen, and you can't always expect things to happen and work out the way you want," Garay said. "But you've got to move on and be okay with what life has thrown at you, and grow from that."
All profits from sales of the book will go back to the students.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.