'An opportunity to discover': Buffalo Grove grad shares lessons learned from high school in a pandemic
Editor's note: Benjamin Shlau graduated from Buffalo Grove High School with Highest Honors. The 17-year-old Buffalo Grove resident plans to attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to major in Media and Cinema Studies. He wants to pursue a career in video production.
Entering the halls at the start of senior year was a surreal experience. This was the first time since sophomore year that I was surrounded by hundreds of people, which gave me anxiety about the possibility of getting sick. Could all these mitigation efforts be effective enough? Could infection numbers stay low enough to keep us in-person?
Worries like these started to fade as the year went on. Some students would disappear for a week and then return. Other times teachers would do the same. Despite the uncertainty, we managed to stay in school.
Activities from previous years started to return, like dances, parties and events. Friendships that were strengthened during the pandemic became especially meaningful now that we could be near each other again.
On top of this, reverting back to some normalcy allowed me to find my passions as well. I started to rediscover my love for movies and video production. It gave me more opportunities to connect with my classmates. Altogether, my rekindled passions pushed me to join a media class, which truly helped me decide on what I would dedicate the next major part of my life on.
When taking a step back and seeing how we got here, it's clear that the almost two years we were in virtual learning was transformational. Being mostly online presented a challenge for many: how does a high schooler navigate school and friends in a pandemic? Zoom didn't create the same social environment that a real classroom had, so we struggled to interact with each other.
This new environment brought its challenges and downfalls, but I was able to transform it into an opportunity to discover myself. I took the time to try new things and take risks I wouldn't have taken otherwise, like when I started my own club. I had to conduct meetings virtually and reach out to people I usually don't talk to. As a result, I have more close friends and I've proven to myself that risks do in fact pay off.
Having these great friends was essential to getting through isolation. Through that support system, we could talk through whatever troubles came our way. On the other hand, we'd play video games together or send meaningless funny posts -- which was critical to killing time.
In the end, seeing how I've grown and the friendships that I made were truly the highlights of my years in high school.
As I end this four-year chapter of my life, I recognize how big of an accomplishment all of it is. I was able to find new strengths within myself and also get closer to the people I enjoy spending time with.
As I embark on the next big chapter of my life, I now know to anticipate change. Instead of being scared of it, I welcomed it to see how it can better me.