by Jay Abdella

With summer in full swing, many people have watched their summer plans dry up. For some, summer camp was their work destination. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many camps were forced to close because of state, federal, and local regulations. My summer camp, which is a day camp in my old hometown, was one of few camps in the area that was able to stay open. Over the last few weeks, it was a whirlwind of running around, improvisation, and a sense of uncertainty regarding what “camp” will look like. To say the least, camp under COVID-19 is a different experience than what it was before.


(A campfire represents the calming moments of camp. Due to COVID-19, many sleepaway camps were canceled for the summer due to concerns of the virus. Source: Photopin)

Imagine this: a camp experience where campers can’t make contact with counselors or their friends. In addition, you are not allowed to go swimming, to the beach, or on field trips which make camp what it should be. That is the cornerstone of how camp was being operated this year, with the number one goal of keeping campers and staff safe. For counselors, this meant being temperature checked, ensuring that kids were being socially distanced from one another, and jumping into an environment many of us have never experienced before.

For the first week of camp, I got assigned to five kids and my co-counselor got assigned to five different kids. This was what became our group for the week. Our group could not interact with any other groups or any other counselors in the camp. This meant no camp-wide activities, no collaborating with other groups for games, no sharing of materials, and being on our own for games and activities. Even discipline was placed in a grey area. We couldn’t send a misbehaving child to the director’s office as we could in past summers because the head of the camp was not allowed to interact with other campers. While this may seem daunting for many counselors, the small-group style of camp has shown itself to be a good blueprint for creating crucial relationships with campers. 

I was placed with 9 and 10-year-old campers. While I spent the previous summer with 10-year-olds, this would be an entirely new type of experience with working with them. To be completely transparent, I was worried about how to keep them entertained all day long with only myself and my co-counselor. Any fears were assuaged after the first few hours. It turns out that my campers were some of the most go-with-the-flow kids I have ever seen. So far, we have spent hours chilling in a circle talking about regular life, jamming out to tunes while playing four-square, and being run ragged by being outside in blistering heat for eight hours a day. 


(Despite summer camp being changed through many different regulations, so far, the magic and thrill of seeing campers happy are worth all of the work that was put into making camp happen. Source: Creative Commons, J_villegas)

Despite being required to wear masks almost 100% of the time at camp and being forced to separate from other campers, being a camp counselor during COVID-19 still has the same shine it did when I first started working at this camp. Hopefully, for the next five weeks, we are able to navigate through this tense and tumultuous time of figuring out the next steps on how to keep campers entertained and safe at the same time. The camp is starting to feel like old times despite being in a whole new world.



by Jay Abdella

With the closure of lots of schools across the country, many high school seniors are seeing their senior spring dry up right in front of them. For many seniors, realizing that after eleven and a half years the inability to celebrate the last semester of high school is devastating. In my hometown of Wayland, Massachusetts, Kate MacDonald, a mother of a Wayland High School senior, found a way for seniors to celebrate safely. After seeing her daughter devastated over the loss of her semester, MacDonald jumped into action.

“The realization that there will be no senior parties leading up to graduation, and no graduation at least in person or in November, that was a different impact than [losing] senior week,” said MacDonald. “Senior week was like it happens, but not going back to school and we aren’t graduating. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but it was devastating. She went from managing the situation to being very very depressed. That was the moment when I thought we had to do something.”

MacDonald’s daughter wasn’t alone; her entire grade felt the same way. The Wayland mother saw how “my daughter and her reaction and watching and knowing her friends, both male, and female, and knowing how impacted they were by this decision, I felt that the senior class as a whole was just so melancholy and so in the dumps, much more so than the first month of the quarantine.” 

MacDonald found support from parents of the community and originally planned for the celebration to be for her daughter and her friends, but she then decided to expand the event to the entire senior class. She then ran into a problem: what is the best way for seniors to be celebrated without breaking social distancing rules? Her first idea was a parade, but she found that there would be too many logistical issues regarding organizing a parade for 200 seniors.

“The issue here is that there are so many logistics that come with organizing a starting parade spot or making sure the kids don’t get out of their cars, it’s potentially 200 kids,” said MacDonald. “What I thought was that instead of doing a parade and organizing that, ‘what if a parade naturally happened where the seniors could be celebrated? We can have them in front of their own homes and next to their family members only and in safe spots and people can drive by within a set timeframe and wave, cheer, yell, and scream, whatever they want to do to celebrate, and that’s really how [the parade] came about.” 

image1(High school seniors drive with their families as they celebrate completing high school)

With the help of the senior class adviser, MacDonald was able to reach out to all of the parents of Wayland students as well as students who attended Wayland High School and lived in Boston. She came up with a plan to celebrate all of the students over the course of several weeks. The idea was that parents could opt-in their children to be celebrated, or just have their kids celebrate others if they were too shy to want to be celebrated. Every week, a convoy of decorated cars would drive through town to celebrate a portion of the grade who would stand outside of their house to take in the cheering crowd. Eventually, the community jumped into the affair.

“The first parade was fantastic. The community jumped in and we see families with little kids lining the streets and they are all waving and cheering. It’s great.”


(Caitlin Newton, a student at Wayland High School stands and smiles on her driveway as the parade of high school seniors drives by)

The planning that MacDonald put into for the senior parade paid off for her and for the senior class. Even though her daughter was hesitant to be celebrated, MacDonald pushed her to stand outside and bask in the cheering. The end result was happiness instead of sadness.

“She’s a social person, but she doesn’t want to be the focus of attention. Her first reaction was, “I’ll drive around and celebrate others, but no way will I be celebrated,” MacDonald said. “Being the mom that I am, I said, “No, you are.” She was part of the first celebration and she smiled through the whole thing; I got a video of her ear-to-ear smiling and cheering.” MacDonald continued, “Afterwards, I remember coming inside and she said, “I needed that,” and that made it for me.’” 

MacDonald found her idea impacted many members of the senior class. She found that many of the seniors who participated were sending her messages, thanking her for what she did to raise their spirits during a trying time. 

“The number of seniors that have reached out to say thank you and tell me their thoughts and how it changed their spirits after finding out school was not going back into session,” said MacDonald. “The fact that these seniors would take the time to reach out shows their humility. It shows that my idea has an impact that I am thrilled about, one that I could not imagine creating.”

COVID-19 has had disastrous impacts on college students’ mental health. Students now must figure out the next five months of their lives as colleges have forced people to return home or stay in one place. For many people, just being isolated can exacerbate anxiety and depression. For myself, I handle my anxiety by talking to and helping other people with their own mental health struggles. One of my favorite things to do to help people is, simply, to hug them. Whenever I hug someone, I imagine hugging out the negativity and self-doubt of my friends and absorbing those emotions into myself. Like kidneys filtering out blood, I like to think I can filter out my friend’s negative emotions without weighing myself down. Sadly, with COVID-19 forcing everyone to isolate, hugs are impossible. Now, whenever I see a post from a friend who is having a bad day, my heart aches for them as I want to hug the sadness out of them. All I can do is message them and let them know I am here for them. Texting them, unfortunately, only does so much. Words help, but the act of hugging goes so much further, especially when it takes days for people to answer. Without being with my friends in person, I feel powerless to help my friends, and through that my anxiety is slowly edging back to my periphery. While I feel this, I have found a new way to help other people through text.

One thing that I found to be helpful during this time is to reach out to those who are younger than us. I have reached out to people I know who are still in high school who are probably just as terrified of their future as we are. High school seniors who have worked for three and a half years and have made it to the fabled Senior Spring, only to have it ripped away from them two and a half months before they would be finished. At my high school, the seniors would perform a show during senior spring, all run and produced by the students themselves. As of now, the show is postponed until late May, but at this point, it is a major possibility that students will not go back to school this year. The implications of that are massive. No walking across the stage at graduation, no saying goodbye to your teachers, no smoking cigars with friends after graduating, nothing. To come all this way and not being able to be rewarded for your success is nothing short of heartbreaking. While we are mourning the loss of our spring semesters and time that we could be spending with our friends, seniors have lost their final hurrah of high school (I’m not forgetting college seniors either, you guys deserve everything too), and they need someone who will comfort them in their time of need.

-My friend and I during a highlight of senior spring: The Senior Cruise

By being a figure in these people’s lives, either older or younger, it provides meaning in our lives despite us not being there in person. For myself, in addition to staying in touch with my college friends, I had a long talk with a camp co-worker until five in the morning. While I did not interact with her as much in high school or at camp, it felt good to be able to talk and be hopeful towards the future. While COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of how friends can help friends, you can always get in touch with those who are younger than you. If you do, you might find yourself making a difference in their lives!