Student Voices: Living and Learning in a Virtual World

Editor’s Note: We are proud to present a new column, Student Voices. If you would like to share your school’s news or celebrations submit your ideas to Shaina Walsh at

When the snow settled on March 13, students and families alike thought we would be returning to our everyday lives just three weeks later.  Now, looking back from the start of September with six long months of quarantine underneath our belts, we’ve had the opportunity to reflect and grow with the situations that have been inflicted upon us. My name is Shaina Walsh, and I am a Senior at North High School. I have the privilege of leading the Denver North Star’s new Student Voices column and look forward to sharing students’ and teachers’ news from around North Denver.

First of all, I’d like to express my condolences for all those families who lost loved ones or suffered serious illness during this time. There is nothing worse than the loss of those we love. Adding to the turbulent times of COVID-19, the political, racial injustice and economic chaos that surrounds us makes it feel like the world is in shambles. Furthermore, we’ve all seen that this quarantine is a learning curve for all generations. A formidable struggle has been switching all of our daily routines to an online world filled with technology issues, Zoom calls, and the yearning for social interaction. From the parents now forced to work from home to the children and budding young adults wandering through the web – quarantine has been an extreme adjustment. 

After the spring semester of scrambled together learning and mostly self-paced work, this fall semester has been a relief and a disappointment. My whole school career, I, like most seniors, have been looking forward to the perks that come with this title; things like senior sunrise, homecoming, prom, ditch day, and graduation. Yet, this seems a million miles away when days are mostly spent watching a screen, daydreaming of what could have been. The thoughts of going back and sharing events like homecoming parades, sports, plays, and even the not-so-fun things like taking the SAT, pop into our heads in the small intervals between seconds. We all got thrown for a loop when the pandemic started. None of us were prepared when special school events got canceled. It felt like months of work floated down the drain. But, with all of that said, life shouldn’t be about worrying about what could have been. Instead it is more about appreciating the little things that people have done to show kindness and compassion. Before COVID who would have thought of drive-by birthday parties, a drive-through Senior Graduation at the Pepsi Center, student led Black Lives Matter protest marches or drive-up meals for families? In some ways, this crisis has made us better people.

In terms of online school, virtual classes have paved the way for new avenues of teaching, as well as challenges on both sides of the screen. Teachers work to keep energy and hope up amongst the blank screens and eerie silences. Simultaneously, students have been learning to juggle multiple class loads and find new ways to learn through a more depersonalized system. 

In spite of these challenges, North has been doing a great job creating targeted lessons that still make students feel like they are a part of a community. 

We are working on virtual events that bring us the small joys that we were once so excited to experience. Meg Gilman, our Drama teacher, has kicked off an online collaboration project called “COVID-19: Through the Distorted Looking Glass.” Gilman said, “Our goal is to create pieces of visual and performing arts that respond to and document the turbulent life of 2020.” 

As a student, I know we hope to return to normal as soon as possible. After speaking with faculty at North and tireless parents, I can safely say that this wish is universal. I asked Principal Wolf what his hopes are. He said, “Ideally I would like this school year to not just be something that we survive, but we truly thrive and use this year to provide a great foundation for future school years. We want to strike the right balance of structured synchronous learning and self-paced asynchronous learning. Ultimately, we will continue to row together as Vikings where we are strongest when we work as a community.” 

While our generation has become accustomed to social interaction online, we miss the days of seeing friends in the halls and the warm smiles of our teachers and peers. I hope that one day I will walk across a stage and look back at all our community has accomplished and say, “we did it,” because we wouldn’t have achieved this much without all the members of our Northside family.



  1. This was an outstanding article Shaina. You captured the very mixed feelings of my family. Bravo! Signed, proud Mom of Viking Sophomores

  2. Shaina what a wonderful article and tribute and Gilman. I have loved having you in class so far and you are definitely one of the kids that makes this online teaching a less less difficult, sad and lonely.. Truly thank you for being an outstanding student!

  3. Congratulations! Shaina on this informative article. You have always been an Amazing student and Beautiful human being. I look forward to your column as the brave North High Viking’s journey through this challenging year.

  4. I’m so appreciative of how you’ve captured our unique and crazy circumstances. Please keep the articles coming as I’m addicted to your insight and style of writing. So proud!

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