Meet Student Voice, Viren

In this period of unprecedented events, I know millions of kids who are ready to share their voices. Join me in listening and giving them a platform to speak.

We must heal from all that has occurred in 2020 and for that, we must first unite and rise up together as a society. Being today’s youth, we will surface, we will overcome, and we will create change.” — Student Voice, Viren

As a mom of four, and the leader of a philanthropy whose mission is to create healthier school communities in partnership with our nation’s schools and our nation’s youth, I feel more strongly than ever that “the youth voice” is not being heard. Whether it be the unrest in our nation around race and inequality, the fear of living in a COVID-19 world, or the consequences of food insecurity, job losses or other vital topics of importance to them, young voices need to be heard.

At GENYOUth, we can’t do what we do without the student voice. We are privileged to support 38 million kids daily in 73,000 of our nation’s schools because our programs are created for and with KIDS. It’s their voice that curates, defines, and elevates the work we do. Our society will only grow stronger if we uplift, empower, and amplify the voices of this next generation. For the foreseeable future, I will turn over this platform on Medium to them, in addition to my Twitter and Instagram feeds. These students have asked one thing from all of us: LET US SPEAK! We should be honored to do so. I am now pleased to share Viren’s voice with you:

I vividly remember that Thursday afternoon on March 12th. After spending an exhausting day at school, I returned home and proceeded to carry out my normal activities such as grabbing a snack and going to my room. I had been excited to meet up with some friends over the long weekend, yet I was worried about the growing concerns of the Coronavirus within my community.

As I attempted to process all the information and concern regarding the virus, my mind became fatigued and I decided to take a quick nap to help clear my head. When I woke up, my phone was flooded with notifications. The topmost headline read “1st Case of COVID-19 reported in town.” I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and hoped that the headline read otherwise. By the time I got up and freshened up a bit, my school district announced that there would be an immediate closure of all township schools for an indefinite amount of time. My mind attempted to relieve me by trying to convince me that this was all a nightmare that would end soon. Yet the truth was that this was the beginning of a new reality that would change the world.

Today, we have recognized this situation to be a pandemic and have accepted living in a world where everyone is caged in their own homes as medical professionals attempt to fight this invisible enemy. In a blink of an eye, businesses have sunken, airplanes have been grounded, shopping malls have been shut down, schools have shifted to virtual learning, and corporate offices have now become home offices. We have taken the first step to discover and adjust to this “new normal.”

This unexpected halt in our lives has come with some big changes and challenges for us to tackle. Students, especially seniors, believe that they have been robbed of their school year and have missed out on memorable events like prom and graduation. Furthermore, while some adults continue working from home, others have been left furloughed or unemployed. The financial instability in many families has increased. Overall, these unprecedented times have left us all devastated either emotionally, mentally, or financially, and a great sense of worry for the unpredictable future is still prevalent.

COVID-19 has also had a significant impact on teenagers. Personally, the sudden transition from a normal day-to-day routine, to a complete at-home lifestyle, was initially odd. At school, we went from traveling through different buildings to get to class to now switching through tabs on a computer, to attending class via video call — all so effortlessly from our bare fingertips. Seeing my friends, classmates, and teachers through a thirteen-inch screen was truly unusual. Realizing that this was what the rest of my school year was going to look like was downright disappointing.

If there is any way we have benefitted from this situation, I think it is by the gift of time we’ve all been given. The time to reflect, recover, and arise from the battle the world continues to fight. During our busy lives, it’s hard to find time to take a step back sometimes; to absorb reality, seize the moment, and truly live life for what it is. An opportunity.

This gift of time has given me the opportunity to listen. Listening to stories of how this pandemic has impacted friends and family has given me a feeling of gratitude, and I feel blessed to have a roof over my head at such times.

As we, teenagers, continue to adapt to this new lifestyle, we have realized how important our voices are. Participating in GENYOUth’s Fourth Youth Insights Survey, Life Disrupted: The Impact of COVID-19 on Teens, was an eye-opening experience. It helped me identify some of the things I was struggling with during this pandemic, and further solidified for me ways to overcome these great changes.

As the world continues to fight COVID-19 and now, a battle against social injustice in our nation, I have realized that today’s youth voices matter now more than ever. We must heal from all that has occurred in 2020 and for that, we must first unite and rise up together as a society. Being today’s youth, we will surface, we will overcome, and we will create change.

Viren is a rising senior in high school from New Jersey, who enjoys filmmaking and sharing stories, to bring value into other people’s lives. With his great passion for creating content, he aspires to build a career in the digital media industry. In his free time, Viren enjoys traveling, working out, public speaking and promoting self-growth. He is committed to helping others and creating change in his community, while encouraging today’s youth to use their voices.