A Day in the Life collage of photos of students in the distance learning programTsion Teferi is a 2020 graduate of Potomac High School. Her year began with the traditional festivities: football games, homecoming, and thoughts of enjoying her last year of high school with friends before embarking on the next milestones in life. But when the COVID-19 virus emerged, Teferi felt blindsided as the senior year she envisioned quickly changed.

"I was truly devastated," she said. "It hurt knowing that my senior year was taken from me in a matter of seconds."

At Osbourn Park High School, junior Rachael Tang was completing an art project for her Advanced Placement (AP) 2D Studio Art class when it was announced that school would close for the remainder of the year.

"At the very beginning of the school closure, my focus was mainly on completing the third-quarter grades, and then I turned my focus on my AP tests, which consisted of AP 2D Studio Art, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and AP Language and Composition," Tang said.

Both students adapted quickly to their new at-home learning environment and developed strategies for success.

Routine was at the heart of Tang's strategy. She started her virtual school day by checking her school email for assignments and updates from her teachers. Once determining the tasks for the day, she would migrate to a different section of her home depending on what course assignments she would tackle first.

"I started to create specific spots around my house where I could study for each of my AP classes," she said. "This way it helped me to organize my thoughts and focus solely on each subject in a quiet and non-distracting environment," she added.

Taking breaks was also an important part of Tang's daily routine as well as taking time for eating well, getting adequate amounts of sleep, and connecting with friends via text or video calls.

"I always made sure that my brain was in the best head space to work. Sometimes that meant that if I was working on chemistry or biology, I would switch to working on my art projects. I would even switch to something totally different, such as playing the guitar, calling my friends, chatting with family members, going for a walk when it was nice outside, or anything to keep myself alert."

For Teferi, the time at home provided an opportunity to not only fulfill her learning requirements, but to fulfill some personal goals she had been putting aside.

"I started working out, cooking, and painting," she said. "One hobby I latched on to is running. I run for miles and time myself as if I'm on a track team."

While trying to stay positive about her time at home, Teferi acknowledges she has faced adversity. "The most intense experience I had during COVID-19 was losing my job," she shared. "Not being able to make an income and save money for college has been very stressful."

Teferi understands the great challenges that the coronavirus has created, but also views the response to those challenges as valuable.

"It has forced people to attempt doing things on their own which I feel people need. People now are doing school online, cooking at home, taking daily exercises outside, and even trying to be their own hairstylist. This virus has caused people to be more independent."

Now that her senior year has come to a close, Teferi reflects on what she has learned from this unprecedented experience.

"During tough moments in life, look at the bright side of things, be patient, hopeful, and have perseverance. You must be strong during the process, but it will finally lead you to success."

And while the outcome of Teferi's time at home is insight and perspective, for Tang, it's a portfolio of inspired art.

"Even though our course abruptly changed over to digital communication, Rachael never compromised her artistic integrity or the quality of her portfolio," said Jennifer Marshall-Greeson, art teacher and chair of the Visual Arts Department at Osbourn Park High. "She wanted every piece to be completed to the best of her ability," she added.

Passionate about her artwork, Tang was able to express the current pandemic visually through her final two pieces for 2D Studio Art that would be submitted as a part of her AP Exam.

"My ninth piece was centered around the current circumstances with coronavirus and the gratitude for healthcare workers and their sacrifices. I wanted to show that even in isolation there is still unity. My 10th piece was an up-close picture of a blue poppy in a field of red poppies. I also have British heritage and so red poppies symbolize sacrifice, service, and loss in war. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the British National Health system chose blue poppies as their flower to represent the health worker's sacrifice and service. Thinking about all of this, I thought it was a good way to visually represent hope and also was a suitable way to close out my portfolio."

Overall, distance learning allowed Tang to understand her strengths and weaknesses, something she hopes can help her continue to grow as a student in the coming years.

"Online learning pushed me to be more responsible in terms of managing my time wisely, seeking others' help, and pushing myself to work even when my motivation was low. These are the lessons I hope to take and apply to my future career and further education."