How Covid Has Changed the Way Individuals Interact

By: Snehal Shinh

There have been a reported estimate of  753,000 people diagnosed with Coronavirus in just the United States alone, the number being much higher compared to the rest of the world. COVID-19 has truly affected everyone on a much greater scale than anyone could have imagined. 

When everything had shut down for those initial two to three weeks, everyone believed that it would be similar to an extended break with life returning to normal soon. As the American public has learned, this was most certainly not the case. However, those first weeks changed the way individuals have communicated and interacted with the world drastically. As school shifted online, so did most of our relationships. Being unable to communicate in person meant that our communities needed to adapt, and adapt quickly. 

COVID-19 has changed the way that individuals see the world. No longer is the environment safe for carefree outings. People have to be conscious of everything they touch or how close they are to other people. Not to mention how important it is to properly wear a mask in order to prevent further contamination. Amongst other things, disinfecting everything you bring in from outside is something that has become routine within most households. For some this new lifestyle can create new anxieties, for others not so much. Though those who have been dealing with these anxieties before the pandemic, the situation has only heightened those fears. Regardless of whether or not these anxieties are new or pre-existing, families are fearing the same thing: spreading coronavirus to loved ones. 

In a more positive perspective, these fears have brought society together. Stepping outside often causes one to experience the waves of emotion. By understanding these natural and shared emotions, members of society can help one another get through these difficult times. By recognizing this as a collaborative struggle, the individuals within society can work together to overcome this situation through communication.

With the current technology, the switch to digital connections was no big leap. Most people have already been using various apps to keep in touch with loved ones that they could not see daily. However, with the current situation, the need to reach out to loved ones more often has only increased. Messages and video calls helped those especially who are facing lockdown alone. 

Perhaps as society begins to slowly transition back into pre-COVID times, there will be an overall reduction in digital communications. As more and more people increase in-person interactions, digital interactions are likely to reduce. There is a hidden harm in this though. By lessening how often you message your friends and family, they may now feel more alone. Even if regulations are cleared to resume some aspects of our old ways of life, many cannot, which leaves them in the dark. Many who live alone and are facing these challenges have to rely on friends and family to reach out to them for a sense of connection. 

As life moves on, it is incredibly vital to continue to stay in touch with loved ones. Even a simple message in the morning saying “hello” or “good morning”, can be enough to make a huge difference in someone’s life. With sending messages made as simple as tapping a button, it would be a shame to not take a small moment to bring a smile onto someone’s face. 

How Animals Bring Comfort during Times of Stress

By: Amy Morrison

With COVID-19 keeping us all inside for much of our day, the effects of loneliness and boredom are being studied by scientists more than ever. Many studies have been done even before the quarantine discussing the consequences of being alone or with the same people for extended periods of time. In this context, the consequences are even more extreme due to how long we’ve all been stuck in our houses. While we can go outside, it is limited and many places aren’t open so we don’t get as much exposure as we should. But there are other studies that have proven that we can stay at home with only one or multiple other living things to keep us company and improve our mental health. Those living things being: our pets.

Many people already know that their pets are helpful when it comes to having a friend or needing comfort but, there is proven science to back it up. The University of Utah conducted a study recently that showed the way dogs and their presence have an effect on us. The presence of a dog proved to lead to increased levels of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, which respectively are known as the cuddle hormones, the happy chemicals, and the feel-good neurotransmitters, in the brain. Their presence can also lead to significantly lower feelings of distress and nervousness. That’s just by being near a dog! Even just touching a pet can help soothe and calm someone. It is also not uncommon for people to report their pets coming to comfort them when they’re crying. This is because, according to helpguide.org, they can interpret our tones, words, body language, and gestures. They can understand when humans are upset and have the desire to comfort us. Helpguide.org also states that some other benefits of owning a pet include: lower levels of depression, anxiety, stress, and relief from symptoms of PTSD. Pets can truly be man’s best friend, emotionally and chemically.  They can actually lower one’s cardiovascular responses the same way being with friends can lower those responses with pets even lowering them even more. 

Moreover, pets can also help their owners physically and relationally. When one gets a pet they require a whole new schedule to match the needs of the new living creature in their home. With dogs, walking them every day or taking them to a dog park becomes a part of a very steady routine. Other than the obvious physical benefits of walking your dog every day, taking them to a dog park or just out can also help you relationally. Having a dog gives you something in common with a whole new group of people and going to the dog park gives you a chance to socialize with other people who potentially relate to the same things as you. 

Besides the exercise you get from just walking your dog or other pet, there are a plethora of other physical benefits from owning a pet. Helpguide.org found that people with pets have been shown to have less indicators of heart disease and lower blood pressure. In fact, people with high blood pressure who adopt dogs saw lowered blood pressure within 5 months. People who suffer from heart attacks and also owned pets were shown to live longer with pet owners over the age of 65 going to the doctor’s 30% less than those without pets. Pets can also be amazing companions to children and benefit them in different ways by providing a sense of security, the feeling of being loved and increasing social skills. 

Obviously there are many different ways to bring comfort to one’s life with pets being a very effective method. They don’t judge in dividuals, they’re there for their humans in your darkest times, and even if one can’t see the effect they have on someone’s physical, chemical, or emotional well-being it’s there. Pets will always be there for you and that’s an extremely important bond to hold on to, especially in pressing times like these.

Closed Captions and Transcripts: Their importance in education

By: Joshua Song

As in-person classes have become less prevalent in schools due to the coronavirus, more and more accessibility issues have sprung up. Of these issues, auditory problems are one of the most prominent. Many people find transcripts useful for their personal use and use them even when they do not fully need to. Subtitles are often very helpful in clarifying the content, especially when there are a fairly large number of professional languages and words used throughout the videos. 

Other than that, there are many reasons why one might need or want closed captions or transcripts, such as because of unclear audio, unavailable audio, for hard of hearing or deaf viewers, or additional clarity in addition to the hearing element of the video. Internet connectivity issues also make clarity a greater and more active problem for a wider variety of students. Oftentimes, students have the teacher’s audio cut out during the Zoom lectures or outright get disconnected, causing the student to miss out on significant portions of the lecture and making it more difficult for students to catch up to the new information once their connection stabilizes and they can resume the Zoom lesson. 

Despite the great benefits closed captioning can bring, information about either closed captioning or transcripts of classes from the groups and people that host the classes and meetings is rarely known by the public. This is because of how incredibly difficult it is to have reliable, cheap, and accurate methods of converting the spoken word to text. Traditionally, for live closed captions or transcripts, live closed captioners such as stenographers are hired to provide transcripts, a job where people can convert speech to text at over 200 wpm and usually over 99.5% accuracy. This is in contrast to most digital pieces of software, where the accuracy usually lands around 80-90% while only some pieces of expensive and paid software land at up to 99%, with the only reason it’s that high being that the audio is very clear – something that is not always possible during online lectures. This difference might seem negligible, but in context, these accuracy statistics make a great difference with this task. 90% accuracy would mean approximately 1-2 mistakes per sentence, a 99% accuracy would mean 1 mistake per paragraph, and a 99.5% accuracy would be 1 mistake per 2 pages. This small difference in number translates to greater issues with accuracy during the transcription. 

You probably have seen lived closed captions before on T.V. as well. Since the 1970s, the FCC has mandated that all television programs have closed captioning to increase accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. For live T.V. programs, the stations often hire professional captioners so that they can provide the necessary captioning for their shows during these broadcasts. This is why the captions often appear to drag a little behind the actual speech of the speakers that are shown. 

As ideal as hiring individual live captioners to attend each class and caption would be, that is exactly what it is: ideal. The great costs and logistical issues that would be involved with hiring a live captioner for every class would be impractical and unfeasible for the school to carry out. The district should instead take steps to make captions or transcripts more easily accessible to the students attending each of the lessons. One of the ways of doing this would be to either purchase a profession program meant for live software captioning, which would solve the issue of inaccessibility during class. However, a cheaper and more interesting solution would be to record all the lessons beforehand and then make the video lessons available to the student body so that they can transcribe it in their free time, possibly offering volunteer hours as a return, which would solve two problems at once, the issue of accessibility and the issue of volunteer hour opportunities, an aspect of current school that is difficult to obtain at this time due to the coronavirus. This would be similar to the community captioning system that currently exists on platforms such as YouTube, something that unfortunately is to be removed soon. Such actions would not only increase the community engagement in the student body but also give students something to do with the free time they have.

Although there has only been a discussion about the issue of closed captioning and transcripts here, this should bring rise to a further discussion about the various accessibility issues that exist within society, and some of which have arisen due to how school and education have changed due to COVID-19. Having limited access to education because of personal struggles is something that the district and the community should work to mitigate and to make the learning process and experience as natural and smooth as possible for everyone.

How Covid Has Changed the Way Individuals Interact

By: Vivian Wang

Standardized tests: canceled. GPAs: destroyed. Competitions and extracurriculars: postponed. As the seriousness of COVID-19 increased in mid-March of 2020, the anxiety of several rising high school seniors also spiked by more than two-fold as many realized that their dream college has become a far fetched, unpredictable dream. 

The concept of standardized testing revolves around providing better insight into a student’s academic abilities, including the student’s overall comprehension of English and applications of high school mathematics. Since many schools have transitioned to remote learning in March this year, these schools were no longer able to provide their classrooms to students eager to take their SAT and ACT.

Many schools including the University of California schools and the California State University schools have gone test-optional, meaning that students who are unable to take their standardized test or who choose not to submit their test score would not be at a disadvantage in the college admissions process. Since a majority of colleges have become test-optional, colleges have informed applicants that a greater emphasis will be placed on GPA, extracurriculars, essays, letters of recommendation, and additional personal background. 

Shweta Shah, a senior in the International Baccalaureate Program at Valencia High School expressed her thoughts on standardized tests, “It was August 15 at a crazy early time in the morning when I woke up to register for the ACT exam. My father and I used two different devices to wait in the queue for over an hour, just to attempt to secure a spot at a testing center. The furthest place I registered to take my ACT at was over 50 miles away. I feel like all my effort taking practice tests has now gone to waste”.

Similarly, grade point averages (GPAs) have become a hefty topic for many high school seniors, especially those who were hoping to raise their GPAs in their final semester of their junior year. While many schools provided an option for students to opt-in for a “pass or fail” option or a letter grade option, other schools have not provided as much leeway for students to choose whether they would like to select a “pass or fail” or letter grade option. Since students are now learning from home, students have now been relying on independent learning. Many students, especially students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds, are at a disadvantage during remote learning; with some students having to learn in a room shared with multiple individuals and having difficulties paying attention when surrounded by their family.

The straw that broke the camel’s back: extracurricular activities. Many ambitious high school seniors were looking forward to their exciting end of junior year and summer, in order to attend meaningful activities such as speaking at a TEDx event or competing in the national CyberPatriots competition in Maryland. Students who planned on conducting research at local universities no longer had a research position at universities that closed their labs. Contrarily, some students saw this opportunity as a “glass half full”; students took advantage of networking and cold emailing to search for online research opportunities with universities and all-expenses-covered online summer programs such as Girls Who Code and Kode With Klossy. 

Due to each student’s COVID-19 remote learning situation varying, many colleges, including those found on the Common Application, have provided a section for students to write an essay about how COVID-19 has impacted them. In this optional essay section, students can share about how COVID-19 has impacted their families and their remote learning situation, whether it be having to work extra shifts to support their family or having to take care of younger siblings throughout the day. Through this optional essay, students were provided the opportunity for colleges to create a fuller picture of their backgrounds and personal circumstances.

The big question that all anxious high school students ask: how will college acceptance rates change this year? As students turn to admissions officers and current college students to seek answers, admissions officers and current college students are just as unsure on how admissions rates will change this year.

Some professionals suspect that admissions rates will be slightly higher this year in comparison to previous years because less international students will most likely apply to colleges in the United States due to COVID-19. Conversely, some individuals infer that college acceptance rates will decline drastically because many college students have deferred their enrollment, meaning that they have reserved their acceptance at the school but will not be officially enrolling in the school until 2021, meaning that a large portion of the class has already been allocated to students who are taking a gap year.

With this information in mind, being proactive is the best way to tackle college admissions this year. Considering factors that are within control, including writing essays and creating a story and focusing less on factors that are not within an individual’s control like acceptance rates and whether test centers for the SAT and ACT will open will make this college application process as enjoyable (and stress-free) as possible.

Why I Started Waking Up At 5:30- OpEd

By: Young Kim 

As August was coming to an end and the school year was coming to a start, I began my mental preparation for a year that was posed to have endless nights due to my bad habits. My sleep schedule throughout my freshmen and sophomore year were what I can only describe as abysmal. I would wake up every morning feeling miserable and unmotivated to go to school. I knew this year had to be different. 

In preparation, I began to set “Do not disturb” on my phone to start around 10:30. This way, I would not be woken up by any texts or notifications that may motivate me to stay awake. In order to get a full 7 hours of sleep I decided to sleep around 10:30, which is something I had given up on since entering high school. For the first three days I could not fall asleep until 11:30. I would just lie on my bed constantly feeling the urge to get up and reach for my phone. Throughout the first week I began to slowly become accustomed to sleeping just a little bit earlier and eventually started waking up around 6, the earliest I began waking up in two years. 

Now that I had learned how to wake up, the problem became staying up. Every morning I was feeling tired and sluggish with my comfortable bed only a step away. While I admit I fell back asleep multiple times, I found myself discovering a formula to counteract this. By placing your phone and alarm a walking distance from your bed, you are forced to stand up to turn it off. The key is to not fall back asleep within the bed. This creates an enabling environment for your body to shut down once again. If you are able to stay away from your bed throughout the whole morning, the rest of the day should be much easier to deal with. I also began to experiment with other ways of feeling energized in the morning and found one particular way to be very effective: cold showers. Trust me, this will wake up just about anybody in the morning, but the problem lies in actually doing it. To this day I have to constantly prepare myself for that first drop of ice cold water because to be frank, it does not get any better. Most people would rather end up opting out and getting coffee instead. 

Now after a whole month of waking up I finally mastered waking up at 5:30. By waking up earlier I found myself open to almost an hour of extra time to work on anything ranging from reading to homework. The great part about this sleep schedule is that it gives you so much freedom to schedule accordingly. I don’t have to stress about not completely finishing my work since I give myself ample time to do it in the morning. This also allows me to start thinking earlier in the morning, putting myself in a great mindset going into school. 

Overall, waking up early may be one of the best habits I got into this whole year. It allows me to look forward to the morning instead of sleeping in and waking up hating life. While it may look and sound daunting, it should be a habit everyone should try to integrate into their lives. 

Movie Ratings, Subjective or Objective?

By: Inso Park 

Although movies have been around for a long time, parents have begun using MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America, ratings as credible ways to determine if a movie is appropriate for their child to watch. These ratings are attached to almost every single movie and have been around for almost half a century. Movie ratings exist to inform parents of the contents of the movie and how graphic the film is; however, in a society that normalizes violence and sexual behavior, most PG-13 films today now contain more graphic content than r rated films of the past. 

Movie ratings began in 1968 when legislatures passed laws to prevent the exposure of harsh content to children. Hollywood even incorporated the “Hays Code”, a set of guidelines that movie content needed to abide by before being released to the general public. After undergoing constant revision and enforcement, the code was deemed as outdated and was no longer used to rate movies. The modern movie rating system has introduced new categories of movies never imagined before, all more scandalous than the next. To make matters worse, without a specific set of guidelines, categories like PG-13 are considered grey areas that can hold content ranging from a children’s movie to a nearly rated R. 

Countless films that are filled with graphic or lewd content have been, and are still constantly, miscategorized as PG-13 because that’s where all the money lies. Almost all box office blockbuster movies have been in the PG -13 category and according to a study published by the Journal of Children and Media, PG-13 movies alone have brought in more revenue than all G, PG, and R rated movies combined. 

There are a myriad of reasons as to why movies are placed in lower rankings instead of their respective categories. To begin, it is significantly harder to market movies in adult categories. Many theaters do not allow movies of higher categories to play their trailers and refuse to market them as well. Not to mention the majority of  newspapers and video stores refuse to advertise them as well in fear of backlash from their customers. Finally, television studios, with the exception of Schindler’s List, do not feel comfortable running anything above the category PG-13 and in turn, limits the movie’s exposure and revenue. Not only are movie ratings increasingly becoming more inaccurate, but  kids are also participating in more mature activities at younger ages. 

As the movie industry continues to prioritize revenue over the wellbeing of their viewership, parents need to beware of the movie industry and cautiously check the contents or reviews of a movie before allowing their children to watch it.

Transfering Schools During A Pandemic -OpEd

By: Chloe Bruno

Moving to a different school during a pandemic can be a strange experience. COVID-19 still hasn’t died down and the cases are still high which caused the decision of PYLUSD to be to continue with the virtual learning for the beginning of school for the safety of the staff and students in the community. Starting classes virtually at Valencia is strange and out of the norm but now being a new student and not knowing anyone can be really discomforting and strange. Being a senior that recently transferred to Valencia can be scary too but, so far I’ve been greeted and welcomed by the staff and students, reassuring me and making me feel secure. However there are also many concerns that can go through one’s mind during a time like this.

Making new friends can be a struggle as a new student already but now that it is virtually on zoom it can be even harder to introduce yourself because there is really no time to talk with fellow classmates. There is no time to socialize with classmates because there is only time for learning because we lose 55 minutes of each class a week. The only way I could introduce myself and meet new people was in the zoom breakout rooms but even that is hard because it’s mostly just discussions about assignments and work. Most of my teachers, on the first day or even the second day of school, gave us a chance to introduce ourselves but although I get to know my classmates’ names and their favorite hobbies, I don’t really get to talk to them because there’s really not a time and place for it. But reaching out and following Valencia’s Instagram account helped me see what the student life is like. I already made some friends from the wrestling team at Valencia and reached out to some students from my classes and introduced myself. They’ve all been very friendly and helpful if I have any questions about school or anything in general. I just have to put myself out there.

The teachers at Valencia High School so far have all been supporting and understanding. They have been doing an amazing job with teaching virtually. Through these difficult and frustrating times it can be hard to adapt to learning virtually.  I’ve been learning a lot and if I struggle with something I know I can always reach out to them and ask them for help. They have not just been helpful teaching me about the course but with technology too, teaching me and my fellow classmates tips and tricks to help me learn better and use my time more efficiently.  They have been very helpful so far to help guide me through to graduation. The counselors at Valencia have been very helpful too with helping through the ins and out of school here. They first helped me set up my school schedule to best fit what I need to do to graduate and will help me get into college. 

Valencia overall, I love it so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. I was very nervous about what was about to come but now I’m excited because everyone is so nice here. So far I’ve been welcomed here by the counselors, students, teachers, and coaches. The teachers were nice and welcoming and the students are very bright and have a diverse community. I’ve met a small percentage of students from Valencia and I know there’s a lot more to meet and I’m excited because everyone so far is very interesting.

Tiktok Communities and How We Use Social Media

By: Snehal Shinh 

TikTok, an application that we all swore to never download, has reached over 800 million downloads. Those who are familiar with the app are well aware of the several communities within the For You page. For those who have no idea what that is, the For You page is your TikTok feed that features content that you might enjoy. Like YouTube, the For You page shows you creators that are popular and as you start to like and comment on videos the app will take that information to personalize your feed. This is how TikTok communities were formed. 

There are many sides of TikTok, one could almost say that the number of communities are infinite. If there’s a group of people who are collectively interested in something, there’ll be a community or a side of TikTok that’ll cater to those interests. Some communities started as trends that spiraled into a whole new side of TikTok. One of those trends being The Lego Star Wars profile picture movement that created a little community of people who would follow anyone with a lego Star Wars character as their profile picture. Communities can be uplifting and welcoming as well, such as the LGBTQ+ side of TikTok. Creators on this side use their platform as a way to make people in that community feel accepted and spread awareness. The art side of TikTok is fairly big and allows for smaller artists to get more recognition. Many bands on TikTok have a small following in general but can have a huge audience on TikTok; though it can go the other way around as well. Another larger side is the cosplay community; these creators are able to bring their favorite characters and their stories to life through their cosplays and various TikTok audios.

There are many communities on TikTok that are not very well known. The education side of TikTok is fairly small and includes people who use their platform to help others with certain subjects such as math or SAT prep. There’s even many creators that teach younger viewers how to budget money, start a business, or even just be more aware of things that they’ll have to do as adults. On the subject of communities that are both small and helpful, the decor side focuses on redecorating any room from the kitchen to bathroom. This side is valuable for those that want to change up their living spaces and don’t know where to start. While these communities may be small, it doesn’t take away their entertainment value. 

With all these different sides of TikTok, it raises the question of how we use social media platforms. Social media is so widespread and is used daily with endless ways to take advantage of the voice given by these apps. Many use platforms like TikTok solely for entertainment, just looking for something funny or relatable to watch. Other people take advantage of these platforms, using it to educate. This could be from school subjects to niche topics or the current state of the world. Many use it to spread their political or religious beliefs. These platforms can be used to bring people together, like the aforementioned Lego Star Wars community. Many use their platform to amplify the voices of the black lives matter movement, creating TikToks delivering information on the current issues and what you can do to help. Or they simply create content to boost healthier habits by posting daily updates of their workout routines and diet. 

Possibilities of social media are limitless. As long as you keep doing what makes you happy, there will be people out there that will support you. How will you use your voice?

YouTube Strikes

By: Amy Morrison

For 15 years, YouTube has been a place where regular people can make videos and become famous for doing what they love to do. In more recent years, YouTube has had it’s slew of problems whether it be the content that’s being posted on their site or the types of people they allow to use their platform. 

Obviously, a platform with the scale of YouTube has it’s way of dealing with said problems. YouTube can demonetize videos, take whole videos down, or give YouTubers a strike. Demonetization is basically how it sounds. If a video isn’t as appropriate as YouTube would like, it can demonetize those videos, which means that no ads run on the video and the creator gets no money from it. Now if a video is far too mature or graphic for anyone to see, YouTube can take whole videos down so that no one can see it. Taking down videos normally also goes hand in hand with giving the creator a “strike.” A strike is basically a warning and if you know anything about baseball, it’s the same idea: three strikes and you’re out. Or in this case, your account is. 

Now  this system seems great on paper because with all of those ways to keep YouTube and its content safe and appropriate for almost every one to watch, everything must run smoothly and correctly. Well, that’s not quite the case. The way YouTube even finds videos to take down is through a manual reporting system. Viewers have to report content that they find inappropriate because YouTube physically can not monitor every single video on it’s platform without thousands of more people working for them. So the viewers report instead and the people who work at YouTube manually review those reports and the associated videos and decide whether or not they’re appropriate enough to stay on the platform. 

Now this brings up a whole new issue which is human error or, more accurately in this case, human apathy. In the last few weeks, many creators, most notably penguinz0 or Moist Critical and Markiplier, have had their videos taken down because they reportedly included a clip of “violent or graphic content.” The clip in question is a staged Russian dash cam video that most people would argue is hardly graphic. The video was very popular a few years ago, was never taken down then, but is now being labeled as “violent or graphic content.” Penguinz0 was the first to bring it to attention when he made a video on his channel talking about how his video gets taken down and he was given a strike because it had a clip of a staged fight while there are channels that abuse animals that have thousands of subscribers and still get views. 

Penguinz0 made another point that Markiplier had a video with the same exact clip in it that was still up. Markiplier agreed that it was biased and basically dared YouTube to take down his video and give him a strike as well. Unsurprisingly, YouTube did exactly that. Both creators tried to appeal the strike, but were publicly rejected on Twitter. Markiplier, who is arguably one of the biggest creators on YouTube with 26.8 million subscribers, and Penguinz0 both made multiple tweets about how unconventional YouTube’s reporting algorithm and human appeal system is. Eventually, their commotion influenced YouTube to respond to them saying that their videos and everyone else’s would be put back up again, their strikes would be taken away, and the platform would try to put some changes into place.

Despite the happy ending, both Markiplier and penguinz0 are adamant that things need to change with YouTube’s algorithm and their reasoning is hard to argue with. The general consensus from most people involved with YouTube is that their priorities need to change and better action needs to be taken.

Five Ways to Spend Time Efficiently After School: Quarantine Edition

By: Vivian Wang

It’s gotten to the point where waking up each day feels the exact same: wake up, brush teeth, eat breakfast, and do laptop work until it’s time to go to sleep. Then repeat for six months, with no social interaction or external stimulus. To avoid the monotony of quarantine, students can try focusing on self growth and explore different ways to spend time after school efficiently. These activities can range from learning how to code to starting a gratitude journal.

With many gyms and parks closed due to COVID-19, many students at Valencia High School have not been prioritizing physical health. Sports have been canceled at school, leaving many Valencia students learning how to play their sport through a Zoom video call. Picking up a new sport during quarantine can help with maintaining mindfulness and give time for personal reflection, all while ensuring physical health and a balance of life. One activity in particular, zumba, has been trending during the pandemic due to the rise of zumba and yoga YouTubers.

As the language of our future, coding drives technology, ranging from smartphones to tablets. In the workforce, only 25% of the STEM field consists of women; the main factor causing this disparity stems from the lack of education and resources for females interested in pursuing a career in STEM. For instance, in the 2019-2020 AP Computer Science A second period at Valencia High School, only five students in a classroom of nearly 35 students were female. But now, resources are easier to find than ever and with more time on everyone’s hands, they can finally use them. Resources for beginners interested in learning how to code include Code.org, Khan Academy, and Scratch. For more advanced coding resources, platforms including Coding Bat, Daily Coding Problems, and Codecademy challenge its users with engaging, stimulating coding problems and lessons.

Gratitude journals consist of daily journal entries of moments of gratitude throughout the day. Starting a gratitude journal helps to recap each day and serves as a physical reminder that there are always simple moments of life that may oftentimes be overlooked by the chaos and stress of school and work. The initial days of starting a gratitude journal can often pose difficulties since it can be hard to find gratitude in a time of unrest like this year. Gratitude journals encompass any moment of one’s day, ranging from receiving a text from a long-lost friend to acing the notoriously difficult biology exam. Especially in these times, gratitude journals can be extremely therapeutic.

Many Valencia High School students graduate high school with the intention of either pursuing a job or attending college. Whether it be a prospective job or college, both of these groups often do not have time to thoroughly read the thousands of resumes that they receive. During quarantine, take the time to explore ways to build a personal website or blog to showcase recent accomplishments or exciting personal updates. A personal website cannot be built overnight, but with a couple minutes each day dedicated to developing, the website can go a long way when applying for college or a job. For resources to develop a free personal website, Wix and Google Sites have comprehensive tools to make any website come to life within days.

Since many restaurants closed for dining due to social distancing measures, many people have resorted to Cup Noodles and drive-through fast food restaurants. With it being a combination of a new hobby and better food than might be available elsewhere, cooking is the perfect quarantine activity. It is the perfect time to learn how to become the next best chef in town; whether turning on the stove is a new concept or making macarons is a no brainer, there is always room for cooking skills to grow.

Before quarantine, there was always the inevitable thought of always wanting to continue working and move as quickly as possible. Now is the time to take a deep breath and live in the moment, all while maintaining a balance of life.