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High school seniors reflect on vaccinations, pandemic year

Rylee Preston (Photo provided by Lake Placid High School)

LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid High School seniors Isabella Armstrong, Rylee Preston and Natalie Tavares have spent their last years in high school learning under the constraints of a global pandemic. When they graduate from college, they all want to get a job in health care.

“I think I have more of a desire now, seeing the need and what (health care workers) went through,” Preston told the Lake Placid News on Monday, May 17. “I have more of a desire to help people now than I did before.”

Preston plans to attend SUNY Oswego after she graduates from LPHS next month. Armstrong has been accepted to Siena College near Albany, and Tavares will be going to SUNY Cortland. All three of them have participated in the New Visions program through Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES, which has given them the opportunity to work inside the local hospital to gain some experience.

Armstrong, Preston, Tavares and more than 500 other students in the Lake Placid Central School District have gone through a lot in the past 14 months.

Since the coronavirus pandemic prompted the closure of schools, students around the world have transitioned to remote learning without knowing when things would go back to normal. Lake Placid students returned to school in person last fall with lots of new restrictions — Tavares said it was a lot to adjust to in the beginning — and they temporarily went remote again several times without much notice. They’ve also gained some perspective along the way that many students before them didn’t have.

Isabella Armstrong (Photo provided by Lake Placid High School)

“I think it made us all realize … some of the things we took for granted,” Armstrong said.

The uncertainty brought by school closures — and the difficulty some students had with focusing on schoolwork while at home — made many students do “whatever we could, personally, to not risk going remote,” she said.

Armstrong said individuals have the power to help everyone get through this.

“What we can do as individuals can build up and help the rest of the world get through it,” she said.

Natalie Tavares (Photo provided by Lake Placid High School)

Vaccine hesitancy

With more Americans vaccinated each day and the mask mandate lifted for vaccinated people in New York, things are gradually returning to normal. Inside the school, though, masks will still be required.

As far as vaccines are concerned, what’s happening inside Lake Placid High School is a microcosm of the rollout effort across the country. According to an April estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 11.5% of U.S. adults over the age of 17 are hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The same disagreements or hesitancy over inoculations happening among adults is also happening among students.

Something of a social divide exists between those who are or plan to get vaccinated, and those who aren’t and don’t plan to get vaccinated, according to Preston and Armstrong.

“I’d say it’s just a personality thing,” Preston said. “There’s a group of people who just don’t want to get vaccinated.”

“A lot of matters have turned political,” Armstrong added. “Making it a political matter is not really beneficial to everyone. I think it may be getting better as more information is released.

“As more information is released, I feel that more people have started not spreading as much false information within the school community,” she said.

Preston said they did a project that focused on vaccines. They created pamphlets with vaccine information.

“Approaching people with facts is the best way to go about it,” she said.

Preston, Armstrong and Tavares have all gotten the Pfizer vaccine. None of them was hesitant about getting it.

“I wasn’t hesitant to get it, but I was nervous about what I would be experiencing afterward,” Tavares said.

All three of them did experience symptoms after getting their second shots, and Preston was sick after getting her first shot, too.

Before she could get her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Preston was exposed to the coronavirus — she has no idea how — and got COVID-19.

“I got tested because I’m a New Visions student,” she said. “We were rotating in the hospital. My test results came back at 5 p.m. at night. I had no symptoms, I felt fine. It was shocking.”

Luckily, her parents had already been fully vaccinated, so they weren’t required to quarantine.

“I guess when I had COVID it was a relief to me,” Preston said. “Quarantine was OK, nothing I hadn’t experienced before.”

She got her second shot the day after she was released from isolation.

Post-vaccine

The majority of Lake Placid’s teachers and eligible students have been fully vaccinated, Superintendent Roger Catania told the News earlier this month, before students who are 12, 13, 14 and 15 years old became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. That cuts down significantly the number of people who are required to quarantine after a possible exposure.

Apart from more people not having to quarantine, not much has changed about day-to-day life inside the school, according to Preston.

Despite whatever may be happening in the world, local students are still learning.