Join us in congratulating these two first-place winners in the Kids Arts Festival essay writing contest sponsored by Tara Kitchen.

First place in the ages 6-11 category:
Miranda DuBray, 8, Boulevard Elementary, Gloversville Enlarged School District.

Welcome to the Covid-19 News. I am your reporter, Miranda DuBray. Today I want to tell you about how the virus has changed my schooling and learning. There are three categories, environment, classes, and bad stuff.

The first category is environment. There are many changes in this category. I can go out on more walks and listen to audiobooks or do both at once; walking to the swings and swinging on the swings still listening to the audiobook. The biggest change is that I can be where I want to be. I like being in my tree, on my couch, in my bed or lying on the floor. Another good environment change is the fans. At school it is hot because the building is old and there are no fans. Also, a good thing about school lunches is that I can have a good dessert. I still go to school to get lunch, but I have time to eat all my food and can have chocolate or homemade brownies for dessert. The fourth thing is the ability to be with my parents and stuffed animals. I love working with Mommy and Daddy and my stuffed animals because nobody rushes me and nobody bullies me. The style of my classes is very different. For example, I can take my time and take breaks. One big change in the style of my classes is my school classes are online and are assigned by the teacher. I also have more opportunities. I can take more classes through Mystic Seaport and other places and watch videos like how to draw Mo Willems characters. The video was actually done by Mo Willems. I have also gotten to take magic classes from a magician in Norway; a very long long way away. This all means that I am doing a lot more and different learning.

There are also some really bad things about the Covid-19. There aren’t very many but they are still pretty big differences. The first horrible thing is that I have no friends to play with and it’s a big change from a lot of friends to no friends. Another thing is that I can’t play on the really awesome playground. My school playground is big and shady, made out of wood with lots of swings, and right now it is closed and locked. Thank you for reading the Covid-19 News, join us next time!

First place in the ages 12-18 category:
Siena Boff, 14, of Saratoga Springs
A single astronaut will spend more than 300 hours of their life solely training to go into space. It’s brutal, but thanks to this intensive routine, many missions have gone off successful and without a hinge. However, there is a far more prominent situation that no amount of training could prepare them, or anyone for. The isolation and loneliness. The pure aspect of being thousands of miles away from earth. Floating in a ship surrounded by space. Alone anywhere between mere days to years. It seems like centuries roll by until you return. This was a situation once reserved for intra-galactic explorers floating in space, but in mid-March, came crashing hard down to earth without a warning. Houston, we have a problem.

Whether you’re a top astronaut for NASA, or a middle school graduate such as I, the feeling of isolation is one that we have now all had. In a way we became much like astronauts, who stay connected by a plethora of radios, satellites, cameras, and constant contact with mission control. Only instead, we depended on laptops, phones, internet, and most unreliably, Zoom calls. Online school had been in a sense, a ‘be careful what you wish for’ scenario. Both with positive aspects and negative. The positives, of course, are waking up at an ideal, reasonable time for school. Only to have it end at noon and an entire free day. The downfall? The social aspect. I consider myself an ambivert. Both an introvert and extrovert. The introvert in me was over the moon to be able to pretty much do school on a computer at home, but the extrovert missed the people on the computer. I would often think about when I would crack jokes and spend my day with my amazing classmates. Not being reduced to muted on Zoom calls. Sometimes you don’t know what good you’ve had until it’s gone. And this was a perfect example.

Apart from the education and isolation aspect, quarantine also made me see a different aspect of humanity. Much of which infuriated or terrified me. Being a Chinese adoptee in a world where the Chinese Communist Party was the cause of the pandemic; it wasn’t uncommon for me to receive odd stares or unusual comments from unsettled people in grocery stores. Who believed solely on race that I carried the virus. The fear of going out and receiving that social reception overpowered my fear of the virus at times. It’s astounding how when given a small reason, people can turn and change on each other. We as a society can use one hand to point fingers and play a blame-game, while we use the other to grab and catch people who are slipping. We can use our hands to break down or build each other up. During the COVID-19 crisis, I saw instances of people interacting with one another. Though, these were different interactions. Fueled with fear and paranoia. As if this person you were speaking to were the reason that you’d be rushed to the ICU half-alive. Some lifted each other up. Others kicked them down. Some gave, while others took. This push and pull of fear and compassion is big. Much bigger than any of us may be able to comprehend in our lifetimes. And a global pandemic is the last thing anybody expected in a modern society which has every measure to prevent it. But together, we can learn to acknowledge the past, learn from its mistakes, help each other build a brighter future.

After all of the dust has settled, politics and the news can grow weary and be a bit too much to handle at every waking moment. One needs a way to turn off the television and escape this harsh reality. Some turn to music. Some turn to athletics. And others become artists. For me, I found a love for reading that may have been one of the most enjoyable moments of quarantine. I recall I bought at least a dozen books to read while the world took a hiatus. Everything from John Miltons Paradise Lost, to J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Reading was quite possibly one of the best pastimes that I had discovered about myself in the wake of the pandemic. I guess what Franz Kafka, the author of the acclaimed novel, The Metamorphosis, said is true after all: Isolation is a way to know ourselves. Quite odd to consider. Since this isolation, we have all gone through our own metamorphosis.