One Year Later: Three Hancock High School Students Describe their Experiences
STUDENTS | April 12, 2021
One Year Later: Three Hancock High School Students Describe their Experiences

From basketball to STEM to photography, students at Hancock High School on the Southwest Side have interests that are as diverse as Chicago itself. But, over the past year, they’ve all shared one thing in common: learning from home. Hear what Hancock students Rachel, Evie, and Alex have to say about their school year thus far and their goals for finishing the year strong.

One of the lessons that Hancock senior Rachel A. remembers learning her freshman year was that she should visualize her health as a triangle with three sides: one side to represent socializing and relationships, one side to represent mental health, and one side to represent physical health. She admits that it’s been difficult for her and her peers to keep their triangles equilateral this year. 

“After being taken away from our school and having to focus on a screen, we lose all social aspects and our triangle looks pretty terrible,” she said. “A lot of us were struggling to adjust because we have routines and breaking them was pretty flustering.” 

Here’s what she had to say about her year academically and her thoughts on graduating from Hancock: 

If you could go back to the beginning of this school year, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now? 

I would remind myself that my schedule will be different. Before the pandemic, I would come home from sports practice, eat dinner, and then do my homework. Now, I have to focus more on helping my sister with her schoolwork and taking on more responsibilities around the house since I’m basically here all the time now. 

How has this year gone for you academically? 

It’s been challenging. One example I can think of is my independent research project for my AP Capstone class. I feel like it’s more difficult to keep my teacher up-to-date on how everything is going because I only have 10 minutes to meet with her. When I want to ask questions, my time is already up. 

What are your goals for your last few months before your graduate? 

I definitely want to leave on good terms with everyone. I feel like I’ve always been very open with my teachers, so I hope I can be an example to help them remember that when students are passionate and throw themselves into their classes, the teachers should be ready to receive them with open arms. 

Basketball has been one of sophomore Evangeline (Evie) M.’s favorite parts of her high school experience so far, and she was finally able to return to Hancock for practice in February. Staying in touch with her peers has been a particularly difficult part of learning from home, so she was happy to have an opportunity to reconnect with them. 

“Being back at Hancock for basketball was really fun and I’m glad that I went to practice,” she said. “In our first practice, our principal, Ms. Puentes, and assistant principal, Ms. Garfield, came in and said: ‘Oh my word, look at all the students,’ and it was great to see them again too.” 

These are her thoughts on mental health during the year and her goals for the rest of her high school experience: 

How has learning from home gone for you? 

A few aspects that have been difficult include not having as much social interaction and not being able to ask your teacher a question and get an answer right back. I also think communicating with my peers has been hard, especially in breakout rooms. In terms of mental health, I think being back at school would help us reach out for more support. 

If you were the principal, what would you prioritize before reopening your school building? 

I would definitely prioritize safety. With COVID, I would definitely make sure that everyone would be able to stay six feet apart from each other and that they would wear masks throughout the entire school day. 

In one word or phrase, what do you want the rest of your time at Hancock to be? 

The phrase that comes to mind is “worth it.” With the pandemic, I’ve been in the building for less than a full year and now my time in high school is almost halfway over. It’s going so fast. I want to make memories, go to events, and remember high school as a good experience.

Senior Alex B. describes the past year as a roller coaster full of highs and lows. From his point of view, it’s just a smaller section of four years that have been a journey of overcoming challenges and growing as a person. One way he’s had to grow this school year has been in terms of his learning style. 

“I feel like my learning style has completely changed this year because I’m someone who likes to build on what my peers are saying,” he said. “That’s extremely difficult to do in this new virtual world because it really feels like you have to figure it out more on your own.” 

Learn more about Alex’s passions both inside and outside of the classroom and the advice he’s giving himself to finish his senior year on a high note: 

What are your interests during the school day and outside of school?

My favorite class is definitely computer science. It’s a passion that I discovered my freshman year when I took Exploring Computer Science and fell in love with it. Outside of school, one hobby I have is photography. I love taking photos. 

In your opinion, what is the most important part of a high school? 

The most important part of my school is the people. If you take them away, education becomes just like watching a series of YouTube videos. What makes school more than that is communication. You can ask questions. You can show your work. You can go back and forth with your teachers and peers. 

How are you planning to finish high school strong? 

The perspective I’m taking is to not only view the past year as a negative. I’ve built new habits that I wouldn’t have otherwise, such as working out and journaling. Now, I just need to make sure that my grades are still good and that I keep these healthy habits through and beyond the end of the school year. 

Want to hear what other high school students have to say? Click here to read the thoughts of two freshmen from Curie High School or a senior from Austin College and Career Academy.