You are here

Scott Steepleton, Editor
9:30 am PST February 25, 2021

Many adults have coping skills that make the year since the pandemic took hold bearable.

For young people, it may be a different story. As Surfside News reported, a recent meeting of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District included adults sharing tales of the stress, anxiety and depression — and even talk of suicide — among students who haven’t mingled with friends for a year.

Adults have been tried before and, hopefully, come out on the other side with some sense of how to make the best of a bad situation.

Multiple research suggests that COVID-19 is hitting young people, still searching for coping skills, harder than other age groups.

We asked members of the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu and parents to share how the year of the pandemic has affected them.

Here are their stories:

Sophia, 10th grade

Before the pandemic, my brother was racially bullied at school and stopped going to school because the authorities decided it was better to protect the white bully. Then I had to deal with the disappointing backlash and crude comments from my classmates.

So, when we think about going back to school campus, we’re not looking forward to it, but at the same time during the pandemic, online school has been really rough.

You sit in front of the computer all day and then you have hours of homework every day. You start to feel like you’re in the “Twilight Zone,” just stuck at your computer and you can’t move. It’s so unhealthy. Not virtual school, but the fact that teachers expect so much from the students, not considering they are at the computer all day and what that does to a child.

The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu has been very supportive to me and my family through everything. We’ve been involved in a great program that teaches you about yourself, having compassion and empathy for others. BGCM has really amazing mentors who really care about kids.

Irina, 8th grade

Nearly one year ago, life as we knew it, full of social gatherings, joyful experiences and care-free moments, was completely altered and stolen from us. Our freedom to go out, communicate, and enjoy our youth suddenly vanished from our grasp while loneliness and isolation immediately took their place.

Every single day merely merged into the next, causing us to relive the same week over and over again. Unfortunately, numerous teens, myself included, became overwhelmed with worsening depression, anxiety and lack of motivation that made this period of hardship even more challenging to overcome.

With therapy clinics and entertainment locations being closed, our hope for society to return to the way it used to be slowly but surely faded away.

The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu has been a crucial part of my life ever since I moved to the United States in sixth grade. In addition to the fact that it provided me with incredible amounts of emotional support for my transition from a European schooling system to an American one, I was given the opportunity to create fantastic and unforgettable friendships, memories, but most importantly, changes in my perspective toward life itself. I went from being an introverted, narrow-minded child, to an educated and outgoing young lady.

Ever since I walked through the doors my life was significantly better, the club has always been there for me. Even throughout the pandemic, as I regularly began going to the club last summer, safety precautions were taken very seriously, allowing us to still have fun while avoiding the spread of COVID-19. Over the span of four weeks, we did everything from imaginative arts and crafts to having weekly beach visits!

Several BGCM staff members such as Violet Miehle, Tyler Hawkins and Ethan Farr truly gave us a sense of belonging and excitement, which we all desperately longed for, especially after being secluded for so long.

After having some of the best moments of my life, the club opened once again in the fall, ready to improve students’ school experiences with delightful activities. With so many teenagers turning to addictive drugs as a way of coping with everything around them, BGCM and Brent’s Club also offer free therapy sessions that help children my age detach from any unhealthy habits they might have. Throughout the years, and even through times of darkness, BGCM has been and will forever be a source of strength for our community, leaving me eternally grateful to be part of such a valuable movement.

Azucena, parent  
The COVID19 pandemic has been a big challenge for the Latino economic workforce in Malibu. The Boys & Girls Club has been a big support for our kids and families. Every day our kids have the opportunity to participate in distance learning and follow strict health and safety protocols, which gives us as parents the opportunity to return to our jobs.

I truly appreciate the club for providing academic support as well as social and emotional support. My entire family has received support and resources by accessing tutoring, mental health services, educational supervision, outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and more.

We arevery grateful to all the staff especially to Siugen Constanza and Sebastian Spiroglou for their compassion, understanding, and caring for our kids and our family.

Emily, 9th grade

Being away from school this past year has been a learning experience. It's been a learning experience because a lot of change, adjusting and acceptance had to happen. Whether it was struggling with mental health, keeping up with school, maintaining high grades, staying social and active, finding new hobbies and motivation, or discovering new passions, it has all taught me that life can change in an instant, so when it does, that must be taken advantage of to grow from it.

Going through these changes was tough at first, but thanks to the Boys & Girls Club and their consistent support system of staff, I got through it in the end. The kind and friendly environment found within BGCM helped me succeed in school because I had people whom I could turn to and talk to in confidentiality about how I was feeling and the challenges I was facing in my academic and personal life.

BGCM has provided me with resources such as Brent’s Club, Leaders in Training, the Social Justice Initiative Program and the Wellness Center. These resources have been helpful because I have had the pleasure to learn about social and political topics, discuss mental health in a safe and judge-free zone, apply for scholarships, earn community service hours, and learn about drug awareness, which has all been enjoyable and an educational experience.

No words can describe how grateful and happy I am to have the support of the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu during these tough times because it prioritizes its club members and provides them with endless opportunities and resources.

Have a story to share about how the pandemic has affected you? Contact editor Scott Steepleton at scott@malibusurfsidenews.com.