A defining moment for a generation: Malden’s younger residents confront the pandemic: Part One

Young reporters and interviewees featured in this series.
Generations are defined by key moments. For many it was the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which propelled the United States into World War II. For baby boomers, it was the assassination of President John F. Kenney in Dallas in 1963. For others, it was the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
And now, as the world grinds to a halt from the coronavirus pandemic, another generational moment has been created. How will this period affect this generation? Will teens and twenty-somethings see this as the moment when everything changed? What will they – and the rest of us – remember in the decades to come?
With the help of an energetic group of interns, Neighborhood View embarked on a project to interview younger Malden residents about their life during the pandemic. Citizen journalists interviewed residents and collected stories that crystalize this moment in time, from the mundane to the momentous.
Here is part one of an ongoing series.

Delilah Doleman: Baking in a bizarre time

By Masio Dotson

Delilah Doleman, 19, who graduated last year from Malden High School, was just beginning spring break as a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, when she got the news. The university informed students they would have an extra two weeks after spring break before class would continue.

Not only has Delilah not returned to her campus, but she also was not allowed to retrieve any of her belongings from campus until further notice. She confessed to only having school essentials and about three weeks of clothing packed.

She has been shocked by the progression of COVID-19. Delilah admits that her and her friends initially did not take the outbreak seriously at first and did not completely comply with advice about social distancing. She says they all felt as though they would not be affected by the virus due to their ages. Once they began to see climbing infection numbers, how other schools shutting down and the overall impact of the virus they began to feel the severity.

She says that in January, the school council (the school’s head decision makers) began prepping her professors about the potential seriousness of COVID-19 and had them prepare to transition all of their lessons and assignments to online. She says that she gets constant updates from the school regarding class schedules, lesson plans and how to move forward while dealing with the time.

Now back in Malden – which seems weirdly empty of people –  she has been practicing social distancing since March 13th and has rarely gotten a chance to see her boyfriend or any of her friends. But she’s been exploring her cooking talents, such as baking a banana bread, which she claims came out delicious, among other random things to stay sane during this “really bizarre time.”

 

Nazrawit Kibe: Missing the milestones

Nazrawit Kibe

By Avion Katisho Manong

Nazrawit Kibe, a 17-year-old Malden High School senior, misses the smell of flowers and the sound of her feet pounding the concrete while walking to school. Naz, as she is called at school, misses being with her friends but doesn’t really miss being at school. But she had been looking forward to prom and graduation, and is now very worried that she may miss these coming-of-age milestones.

Naz worries about her brother who is a pharmacist and one of many essential workers but her mother always makes sure that he sanitizers before he comes into the house. Naz tries to focus on the future – she was accepted by the University of Massachusetts Boston,  where she will be studying alongside her brother Natty, a third-year student and her best friend Betty, a second-year student, both of whom have inspired her over the years.

She’s been in the stay at home lockdown since the Malden schools closed. Her daily routine includes washing her hands constantly and doing her school assignments. Her parents are strict and are taking coronavirus safety recommendations very seriously and haven’t allowed her to go outside.

She spends her spare time watching Netflix, Instagram, Tiktok, and she is perfecting her African braiding skills by doing her mother’s hair. Naz enjoys sitting around the table with her family eating home-cooked meals served on injera. She hopes the COVIDs-19 crisis will  bring lots of families together and that people will value the gift of life.

 

Jaymes Pomare: The Pandemic’s Impact on the Deaf Community 

By Kamila Rodrigues

Jaymes at work in the MGH Emergency Department

Jaymes Pomare, who grew up in Malden and graduated from Malden High School, just turned 24. A college student at Gallaudet University in Washington, he has returned to Massachusetts and working as per diem support staff in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital. Before the pandemic hit, Jaymes was training for his new job as a Video Relay Service interpreter for American Sign Language. His training is now on hold and his new job is now paused.

“I’m taking the precautions seriously but lots of people in my generation aren’t,” he says. “It makes sense. Americans feel entitled, it’s hard to take stuff away from us. It was even hard to explain to my three younger brothers on why they have to stay home. I can’t imagine how much it’s going to take to make other young people fully grasp and understand.”

Due to his work, he is unable to stay with his family who live in Malden to prevent transmitting anything to his family. Jaymes spends most of the day sleeping to prepare for his overnight shifts. In his free time, he plays Monopoly and catches up on his TV shows like “This Is Us.” Jaymes has also been spending a lot of time on social media and participating in challenges on Instagram.

Jaymes expresses worry over marginalized communities falling through the cracks during this difficult time. Jaymes, who is a child of two deaf parents and was raised using ASL, is a student at Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf and hard of hearing, and being away has been difficult for him.

“It’s a full American Sign Language environment where everything is accessible. It’s a place where I truly feel at home using my first language. It’s upsetting that our semester was cut short and people in our community will be going home to environments where they can’t fully express themselves due to barriers,” says Jaymes.

Jaymes noted that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides Certified Deaf Interpreters on all briefings which allows the information to be accessible to ASL users. Unfortunately, he has not seen this being done with briefings from President Trump and hopes that this will change. Jaymes also worries that members of the Deaf community won’t have access to Certified Deaf Interpreters in hospitals, which could put them at greater risk.

Jaymes adds that his statements are not affiliated in any form with a hospital or organization and is a representation of his own thoughts and opinions.

 

Sydney Daley: I would do anything to be back in school

Sydney Daley’s senior photo

By Kamila Rodrigues

As a senior in high school at Matignon High School, 17-year-old Sydney Daley of Malden has had her last semester of school upended. Her classes have been moved online and her softball season has been cancelled. She will miss events like Softball Senior Night, Senior Prom, and graduation. “I would always talk about how I don’t want to go to school and how I can’t wait to graduate, but now I would do anything to be back in school and walk the halls of my high school with my friends one last time,” says Sydney.

Sydney’s typical day includes online classes, homework, and a walk around the neighborhood. She  is trying to keep herself busy, but she worries that as time goes on it may become harder to occupy her time. She is taking many art classes at school, and is now experimenting with different art in her free time. Sydney has also been baking and trying to bake something new once a week.

Before the shut down, her family was constantly busy with baseball, hockey, and softball practices and games. Now they have the time to go for walks as a family, which Sydney calls relaxing. Although Sydney has not seen an increase in the time she spends on her phone, she has noticed that she has been watching more shows on Netflix. All the sports games she normally watches are cancelled, so she has been binge-watching All American.

Sydney playing softball.

She also watches the president’s daily press conferences on TV to get information about coronavirus. She has seen plenty of information on social media but is skeptical about it.

Many of her friends are upset with Governor Baker’s decision to close all schools until May 4th. “I am also upset with it,” she says, “but I understand that it was the right decision to prevent the spread of the virus because at the end of the day our safety and health come first. I also feel as if we could have been more prepared. We all saw what was happening in China and Italy but we ignored it.”

Sydney says that some young people are staying home but others are avoiding advice to social distance. When she goes for a walk around her neighborhood, Sydney sees groups of children at the basketball courts. She feels that older people are taking the stay-at-home advisory more seriously because they are being told that they are more at risk from the virus.

“I am worried about the future because as of right now everything is uncertain. The virus is spreading so quickly and I don’t see how we will be able to go back to big group settings in the future without the virus spreading,” Sydney says.

She wants her older self to remember the feeling of staying inside for months without the knowledge of what would happen next. “Knowing that I probably won’t be able to sit in a classroom with my friends I’ve known for four years anymore, walking across the stage to graduate, or playing my last softball game with my teammates is one of the worst feelings,” she says.

 

Shannon Bellofatto: “We are going to realize we took so much for granted.”  

By Allie Thompson

Shannon Bellofatto

Almost every aspect of life has been affected for 14-year-old Shannon Bellofatto, a Malden Catholic High School student who has lived in Malden all her life. She is trying to “make the most of it.”  She lives with her mom, her aunt, and her grandma, saying. “It’s weird having everyone home at once for so long.”

Shannon was surprised by the initial actions of her school.  “My school didn’t call off at first—they were like, ‘We’re gonna clean the school over the weekend and then you can all come back’ and then a couple hours later they were like, ‘Nevermind we’re closing.’” Her school has switched to online learning and she says she’s been keeping up with her school work and maintaining good grades.

Shannon Bellofatto editing video at MATV/UMA.

What she misses most is her friends and having a routine. She has been keeping in touch with her friends via FaceTime “to keep that normalcy of seeing each other.” To stay as positive as possible during this time, she is taking time to herself and wishes to get things done that she always has wanted to do.

“I’ve already cleaned my room like four different times, rearranged things and then put them back and then put them back the other way,” she says. “I feel like everyone in Malden has been taking it seriously as far as I’ve seen.”

She tries to not spend all her time watching the news so she doesn’t stress herself out, but is trying to trust that politicians can help to get us through this. Nationwide, she wishes people would realize that they need to stay home for us to get through this.When this is all over, Shannon hopes that everyone will be really close “because we’re going to realize we took so much for granted and we’re going to be able to see people and it’s going to be exciting.”

Interviews for this project were conducted by Masio Dotson, Kamila Rodrigues, Allie Thompson, Avion Katisho Manon, and Jayana Burdine.   Copy was edited by Stephanie Schorow. Overall supervision by Anne D’Urso Rose. 

Read Part Two of this series here.
Read Part Three of this series here.

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