The Summer Swivel Series highlights different teens’ changed plans for the summer of 2020. Follow along as we hear from teens from the Greater Boston area who are making the most of their new summer adventures.

I can comfortably speak for most students my age across America when I say that college is on our minds, and the summer prior to senior year is an important one. If I were writing this roughly six months ago, I would be excited to highlight my paid internship through the Gulf of Maine Institute, where I would be picking the invasive species of pepper weed. I would have also been able to speak on behalf of my selection into the Quarter Zero Entrepreneurship Start-Up Camp on the UCLA campus, or perhaps the numerous college visits I had planned. 

In terms of my non-academic summer pursuits, I should be packing my bag for my third year as a returning camper for a week at the Northeast Kingdom Running Camp with my cross-country teammates. Instead, I am currently on my couch rewatching “The Office.” Although the summer isn’t panning out as I initially intended, it has allowed me to adjust and adapt to the new times we are living in. The reality is we are not just living through a global pandemic. If you have refreshed your social media page or tuned into the news for a matter of seconds, then you are aware that America is in the midst of rampant racism. 

As students, we are taught every year about the past through class curriculum. Then we shut the textbooks, stack them in the closet and go to sleep under the impression that our youth is learning history so as not to repeat ourselves. And when history does repeat itself, especially the negative aspects, it’s easy to post about it and sign petitions while feeling disgrace for people and cities far out of the comfort of our small town. However, for me, it started to hit a little too close to home when someone spray-painted racist slurs behind my town’s CVS and a photo published in my high school 2010 yearbook of students in blackface arose. That’s when I realized, despite all our textbook knowledge, my own community has yet to make an effort to show that we don’t harbor racist views. 

That is also when my mentality of “I want to help” turned into “I need to do something.” We cannot erase the recent despicable acts that have become part of the fabric of our own town and America as a whole, but I will do everything we can to reverse the narrative into one that will bring future students pride, rather than shame. Because of this realization, I developed the idea to use my platform as the president of the National Art Honors Society to propose an outdoor art gallery in support of social justice. The event will take place on the front lawn of Newburyport High School on Aug. 15. We will be featuring student artwork, an independent student band and segments of student poetry. All of the artwork will be up for auction and all of the money raised from the event will go toward a local nonprofit in alliance with the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice issues. 

As for the current “everyday” events from my summer thus far, I have been participating in morning runs, best described as “cross-country preseason.” They are not mandatory, but are open for any runner who wants to attend. We meet in the parking lot of our local state park, Maudslay, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:30 a.m. Although I would classify getting out of bed before 10 a.m. as a brutal awakening, I have attended these runs every summer since my freshman year, so in a way, I think the consistency they provide is comforting.

We are all living through a unique period of time where we have to cope with an abundance of change, and keeping a routine has become beneficial. These runs are also extra special this year since I was named one the girls’ captains for this season, so I get to help lead the runs.

While we are currently bearing the brunt of these trying times, it’s often hard to stay optimistic. In the grand scheme of things, this time we are living in has made me realize how thankful I am. I may have lost out on some “lasts” or “one-time only” experiences, but the fact that I am lucky enough to continuously wake up in a safe environment with full control of my body and health has taught me that alone is enough.

Emma Keith is a rising senior at Newburyport High School. Within her school, she stays involved by participating in the Real World Design Challenge team, National Art Honors Society, Student Ambassadors, the Environmental Club, Gulf of Maine Institute and the Anti-Defamation League. This past year, Emma served as a JTI Peer Leadership Fellow in the North Shore cohort. She has also been heavily involved in the track and cross-country program at her high school, where she participates in all three seasons of competitive running.

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