On March 9, 2020, The Lighthouse Project, a student-led organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health in the community, met at Brainerd High School for the last time (in person) for at least two months.

We finalized renditions of our new merchandise, and continued planning for the upcoming May Event, the main fundraising opportunity of the year. Everyone at that meeting for The Lighthouse Project didn’t realize just how important that agenda would be in the upcoming months. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, Brainerd High School and all of its student organizations would be closing their doors the following Monday, which proposed a challenge for The Lighthouse Project and our future plans.

As two Brainerd High School students, we represent a much larger group of youth who underwent the same experiences with at-home learning and quarantine, which both presented their own set of challenges. However, we’ve chosen to look on the bright side, not focusing on what has been bad about these past months, but what has increased our resiliency and positive outlook on the world. Because now that we’re nearing the end of what felt like an endless tunnel, it’s easier to see the good that has come out of it.

When looking at the bigger picture, it was a pretty opportune time in history to have a global pandemic. Technological advances that have been made in just the past couple decades allow for greater connectivity than ever before, something that we have been taking for granted for far too long. Social media platforms allow for more connectivity than ever before, especially with apps like FaceTime, Zoom and Google Hangouts. Nothing prepares a 17-year-old for the challenges of talking their grandparents through the complex task that is operating an iPad. Only being able to see your loved ones through a screen is difficult, but as things slowly return to normal, seeing those same loved ones in person makes for an even sweeter reunion. Because as the saying goes, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

Additionally, you could argue that quarantine allowed people to slow down and take a greater interest in their loved one’s lives. When many of the everyday distractions of “normal” life are removed, people take the time to look up from their own issues and take a greater interest in others. Extensive support and outreach to struggling friends and family during quarantine is one of the greatest accomplishments that we can take away from the last few months and bring into the future. Consistently checking up on your loved ones, on their mental health and overall well-being, is something that everyone should continue doing. Though there are community and nationwide efforts (organizations like The Lighthouse Project and the Crisis Text Line) that provide support for people in crisis, encouraging people to go the extra mile in their personal relationships and reach out is just as important.

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While the strength of growing and helping in personal relationships is an amazing thing to have come out of the coronavirus pandemic, something truly spectacular are the mass movements and examples of human cooperation that have also emerged. It’s fair to say that the entire nation rallied behind our health care professionals and all other essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

Celebrities used their status in the public eye to raise awareness and donations for the cause. We joined together as a nation to beat back at not only the pandemic, but the sense of isolation that quarantine brought with it. Because we may have been isolated from the public, but we weren’t isolated from a greater cause. As 2020 finds new curve balls to throw at us, we are learning as a nation to hit back at them together. It doesn’t matter where you stand in the political sphere, anyone can see that people are banding together, now more than ever, to make a change for what is right.

COVID-19 may have taken a lot of good away from us, and a lot of our personal freedoms we’d come to expect as Americans. But it has also given back to us in unexpected ways: our resilience, our happiness with the small things in life, our appreciation for our friends and family. And if all the walks are an indication, our appreciation for exercise as well. Our dogs that seemed to never grow tired of the phrase, “Want to go for a walk?” have finally been satisfied. And that in itself is an amazing feat that any country could be proud of.

On March 30, 2020, the members of The Lighthouse Project sat down in their own homes, and met over Google Hangouts for the first time, just one of the many student clubs and organizations that were doing so under the new and unfamiliar conditions of quarantine. But even as restrictions were placed and increasingly built upon, life kept moving on, and we all learned to adapt (and thrive) in the chaos of the last few months, changes that would pave the way for a brighter future for the rest of 2020.

Learn more about The Lighthouse Project at https://www.facebook.com/lhpmn/