‘All it takes is courage’: 5 Pittsburgh seniors share aspirations after navigating high school in the pandemic

From left to right: Victor Robinson, Jayla McCoy, Laniah Walker, Jamir Jackson and Darnell Jeffries. (Photo by Lucas Zheng/PublicSource)

A group of seniors at Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, University Preparatory School spoke with PublicSource about the ways the pandemic has impacted their high school experience.

by Emma Foults, PublicSource

Enrollment has dropped at colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania. Some local high schoolers, though, have post-graduation plans that could help offset the decline.

Forced to navigate nearly two years of disrupted learning, a group of five seniors at Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, University Preparatory School spoke with PublicSource about their aspirations and the ways the pandemic has impacted their high school experience.

The pandemic further motivated 18-year-old Jamir Jackson to apply to college. He intends to study criminal justice or cybersecurity at a four-year school instead of seeking an associate’s degree, which he previously planned to pursue. 

Several students said they’ve learned how to be more independent. Though Laniah Walker, 18, could’ve decided not to attend her online classes while at home, she made sure that she woke up, logged on and kept up with her assignments. 

Student Laniah Walker stands and smiles against the brick exterior of Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, University Preparatory School.
Laniah Walker, 18, said she gained self-discipline and greater independence during the pandemic. (Photo by Lucas Zheng/PublicSource)

The self-discipline she’s gained has helped prepare her for college, she said, where she’ll have a larger workload and less oversight from her professors. 

“It helped me push through, keep going with my work and keep my grades up because I always wanted to go to college. I didn’t want my grades to drop because of a worldwide pandemic,” Walker said. “I felt like I just needed to work hard to keep it up.”

Walker is planning on attending a four-year school, and so is Darnell Jeffries, 17. The pandemic helped him start preparing for college, and he’s considering studying sports management at Robert Morris University. 

Attending high school during the pandemic was a challenge. For Jayla McCoy, 18, not being able to take classes in person and spend time with as many people as she once could was difficult, and her grades also started to dropWalker felt she didn’t learn much in her online classes either. 

“I was just here to pass the test. I wasn’t here to learn,” she said. 

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