Students get creative during school closure

Senior Owen Favreau dishes out handmade agnolotti at home. —Courtesy Owen Favreau

With an additional month of school cancelled and seemingly no clear end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) students have come up with creative ways to occupy their time outside of school, away from friends, and quarantined in their homes. Additionally, many school clubs and organizations have initiated virtual projects to keep the community connected and active. 

Senior Kenny Hatt works on one of many paintings titled “Cotton Candy Clouds” during his time in quarantine.

The MV Clean Up Club was initially founded by Willa Welch and Max Potter on the idea of monthly litter cleanups around the Island, which had grown to up to 30 student participants prior to quarantine. Social distancing has meant that the club can no longer host the gatherings, so they have instead challenged participants to go out on their own isolated walks and collect as much trash as possible. Willa’s hope is that students will take photos of what they’ve collected and post the photos to the MV Clean Up social media pages in order to motivate others to participate and keep up the momentum for a cleaner, greener community. 

With the elderly residents of Windemere and the Island unable to have visitors during the COVID-19 outbreak, Interact Club co-president Imani Hall saw the extent to which requirements for social distancing would affect this at-risk population and saw an opportunity to create relationships between the elderly and students. 

Imani designed and published a website and program called Small Talk, Big Difference that provides a space for students and senior citizens to sign up to chat with one another via a phone call on a regular basis. She and co-president Rose Herman match their participants based on interests, and encourage them to keep in touch every other day or so in order to maintain a long-lasting connection.

“During this time of isolation, elderly people don’t have [as many] people to talk to,” said Imani. “They’re lonely and can’t have any visitors, so it’s really nice to be able to connect with others in the comfort of your home, while staying socially distanced, and I think it’s important for students and older people to get involved now more than ever. Although this is a huge bummer, I think the coronavirus has caused a lot of people to get creative with service and outreach to the community.”

Shortly after the onset of school closure, senior Vito Aiello initiated a book club among his friends and interested classmates as a way to keep people reading and engaged over the break. 

“Being at home, our screen time is going to be pretty high,” Vita said. “Having the book club keeps us a little intellectually stimulated, provides a break from screens, and gives [students] a chance to read good books.” 

Currently made up of 12 members, the group has already read “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller and “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, and have been having thoughtful discussions every two to three days via video chat. In the coming weeks, Vito’s group plans to read “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, as well as Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” 

Sophomore Ingrid Moore has dedicated her time in quarantine to environmental activism. After reading about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) relaxed enforcement towards oil and gas companies releasing hazardous pollutants during COVID-19, Ingrid decided to write a letter expressing her frustration to the U.S. administrator of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, as well as to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, state senators, and state representatives. 

“During school,” Ingrid said, “I’m usually attending Protect Your Environment Club meetings and all these other things for the environment, but there’s not much I can do right now. I just want to keep working on the climate crisis because this is something I’m passionate about.”

In addition to intellectual engagement and political activism, students have taken up painting, crafting, and cooking in their free time. Senior Kenny Hatt has painted three original pieces in the last week, depicting landscapes of boats and winding roads as a way to decompress and have something to feel proud of during this difficult time. Senior Skyla Harthcock has taken to refurbishing old clothing, and senior Owen Favreau, founder of nonprofit initiative Pasta For The People has been inspired to craft handmade pasta dishes to add to the clubs repertoire. He has experimented with making spaghetti with mushroom sauce, for example, and agnolotti with a pancetta and ricotta filling. 

With sports postponed and gyms closed, student athletes have had to get creative when it comes to physical activity. Sophomore Zach Utz is a track and field athlete and long distance runner who has dedicated his quarantine time to biking the Island. Covering an average of 14 miles a ride, Zach has biked through Felix Neck, the State Forest, Tiasquam Valley, Middle Road Preserve, and more. “Biking is great exercise and a great supplement to running,” Zach said. “It’s just fun to get out there instead of staying inside all day.”

Similarly, senior and YMCA trainer Patrick Ribeiro has had to find a way to stay in shape without his usual gym access and with no equipment at home. He and MVRHS alumnus Benny Binder — who has recently returned home from Rollins College due to the pandemic— have constructed their own makeshift weights by mixing bags of cement and rocks in a mold that creates plates suited for an olympic bar. The plates themselves are very delicate, which prohibits the intensity of their training, but Patrick and Benny are satisfied in the meantime. 

“I think this break from school has given people the opportunity to pursue their own intellectual betterment and edification, out of an internal desire as opposed to being motivated by external pressures, which are often present in school,” Vito said. “It’s all about genuine learning.”