Students Reflect on Life During the Pandemic

Baruch journalism student Andrea Blanco took this portrait of her father.

Baruch’s Journalism Department asked students to write essays about their personal experiences during the pandemic. Dollars & Sense is publishing a selection of the winners from the spring ’21 essay contest:

First Place: Rosa Guevara

Swipe, swipe, swipe, as I entered the pin to our food stamps card. Here we go again; the worker at Trader Joe’s looks at me and my mom in discomfort. Is it because we’re people of color shopping in the middle of a pandemic? Is it our food stamps card that triggers you? Or is it that you’re jealous of our card? Could it be both?

Second Place: Caitlin Cacciatore

One day, this darkness will abate. We’ll put away our masks, dab on lipstick in their place, and congregate in large numbers in much the same way we used to take for granted. There will be dancing and revelry, and we’ll take the lessons we learned from COVID-19, pack them away in a safe, inside a box, and secret them in a little-used corner of the collective halls of memory, to be discovered by another generation, when they find themselves in the midst of the next pandemic.

Third Place: Lylia Saurel

His teeth bit my mouth, and I could feel the blood rushing in my lower lip. He held my body firmly enough that I couldn’t defend myself, but loosely enough that he could take advantage of it. The giant screen threw an incessant light on us, the sound of the movie covered up my pain. I sought to move back in my red velvet seat, but his fingers had already invited themselves under my clothes and the agony had already set in me. I tried to push him away, but each of my attempts caused him to finger me deeper and stronger, so I stopped trying. I let him finish.

Honorable Mention: Andrea Blanco

The vaccine comes as unexpectedly as the infection. I’m standing at a bus stop outside a hospital in Queens. The leftover winter cold makes me seek refuge between the glass doors of the building entrance. A nurse approaches me and asks if I want to take one of the two doses they have left. Two patients missed their appointment. I say I do. In the back of my head, I wish it was my hypertensive, immunocompromised mother here in this hospital corner. She’s two thousand miles away, in a country that only started vaccinating mid-February.

Honorable Mention: Trinity Hollis

A highlight of the pandemic was my seasonal position at Party City. I assisted customers in selecting Halloween costumes as they grasped for some sense of normalcy. I was a fairy godmother of sorts: I spent shifts fluttering my wings up and down aisle one, transforming customers into princesses, wizards, superheroes, nurses, spies and whatever else they wished to become. My domain was referred to as the Halloween aisle, save for the election gear in the very front facing the automatic doors.

More about the contest:

Prof. Bridgett Davis’ memoir “The World According To Fannie Davis” reveals a family secret: Her mom was a number-runner in Detroit. It inspired Baruch alum David Shulman to fund a contest for students to share their own personal stories during these unprecedented times.

You can watch our winners read their essays here: