A Stuyvesant Staycation

A focus on students whose break plans were disrupted due to COVID-19.

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During any other year, April would be the time when roads bustle with cars filled with families on their way upstate, blocking the crosswalks. Airports would be clogged with luggage and travelers, most fast asleep in the lounge seats of their terminal. But with the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent shelter-in, highways are empty and airplane runways are quiet. Traveling is impossible, and Stuyvesant students who made spring break plans prior to the pandemic have had to deal with the aftermath.

Junior Zoe Piccirillo had plans to visit California colleges: “I had plane tickets and reservations that were booked in December or January [to visit] the Claremont schools […] and then [fly] to San Francisco to visit Stanford and UC Berkeley. I had organized everything really well, and I was looking forward to seeing all of the schools,” she shared. Piccirillo weighed in on her apprehension about the entire situation, given that she’s not sure when she’ll get that chance again before she has to start applying to colleges.

Moreover, Piccirillo’s plans to spend Easter with her father and two younger brothers, who live in Brazil, were ruined due to the pandemic: “I visit them once or twice a year […] I haven’t seen my brothers since December and haven’t seen my father since February,” she said. “Right now, everything is up in the air because Brazil closed its borders, so it’s impossible to travel back to New York.”

For some, it isn’t just spring break plans that have been ruined. COVID-19 has dragged the summer down too. Senior Mia Gindis had plans to visit Prague with her two closest friends in July to participate in a four-week program that would allow them to become certified for teaching English as a foreign language. Gindis would then have been able to teach English anywhere in the world. “When we told our parents about it, [and] they initially refused to let us go, but as it turns out, they had actually reserved our spots in the course and were planning to surprise us with plane tickets,” she reminisced. But Gindis remembered to put her disappointment into context. “Obviously, there are far worse tragedies transpiring across the globe right now, but it just sucks that this trip, on which we were supposed to celebrate our friendship and our perseverance through four years of Stuy, probably won’t happen,” she said.

Sophomore Andrea Khoury and her family had arranged to travel to California during spring break. “We were planning on going to Disneyland and going to the Walk of Fame and doing a Warner Bros tour. I was [...] so excited because I’ve never been [there],” she said. Her plans were ruined by the pandemic, and she was devastated by the cancellation and the entire situation. “To be honest, the fact that it would be canceled never even hit me until last week. I feel like this whole quarantine has kind of felt surreal,” she reflected. As for the process of cancellations, Khoury was grateful for the cooperation of the companies she had scheduled her trip with.

Sophomore Semoi Khan and her family had also planned to go away for spring break. For Khan’s sweet sixteen, she was supposed to “go on a road drive or fly to Washington, D.C. because it’s pretty there at this time of the year.” Khan shared her other potential plans for the break, adding, “I wanted to go to Disney World, but [...] that’s not happening [until] I move out. Or maybe a road trip to California, I’m not sure.”

Also hoping to travel outside of the city, sophomore Alicia Yu was looking forward to visiting China over spring break. “My mom had booked our tickets a couple of months in advance, so I was super excited,” Yu recollected. “I haven’t gone in six and a half years, and I missed the country a lot.”

While some students planned on traveling, senior Andrew Smsaryan, sophomore Matt Melucci, and junior Maryna Illyanok had plans within the school over the break. They had arranged for eight members from the Stuyvesant Wellness Council to come in over spring break and paint the remaining five pillars in the cafeteria with floral and plant-like patterns. “Since the six pillars we already painted showcased physical activities such as yoga, stretches, and soccer, our upcoming designs will focus more on plant life and staying green,” Smsaryan said. Smsaryan believes that plant life can improve mental health. He had hoped to spread positivity and leave a productive message for the school following the break.

Smsaryan ended his story with an optimistic note, adding that the Stuyvesant Wellness Council expects to “beautify more of the cafeteria next year.” The rest of Stuyvesant hopefully has the same outlook on the outbreak—a positive mindset that will bring all of us out of the pandemic just as optimistic as we were before.