Quarantine Brings Out the Creative Side of Longfellow MS Seventh Graders

School News
May 20, 2020

masthead of publicationCOVID-19 has upended life around the world and made a lasting impact on students from preK through graduate school.  A group of students at Longfellow Middle School decided to use the quarantine as a vehicle for expressing their feelings about the occurrences of 2020 by creating The Longfellow VOLunteer (Voices of Longfellow).  

Founder Nimera Shanil says the online publication, that includes writing, art, photography, poems, and cartoons, started with an idea to create a blog. “It all began with a dream provoked by being isolated and silenced,” explains Shanil. “It didn’t take long before we realized it could also be a medium for expressing our feelings as they are contained in photographs, poems, cartoons and essays expressing what is going on inside. In school we studied history and literature containing the reactions of our predecessors to the events of their times. Now it was time for us to step up and express our innermost creative responses and reactions to the unprecedented, dramatic events of 2020.”

The students received feedback from their teacher, Victoria Wu, who provides advice about exposure and attracting more readers, and posts the publication on her Google Classroom site.  Two issues have been published, and the current staff welcomes contributions from students who submit samples of their work.  “So far, we have been successful in identifying many, many writers, reporters, photographers, illustrators, and poets,” says Shanil, who adds that the students have set a goal of publishing at least once a month and will be planning issues around themes in the future. 

Contributors to the Longfellow VOLunteer include photographer Kailyn Kim, who says she “usually take(s) inspiration from the writers of the blog, and take(s) related photos to go with it”; Barbara Scott, a photographer who enjoys drawing, painting, and writing, and who says, “I really love the website we have all created. During this pandemic we wanted teens to have somewhere to speak and have fun with their talents”; Raj Bansal, a writer who focuses on current issues and photographer who takes photos of nature, who credits Shanil, “because without her idea of our voices being heard, I wouldn't be here!”;  Emily John, a reporter who says she “love(s) to work on statement pieces…about everyday issues and alarming problems that exist in society today…I was inspired to write for this blog because I truly want to make a difference in the world and raise awareness.”; Robin, an artist, who says, “For me, art is my release…Every time I dip my brush in paint, or swirl it in a cup of water, a feeling of peace comes over me…” and photographer Sara Abouelnaga, who says, “I love taking pictures of nature  because whenever you’re outside walking or admiring nature, you just take one look and everything is beautiful.”

“Some people believe students learn more outside the class than inside. I completely agree,” says Shanil. “We’re now learning more about what we’re made of. COVID-19 is a horrible thunderstorm. The VOLunteer is a little umbrella. We will surely be different, and maybe even better, for it.”