Zack Houghlan


Zack Houghlan

Zack Houghlan, Rhetoric & Composition Student

This year was definitely a year that nobody could have ever seen coming. I don’t think the world truly understood the total impact that one virus could have on a population. When I first heard about the coronavirus was in my AP chemistry class sometime in February, but like most other people, I didn’t realize the true effect of it all until a couple of weeks into March. At first, the virus seemed like just another flu outbreak that would blow over before actually having any sort of effect on daily life. The virus spread pretty quickly through a small percentage of the population, and then almost everything that there was to look forward to for the next few months was canceled.
COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, when I was right at the end of my senior year of high school. After being in high school for the past three and a half years, my main goal at the time was to finally graduate high school. Most of my classmates were also very ready to get out of school and start their lives, but I don’t think that anybody wanted the school year to end the way that it did. Not too long after the virus was declared a global pandemic I was watching the Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on the news announcing that all schools in Illinois would close March 17. The Monday before my high school closed I went to school thinking that we were going to just get a two-week break and be back, I never would’ve guessed that Monday would be my last day of high school.
I had been very ready for school to be over with, but I never wanted it to end this way. Going through high school is kind of like running a marathon, the senior class was almost to the finish line, and then suddenly the race ended. We never got to officially cross that finish line and be able to say that we had graduated high school, like every class before we had. Instead of getting to finish out the year like every other year, our class got to experience a whole new way of learning that had never been needed before. Online learning has become the new normal for all of the American students, and it certainly is a lot different than what everyone was used to.
Online learning has been a struggle for a lot of students considering it has never been done before, it’s been especially hard for students that simply don’t have computer access. With the world changing more and more every day, students have to remember that they still have to complete assignments, even when everyone’s daily life has completely changed. I really didn’t understand the gravity of the whole situation until school had been closed for a couple of weeks. The simple fact is that nobody was ready for this virus, and nobody knew the true impact it would take on the world. As a high school senior, I could see the finish line, and then it was as if I had tripped on my own feet.
Rhetoric and Composition was one of the very few classes I’m taking that I can continue the same type of classwork that I was used to while in school. Most other classes can no longer teach new material, so in those classes, work is assigned that can be completed with information learned prior to the pandemic. Although in Rhetoric and Composition I was not able to finish the assignment I was working on, which was a paper on engineering. I was pretty eager when I was in school to be able to take a day off school and be able to interview an engineer because I have been interested in engineering for a while and plan to study it in college. This along with so many other things had to be canceled due to the virus.
Students in Rhetoric and Composition from previous years have always had quite a bit of fun with this assignment, which is always the last assignment of the year. My class, however, would be the first to not be able to get the full experience from it. Right before school was closed I had lined up an interview with an engineer who works in Red Bud, and I was very eager to get to learn more about the topic. Although, once school and many other things had closed I was forced to conduct an interview over email. In this interview, I asked many questions, along with how the pandemic had been affecting his daily life, especially since he is considered an essential worker.

It’s been a dramatic shock to see how fragile our lives can be. From our economy to healthcare, to school, to simple interaction with our neighbors, it has been an unbelievable turn of events that continues to develop and change. I’ve been fortunate enough to continue work so far through this, as Roeslein is considered an essential business due to our ties with the beverage and energy industries. Homelife has been good, as I’ve been able to spend more time with my family than a normal spring would afford. We pray this will end soon, and there are health and healing for all those affected.
Thankfully my mom is considered an essential worker so she is still getting paid like Aaron the engineer I interviewed. I really can’t imagine what it must like to be out of work right now, especially since the date for reopening keeps getting pushed farther and farther back. This has to be a very hard time for quite a few American families, not knowing when they will be able to start collecting their paychecks again or when small business owners will be able to open their doors for business.
Without knowing what the future will hold, students graduating from high school have even more things to think about. Things like if colleges will open back up in the fall or if we will have to endure remote learning longer. Some students may decide to not go to college next year based on the fact that colleges might still be using remote learning. Students who are wanting to go straight into the workforce might also find it harder to find a job than it was prior to the virus outbreak. Senior year for most students is always a time that is full of fun memories, but also full of a lot of questions about the path one will take after high school, this year those questions are even harder to answer.
I plan to attend Murray State University this fall to study engineering and with the virus going on it makes me wonder just what my first year of college will be like. I have already found out that my freshman orientation that was scheduled for June 19 has been canceled and an online route will be used. Every day there is always more and more information coming out on the news and hardly any of it has been very uplifting. When Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker was asked about how the school will run in the fall, he responded with, “I would prepare for both, because it is still unclear what things will look like in the summer or the fall. E-learning is an important thing for us to develop either way” Davis ). It is pretty obvious that nobody clearly knows anything about what life will be like in a couple of months, but I am sure that most students would agree that remote learning is not enjoyable.
As I get ready for college in the fall, I can’t help but wonder if online learning in college is going to make it hard on me. I have never done well with learning on computers, and I can’t imagine starting out college completely online. College in itself is kind of a hard thing to prepare for and the whole pandemic is making things even harder to prepare for, considering nobody is for sure on what exactly we should prepare for. Most local scholarship deadlines have been pushed back to help seniors, but when dealing with everything else it can be hard to focus on completing all of the scholarship forms. Some schools in America have decided to end their school year a couple of weeks early to help relieve the stress on the students, which I think would probably help a lot since a lot of the homework being given out is busy work.
The virus has not only affected my school year but is now starting to affect how I will live my life this summer. Last summer I started a small lawn service in Chester and had quite a few customers, but with this new virus, it makes me wonder just how many customers I will have. The best form of advertisement that I found was going door to door and asking people if they needed somebody to mow their lawn, but now going door to door sounds illegal. Also with more and more people not at work and stuck inside, some people have probably started enjoying just being able to go outside to mow their lawn. When people first started taking real notice of the virus, I wondered just how much a virus going across the globe could affect a seventeen-year-old’s life, I found the answer to be a lot more than I would’ve thought.
Even the very simple things like visiting my grandmother in the nursing home I can no longer do. Going to the nursing home definitely wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but it makes me wonder what places like that will be like after everything finally goes back to normal. I have a feeling nursing homes, hospitals, and other places where a lot of unhealthy people are will have many more regulations on cleanliness than before. Making places like that cleaner is always a good thing, but one has to wonder when enough is enough. There are different viruses that people can get each year and even die from, so I can’t help but wonder why this virus has changed everyday life so much.
Most people completely never really had thought about what one virus could change, except for people like Bill Gates who predicted a deadly virus back in 2015 during a TED talk. When talking about the possibility of a future virus, Bill Gates said, “There’s no need to panic … but we need to get going” (Gates). This just shows that Bill Gates knew that we were not ready for a deadly virus like COVID-19, and he was definitely right. If the world had been ready for this and knew the impact it would have, all borders probably would’ve been closed a lot sooner. So maybe one good way to look at the virus is as a good time to collect some very useful information, in the horrible case that an even deadlier virus will hit in the future.
According to some scientists, the virus has a good chance of returning in the fall in a whole new wave. “White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that a second round of the coronavirus is “inevitable” – predicting a ‘bad fall and a bad winter’ if the US doesn’t make enough progress in combating the deadly bug” (Steinbuch). So hopefully, America can make this progress needed so not only life can go back to normal, but also so we are prepared for the next time something like this happens. Nobody wants to have to go through this again, but if we do, more things should be done to prevent anything from spreading as this virus has. Hopefully, a vaccine is discovered soon so then we can prevent all future outbreaks of the virus as well.
This virus has completely changed life as we know it and probably has put some people in a position they’ve never been in before, especially small business owners. The beginning of this year has definitely been one that nobody could’ve predicted. I was expecting a nice and easy end to my high school career, but instead, I got E-learning. Hopefully, life will go back to somewhat normal soon because I’m sure that I’m not the only one that is completely sick of this. COVID-19 has been the strangest, but also most historical period of time that I have lived through so far and I wish it would’ve happened at any other point in my life if it had to happen at all. It has been kind of interesting to see just how well America has handled the virus, though, and hopefully, we are through the worst of it all.

Works Cited
Davis, Gary. “Pritzker Says Schools Should Prepare for Possible e-Learning in the Fall.” WGEM, 27 Apr. 2020,
Gates, Bill. Ted Talk,
Personal Interview. 31 Mar. 2020.
Steinbuch, Yaron. “Fauci Stresses Testing as ‘Inevitable’ Second Coronavirus Wave Looms.” New York Post, New York Post, 29 Apr. 2020,