Ryan Silver

Ryan Silver

My experience this summer was unexpected, to say the least. With COVID-19 all across the globe, I have had to adapt to life at home, as well as the world of social distancing. Although it was not how I would have imagined it, it changed me for the better and made me see the world around me in a clearer view.

At the beginning of May, only about a month into “quarantine,” I was hit with disappointment, but expectedly so. The NFTY in Israel trip with my camp friends was canceled. As a longtime camper of Goldman Union Camp Institute, it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I could enjoy with all of my amazing cabin mates and friends. I had heard so many stories of the amazing memories that our counselors had on the trip. But while I was a little down about the situation, it allowed me to focus on how to better myself over the summer.

A rising junior, I knew that the year was going to be extremely stressful, especially with the classes that I selected to take. Additionally, with the stress of the ACT and a college application process looming in the future, this could be my chance to catch up on everything and have an advantage over what I might’ve been able to accomplish.

With COVID-19’s prominence at the end of the school year, I had the opportunity to learn so much over the internet. I began learning a few of my harder courses through online sources such as YouTube videos and Khan Academy, both of which helped me to grow as an independent learner. While it did get somewhat boring, as self-learning does, it taught me how to break apart from the procrastination habits that I was able to get away with up to that point in my schooling. More than even possibly the knowledge, these habits of being productive first and having fun later will carry over into almost everything I do in life. 

Additionally, I became enrolled in an online ACT class to help me prepare since I hadn’t done any studying myself beforehand. By spending hours every week actively trying to improve my score, using the techniques that they taught me, and working on my own, I was able to boost my score dramatically. Once again, learning to put time into things helped me become a faster, better worker. And I know that everything I’m doing now will only help me in both the immediate and long term future.

In addition to being productive, I became involved in various activities just to fill up my time and give me something that I could look forward to doing. Three of the bigger ones that I began doing were becoming a “teen tech tutor,” participating in Clean My Planet, and “mapping,” for Humanitarian Open-Street Map.

The first of the three is the teen tech tutor program, which paired me with an adult who felt that they needed improvement in various parts of technology. The second, Clean My Planet, is a student-led nonprofit that works to promote environmental awareness and create various local and global initiatives. The last of the three is the Humanitarian Open-Street Map, in which I can locate areas through satellite imaging, and “build” roads and buildings. This, specifically, helps get resources to less developed areas in countries around the world. Through all of these programs, I got to help the world around me without getting up from the couch. Amazingly, these simple actions have effects that I can’t yet see, and just have to trust that I’m making a difference.

While I did spend socially distanced time with my friends outside, the important parts of the summer were what I did from home, and what I was able to accomplish. In terms of growth, this summer has been a milestone, and I have gotten the opportunity to fully better myself as a person. Though I am hopeful life returns to normal, whenever that may be or whatever that may include, the chance to become better is one that I am grateful to have had.