Summer in Quarantine: In Their Own Words

Part 1:

This summer hasn’t been like others. We asked alumna Alexandra Nava-Baltimore ’20 to reach out to fellow recent grads and Upper School students to find out what they’ve been up to and what challenges they face in a socially distant COVID-19, yet social activism-filled summer.

In Part 1 of our Summer in Quarantine series, meet Rebeka Cabrera ’20, Tayo Ilunga-Reed ’20, Charlotte Knutsen ’21, Tasha Fonstein ’22, and Brianna Nurse ’20. They are making the most of this very unusual time. Hear what they’re doing to make a difference, and learn more to prepare themselves for the future.

Rebeka Cabrera ’20

“This is my third summer working as an advisor at Prep for Prep!” said Rebeka Cabrera ’20. “Working remotely brings new challenges for me, my coworkers, and our students, so we are constantly pushed to be creative in solving problems and to support each other more than ever as a community.

I am also exploring different ways in which I can participate in the Black Lives Matter movement and other intersecting movements. This has been a challenge since I can’t physically go out and protest—but I am doing what I can, whether that be educating myself on various issues, sharing information with others, helping gather funds for different organizations and individuals, signing petitions, or anything else that can be done from home.”

Tayo Ilunga-Reed ’20

“Lockdown made me recollect and truly appreciate a lot of memories of spending time with friends and family,” said Tayo Ilunga-Reed ’20. “While I always have and always will value alone time, the pandemic’s mandatory prolonged isolation has made me enjoy even the most mundane outings and interactions. I’ve also learned that I’m much more productive with some sort of structure. Whether it’s a to-do list, a schedule, or just some calendar reminders, having something that resembles a plan is really helpful for me. I recently finished Tavis Smiley’s Death of a King, which details the harsh reality of the final days of Martin Luther King Jr’s short life. The book illuminated some of MLK’s flaws, as well as his opinions and goals beyond the eradication of Jim Crow laws, which included his stance on the Vietnam War and topics of particular contemporary relevance, like crippling economic inequality and police brutality. I found the book to be especially compelling in light of recent events, and it inspired me to attend protests in my neighborhood and research other ways to make a difference. It feels as if a part of history is repeating itself right now, and I hope to further my understanding of social activism and non-violent resistance’s impact in the past between now and the summer’s end.”

Charlotte Knutsen ’21

“I have been doing a fair amount of virtual info sessions with potential colleges,” said Charlotte Knutsen ’21, “and research into those colleges, as well as a series of virtual workshops with the Northwestern Cherubs program (a five-week acting intensive at Northwestern) that I was supposed to be participating in this summer. The Cherubs Workshops have been amazing so far. We are able to work with and learn from Northwestern faculty on a range of topics from design to directing to performance.”

Listen to an original song written by Charlotte and her family about quarantine on Soundcloud.

“I haven’t been able to go to many protests as I’ve been living in a rural area where little to no protests take place, but I have tried to give back in other ways—donating to causes that are making a difference, calling my representatives, signing petitions, sending emails, and most of all trying to examine my own and my family’s implicit bias in our words and actions. I think the best way I can continually contribute to the struggle for racial equality is to always carry the awareness that I’ve gained in recent months with me and call out everyday racism.”

Tasha Fonstein ’22

“This summer I took a three-week online course at Columbia University about animal behaviors and their emotions,” said Tasha Fonstein ’22. “I also will be taking a CalArts Coursera class about graphic design later this summer. From taking the Columbia class I have been inspired to get more involved with the lives of animals so when COVID settles down, I hope to volunteer at different animal shelters and rescue centers. I have been to a couple of the protests and seen the Black Lives Matter painting on the streets of NYC and it has been crazy and inspiring at the same time.”

Brianna Nurse ‘20

“In quarantine, I was able to learn that I have to reach out to my friends to just make sure they’re OK,” said Brianna Nurse ’20. “As well as, being able to think about life and having to keep myself fit by working out and just keeping myself moving.”  Brianna’s plans for the summer were to work as a lifeguard and work out getting ready for sports at Ithaca. “I have been taking a summer course for Ithaca College that helps me understand why I want to attend and why I should go there. It is teaching me how to adapt to the campus environment.”

Check out Summer in Quarantine: Part 2.