Queens student journalists look back on a year of reporting on COVID

Until March of last year, "The Verdict," a student newspaper at Cardozo High School in Bayside, Queens usually covered stories on school activities, favorite teachers, or school sports. 

"The Friday before we shut down we actually had a discussion in class and the kids asked if I thought it (coronavirus) was gonna be here and I said I think it's already here because we already had 1 confirmed case in Manhattan," recalls Journalism teacher Aida Esmail.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced these aspiring student journalists to cover a very real current event unlike anything ever discussed in civics class.  The Department of Education's vaccine mandate to play sports was especially tough. 

"I would write how some people agree with the vaccine and how they would like to play with the vaccine to feel more comfortable," said sports reporter Marcus Chan.

Reporting on remote learning got big responses from the student body, according to Ria Persaud who told FOX 5 NY that she "heard that a lot of students were struggling academically. They felt that online learning was optional and struggled a lot with balancing at-home duties."

Zoom interviews were also challenging, says Chief Editor Jennifer McKenzie.

"Because some teachers didn't want to be on camera because I had to record the Zoom and some teachers they didn't wanna give their opinion in case it can be like used against them in some way," McKenzie said.

Now, two weeks into the new school year and back inside their high school full time, the reporters say the lessons learned from last year have only increased their desire to do what journalists are supposed to do… tell good stories.  

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