Tom Brabec FS Aug 1 – Aug 31 2019

They don’t remember 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing. They’ve learned about the Monica Lewinsky scandal in books. But they know their Generation Z history is being written now and the novel coronavirus is going to play a major role.

“I’ve been telling people this is definitely going to be in the history books and it’s our first time living through something that’s going to be history and talked about,” said Homewood-Flossmoor High School senior Javon Thomas, who with senior Maya Harrell represented H-F on a Facebook Live town hall conversation with teens April 30 hosted by Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller.

H-F High School Senior Javon Thomas
H-F High School Senior Javon Thomas (Provided photo)

“Going through this experience and talking about it present day is something that’s weird, but we definitely feel for each other,” Thomas added.

They won’t have a traditional prom or graduation. Thomas said that is “definitely bittersweet.” He also is disappointed he didn’t get to play the spring season of lacrosse. He was one of eight seniors on the team.


Still, he tells others in the Class of 2020 to “channel that negative emotion that you’re feeling, because it’s there. We all feel it, so don’t just let it sit there and make you feel bad and despondent. You just have to channel it to something positive and something good is going to come out of it.”

“I think the Class of 2020 should hold your head up and take advantage of this moment,” Harrell said. “I say take this time to be proactive, definitely look at the positives, keep it lighthearted.”

H-F High School senior Maya Harrell.
H-F High School Senior Maya Harell (Provided photo)

Harrell said she has been meeting others online and finds COVID-19 is a talking point.

“Every time I start a conversation, ‘How’s it going? What are you doing not to be bored?’ I know a lot of people say this generation doesn’t have great communication skills, so this just forces us to have conversations with each other,” she said. “You reach out to each other more now. We have more things to talk about, so in that sense it is a real unifier.”

Thomas will be attending Florida A&M University majoring in psychology and Harrell will attend Georgia Institute of Technology majoring in biomedical engineering. Both had planned to visit other college campuses over spring break, but the March 17 stay-at-home restrictions put an end to those travel plans. Both are hoping they’ll be able to start college on campus, not be remote learning.

Both say they miss the camaraderie and interactions at H-F.

“One of the hard parts about that is I used to collaborate with my classmates on projects and classwork and keep in communication with them,” Thomas said. “But then, with everything going online, even in Zoom connections, it’s good to reach each other. We can always FaceTime and call and text our friends, but it doesn’t feel the same as being in person with them and the live conversations. It’s a definite vibe.”

Harrell was the H-F Student Council’s activities chair, and was busy “planning our end-of-the-year activities. I’m a little upset about that, but there are worse problems going on.” 

Both are frustrated by people who aren’t taking the threat of contracting COVID-19 seriously. 

“I don’t know how to convince people,” Harrell said. “This is surreal but we need to make sure we’re doing the best we can to minimize COVID in the U.S.” She has special concerns for her grandparents and others who are in a group more likely to be affected by the virus.

“We need to band together and unite and stay home,” Harrell stressed. “I do think it’s hard, but it’s something we have to do if we want to save lives.” She has some concerns about the lifting of government restrictions in Georgia where she’ll be living in a few months.

Thomas believes the government initially downplaying the seriousness of the virus made people feel it was going to affect someone else. 

People who are asymptomatic need to think about how “you can pass it to your grandma or your uncle and if they get sick they really struggle with the virus and that all could have been prevented if you just listened to the stay-at-home orders and gotten through the way everyone else is trying to do,” he said.

Commissioner Miller wished them well in their future endeavors, adding, “You guys are so on top of it. The future is good with you guys in charge of it!”

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