The sweet smell of freshly cut grass and monsoon rain drifts through the air, while warm temperatures and the sounds of crickets fill New Mexico evenings.
Summer in Santa Fe is officially in full swing. For a Santa Fe teen, this usually means the beginning of concert season, pool parties and late nights out with friends, but with many businesses still closed and social distancing in place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt summer will be different this year.
“Prior to March, I was very excited for summer and had so many plans,” said Faris Wald, who will be a senior this fall at Santa Fe High School. “I had the potential to intern at Los Alamos National Laboratory, visit colleges across the nation, volunteer and hang with friends. [Now] the majority of these programs are canceled.”
For Wald and other teens in Santa Fe, what was supposed to be a summer of fun and opportunity has become an at-home lockdown.
“I am slightly disappointed with the way summer is unfolding. The main reason is the fact that I really don’t have the ability to easily hang out with my friends,” said Wald, adding he didn’t hang out with anyone outside of his family between March and May. “As you can guess, it does get boring.”
Despite his lack of in-person contact, Wald said he’s trying to make the best use of this summer by working on college applications and staying in touch with friends online.
“What I really want to accomplish from this summer is to have a better grasp of what I need to do to be successful in my college search. [Although] I mainly plan to stay in for most of the summer, I will be exercising and working on college admissions as a way to keep myself busy,” he said.
Yet, for many teens who need a summer income, staying home isn’t an option.
“I consider myself really lucky to have gotten an essential job right before quarantine, as working seems like the best way to pass time during the [lockdown],” said Amber Marbourg, a fast-food worker who will be a senior this fall at St. Michael’s High School.
While many teens apply for summer jobs out of necessity, this season carries unprecedented difficulties. Not only are jobs harder to find, as many businesses remained closed or have limited staffing, but because of high unemployment, the available jobs are more competitive. Additionally, the pandemic presents health concerns for those who work jobs that require them to come face to face with clients and customers.
“There is undoubtedly a high risk working right now, and it’s important for each business to follow the right safety precautions,” Marbourg said. “In my particular fast-food restaurant, there are limited and [self-determined] sanitation rules, and I think that a lot of the risks are overlooked.”
“I think most workers are doing their best at following the rules the governor has given, but there’s always room for improvement,” Marbourg added.
While trying to maintain productivity and make money even under new guidelines is important, summertime also means trying to have fun and enjoy oneself, said Yelena Temple, a parent and science teacher at St. Michael’s High School. She said it is possible to stay safe and healthy while also having fun.
“I recommend having a positive outlook, as difficult as it may be,” Temple said, recalling a former student who now lives on a remote ranch working cattle with her three home-schooled boys. “Their playmates are each other, and ‘social distancing’ is normal to them. If they can do this all the time, then I can do this for [a few] months.”
Temple recommends home improvement projects, trying new hobbies and spending quality time with immediate family — all activities that are considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In terms of safety and risk, Temple, who taught a class on viruses and diseases, said it’s important to listen to experts and work to protect the local community.
“Anytime we go out in public, the danger is real and should be taken seriously,” she said. “It is the right thing to do to protect our fellow citizens.”
Although new circumstances can be a damper on normal summer events, it’s important to find ways to stay upbeat and focus on boosting one’s mental health, Temple said.
“Get creative!” agreed Anna Hansen, a Desert Academy Class of 2020 graduate. “This summer isn’t going to be normal. It just isn’t. So you might as well start finding new, safe ways to have fun.”
Hansen said she personally was never much of a hiker, “but now I’ve gotten pretty into it and have a new appreciation for New Mexico’s nature.”
Hansen, a lifeguard this summer at El Gancho Fitness, Swim & Racquet Club, also said that swimming is a fun and safe summer activity, as long as you take the proper precautions.
“I think the biggest challenge that a lot of teens are going to face is the temptation to act like everything’s normal and ignore that a lot of people are still sick,” she said. “But just because something isn’t affecting you directly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about it.”
“So do enjoy your summer as best you can,” she said, “but remember to think about those around you, as well.”