COVID-19 lessons learned

With the COVID-19 vaccine reaching communities across the United States in December, I feel like we are all breathing a collective sigh of relief—the future looks brighter than it has in many, many months. Once again, science and medicine have come to our rescue and have delivered hope. This devastating pandemic has caused immeasurable destruction, most notably in the loss of more than 300,000 lives in the United States and 1.62 million around the world as of this writing. In the coming winter months, the death toll will surely increase until we can all be vaccinated, and the social safety net, especially in countries with fewer resources, will continue to be tested to its maximum.

As we grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic, I think it is important to assess some of the lessons learned. What takeaways can we come away with that will have a positive impact on our behavior in the future? In looking at this through the Horizons lens, here are some of the ideas that come to mind.

  • Both Wine & Shine Online in December 2020 and Horizons Giving Day in May 2020 were our most successful fundraisers for those events ever! In the midst of a pandemic, when we were all socially distanced, the fact that our donor community so strongly and resoundingly showed their support for this program is a true testament to the value of Horizons in our Denver, Colorado community.
  • The importance of education, functioning schools, our teachers, and administrators has come into clear focus, as many households around the country have tried to balance children at home while also working. It has been difficult and stressful, and our teachers, principals, and school staff have been working around the clock to the best of their ability to ensure that students get what they need. For Horizons, we have continued with our tutoring program and our high school mentorship program with excellent results. Now, more than ever, our students need us, and we need to be there for them as much as possible.
  • Our medical and frontline workers, who have put themselves in harm’s way so that we can have a chance at survival, at nourishing ourselves, at going to the store for necessities, have been valiant and deserve special recognition. Many of our Horizons families are frontline workers—school and hospital custodians, bus drivers, grocery store workers—to you, we say, thank you!
  • We have learned how much we value friendships and family. As social beings, not being able to be close to one another, to celebrate important milestones together, to hug one another, that has been so incredibly challenging and difficult, especially for those who have had loved ones pass away during this crisis. For our Horizons staff, not being able to have Super Saturdays and Knapp check-ins has not been easy. We miss our students tremendously!

Many times, when we are in the bustle of everyday life, we don’t make the time to reflect on what is important to us. As COVID-19 has forced us to slow down, this has allowed us to take stock and look inward. COVID-19 has taught me the value of being flexible and that it is okay to take chances and do things differently.

A perfect example of this was around our traditional December holiday Super Saturday. When we were trying to figure out how to keep our students engaged, even though we couldn’t be together, longtime staff member and Horizons alumna, Jessica Nuñez-Hernandez, had the perfect idea! Let’s give our students Horizons hoodies. It is something that they can use (many do not have proper winter gear to keep them from getting cold) and they will proudly wear it. As it turns out, our students and families were super appreciative! This is what happens when you think outside of what is normally done. Here’s looking to a future grounded in ideas and actions that lift us all up!