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Finding community after COVID

By Julia Su
Green Level High School

Growing up, Ilia Young could never confidently call a location “home.”

She was born on a military base in Ramstein, Germany and moved around five more times throughout her early years, including North Dakota, Connecticut, Missouri and Nevada.

Young, 17, left behind friends with each move, and her latest move to Pfafftown amidst the pandemic left her with almost no friends at all. Classes at Ronald W. Reagan High School were all online, and she barely knew anyone.

This all changed when she joined her school’s color guard team. With no prior experience before trying out, she was a beginner just trying to make friends. She immediately became close with her teammates and found herself improving immensely.

Now, she is the captain of the team and tries her best to take new students under her wing. Mental health is important and should be checked on, no matter the circumstance a person is in, Young said.

“I want to make sure they are good inside and outside of guard, and check up with them with home life,” Young said. “I feel like I need to be doing that all the time.”

Her experiences with the undefeated color guard also inspired her to be involved in the school newspaper and use her voice to write about the arts.

The paper often focuses on coverage of sports, she said, but the marching band and colorguard are 120 students strong. She rallies for the arts to be featured in the school’s newspaper, even if shut down by other students or teachers in brainstorming meetings.

“Anytime we sit down and we have our board meeting I’m like ‘Alright what’s going on with the arts? What’s theater doing? What’s the band doing? What’s dance doing?’” Young said.

Some of her favorite works she’s written about the arts include the Blue Hat Group – a small student-produced jazz band – and her school’s acclaimed dance performances.

Through the school newspaper, winter guard, and color guard, Young has been able to redefine her sense of what home is to her and the true meaning of it.
“Guard has really taken me in and given me a home,” Young said. “It’s kind of weird, because I think I somehow manifested it.”