It was supposed to be the best year of their lives.
But for Gen Zs in the coronavirus classes of 2020 and 2021, it’s arguably been the most challenging.
According to our Coronavirus and the Class of 2020 report into how the pandemic upended year 12 and the futures of school leavers, eight in ten Gen Zs said their mental health had been negatively impacted because of the pandemic.
But despite the loss, struggle and uncertainty of the past 19 months, many Gen Zs – ever the resilient bunch – have managed to find the silver lining amidst the pandemic.
“I think coronavirus has provided a lot of Year 12s with a bit of a reality check because a lot of us are so caught up in our own little world of formals and prefects and assessments that we forget what’s going on in the world around us,” a 17-year-old female from Queensland said.
“If anything, it’s made me very grateful for my family and for the support that I get from my friends.”
A 17-year-old female from South Australia said lockdowns were a welcome time to pause, connect and reflect.
“The coronavirus, more specifically the lockdown, actually had a fairly positive impact upon me personally,” she said.
“Even if it was a bit harder to keep up in school, I found it to be a great time to focus on myself and understand who I am. It also gave me time to feel more confident in myself and I started to make many new online friends, which of course I never expected.”
Profound self-discovery and personal growth was a recurring theme in the stories we heard from over 2,000 school leavers.
“One thing that had been a positive with being in lockdown and with all the restrictions around covid, has been the ability to really think about what I want when I leave school and enter the big wide world,” a 17-year-old female from Western Australia said.
“It’s really given me more time to discover things about myself that will come in handy later on down the track. At the end of the day, I know that you can’t change the past and how things have played out, but you can always learn from these experiences, that is what I am hoping to do in the near future.”
As was resilience.
“We have grabbed every opportunity with both hands and squeezed it dry until nothing was left to gain from the minimal experiences we could have,” an 18-year-old male from Queensland said.
“We have left our legacy: not as the sad grade that missed out, but as the cohort of 2020 that tackled the year with ambition and an unparalleled attitude. I can confidently say that we have come out of those situations as greater people. Future years are going to miss us and remember us individually as the leaders who could think and overcome.”