Middle schooler Ricayla Lemonias was on spring break when the world came to a halt in 2020. At first, she was excited to receive an extended break, but as reality set in, what once was excitement turned into anxiety and fear for what was to come.
Eighth grade was supposed to be full of events with friends and dreams of what high school would entail. Instead, eighth grade ended behind a computer screen.
Pivotal programs like Sunday school and her developing youth program also took a hit. However, Lemonias’ faith led her on a path toward the bright side.
Her narrative was all too familiar for students across the globe trying to cope and adjust to learning in isolation. Inspired by the perseverance of our nation's health care workers, the now 14-year-old ninth grader at ASU Preparatory Academy in South Phoenix wanted to speak up. She wanted to become a voice of guidance and support for other young people; what she became was a published author.
“I was inspired by the many people who worked and persevered at their own risk to save the lives of many people all around the world,” said Ricayla. “I was also inspired by my parents, who are part of this amazing group of people.”
Ricayla represented the state of Arizona with her essay in the “Kids Journal Through COVID-19: United Kids Speak,” a publication that showcased the experiences and outlooks of children across America. The National Youth Book Project publication featured authors ages 7 to 13 from each state, .
“It felt like a dream,” said Ricayla. “I was really excited to share my story with the world and inspire others who feel the same way I do.”
She described specifics of how COVID-19 had affected her life, from an unbalanced diet to a remote promotion ceremony. However, Lemonias didn’t want to simply describe her life in the beginning months of the pandemic; she wanted to inspire and remind children that positivity can come from darkness.
Faith in God and the world did not just help Ricayla in her studies but also reassured her mother, Jacqueline Gayle-Lemonias, that her daughter and son would make it through one of the hardest times a child and parent can experience.
“Her dad and I were very excited for her because we knew it would give her the confidence she needed to make changes in her schoolwork,” Gayle-Lemonias said.
That is not to say that challenges did not arise. Both Gayle-Lemonias and her husband work in the health care field and were constantly worried about bringing COVID-19 into the home.
“The real challenge was the balance between caring for the children, helping them with school and the fear of bringing COVID home,” said Gayle-Lemonias. “It's been a year, and I think we handled it well. Despite some educational challenges, we have been able to keep the kids safe.”
Ricayla's words reminded children her age that positivity will always find its way back to you, as long as you believe it to be true.
“It is best to focus less on the negative things at this point,” said Ricayla in her essay. “Positivity is key right now because where there is darkness, God will bring light.”
Written by Annika Tourlas, ASU Student Life
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