Living Quarantined: A Senior Internship Project

During the last three weeks of each school year at Friends Select, the graduating class traditionally completes a senior internship project in partnership with a Philadelphia workplace. “Within the context of all of the special things that go on for 12th graders, the internship program is something that seniors work hard on establishing all year and look forward to,” said Pam McCabe and Suzanne Morrison, the program’s coordinators. However, because many offices were closed to halt the spread of COVID-19, the Class of 2020 were flexible and creative in their approaches to completing their projects.     

For their senior internship project, Nyeema Caldwell ’20 and Sofia Rodriguez-Burno ’20 initiated an inspirational social media project, @living.quarantined. Inspired by Humans of New York, a photoblog of personal stories collected from strangers on the streets of New York City, Nyeema and Sofia’s project provided an inside look at how people were feeling, maintaining interpersonal connections, and spending their time during quarantine.     

To create the Instagram page, Sofia advertised and promoted @living.quarantined to gather followers along with personally reaching out to personal accounts on the platform. She and Nyeema created a list of questions for participants to answer and began asking people to submit responses with attached photos that depicted their quarantine experience. “We interviewed almost 30 people during the weeks of our internship, ranging from students, alumni, and past and present teachers,” Nyeema said. “Once people began to see their friends, teammates, and peers on the page, it became easier for us to gather additional content. It was exciting to see so many people eager to help us with our internship.”     

With the help of Christine Jefferson, director of development and alumni relations, Nyeema and Sofia were connected with members of the Friends Select community across the world. “We spoke with people in California, North Carolina, Denmark, and Thailand. It was really cool to hear how other parts of the country and world were reacting to the pandemic and how they were handling it,” Nyeema said. “I was very moved.”     

Nyeema added, “It’s very hard to adjust to a new way of living. I hope seeing how others took to the situation was helpful and gave others inspiration.” She found that a lot of people discovered creative outlets for themselves or developed new hobbies, whereas others took the time to slow down, sleep in, and catch up on their favorite shows. The biggest takeaway, though, was that quarantining during the pandemic was a safety initiative. Nyeema said, “I learned that there is no one right way to quarantine or handle this situation; just stay safe and remember to practice social distancing, wear masks, and constantly wash your hands.”   
“Through imagination, empathy, and perseverance, the senior class successfully ‘reimagined’ the senior internship program,” Pam and Suzanne said. “Going forward, we would like to continue the trajectory of ‘reimagination’ and keep in mind that the many changes that are taking place in the world broaden our view of what a senior internship experience can encompass.”