On Dec. 8, over two dozen Castleton students, parents and faculty members gathered in the lobby of the Fine Arts Center to celebrate their contributions to the “COVID Chronicles” book.
The book is a collection of student blogs compiled by Professor Dave Blow.
In Fall 2020, Blow hosted his Media Writing class. Every other week, students would write a blog about how they were living and dealing with the pandemic. It wasn’t until later in the semester when Blow had the idea of compiling the student’s writing into this book.
“I don’t know why I did this; it was a crazy semester. I was trying to figure a way to inspire students at a time when nobody was inspired…Every other week they would write these blogs and they were all over the place,” Blow said to those in attendance.
“Some were uplifting, like Anna writing about themed family dinners at her house. We had Mason up on a mountain top, he’s thankful. And we had Lily (Doton), who is chapter one because of the Asian hate she was feeling because of this stupid virus. They were everywhere, I just thought they needed more eyeballs than mine.”
In his introduction to Doton’s chapter, Blow mentions the inspiration she contributed to the book, along with Castleton senior Jasmin Gomez.
“One of her blogs was an apology to everyone she kind of didn’t talk to for a year because she was afraid, and it was super powerful,” said Blow regarding Gomez.
Gomez, who also helped design the cover, was unable to make the event due to an illness, but she was able to connect via phone for the gathering.
Doton was unaware that classes would be online for the year, so she got herself an apartment in the area. She also happens to be a transfer student from UVM so making the switch in at this time was difficult.
“Most of my time was spent completely alone in my apartment, and I hadn’t met anyone that was in any of my classes before, which was really weird. This is the first year that I actually got to meet friends from Castleton that I had classes with,” she said.
Joey Verbaro, who lived on campus for the year, speaks similarly about campus at the time.
“It felt like a ghost town; there was literally no one else around,” he said. “It felt sad not seeing a lot of people. Especially because the year before I made a bunch of friends…and the year after I didn’t get to see them again.”
Even local students were feeling the distance. Castleton junior Luke McGee lived five minutes from campus.
“So tantalizingly close to campus, but could not make it there, which was sad,” he said.
Fast forward a year and everyone is back together again. While they aren’t getting to see everyone’s smiles because of masks, students feel the burden slowly being lifted.
Doton’s transition has been a lot smoother since returning to classes.
“It was a really hard adjustment at first, not because Castleton is really big or hard to learn or anything, but it’s just been so long since I was in a classroom for real. So, it’s definitely taking me some time to get used to again. I’m glad to be back in person and seeing people face to face,” she said.
Castleton senior Anna DiFiore had a similar experience.
“It’s great. Like Lily, it’s my first time, and I’m a senior, first year and last year. It’s great to be here in person and see everyone. It’s nice to be face to face again and have that social aspect.”
Other students from the book agree that they are much happier now and excited to be back with everyone again.
“It feels good. You’re interacting with people not through a screen anymore but actually in person. We’re still wearing masks but it’s way better way better than being on a Zoom screen all day. I hated that, it’s terrible,” said Castleton junior Mason Svayg.
And what better way of celebrating in-person learning again than an event for the students who were able to use this class as an outlet and turn it into something positive.
“Honestly, it’s really surreal. I’m thankful I finally got to meet everyone face to face. It was nice to see everyone, with everything we’ve done with this book. It was a collective effort so to finally talk to some of these guys and get to know them face to face was really nice,” said Castleton Senior Jacob Gonzalez.
Students gathered in the Fine Arts Center to catch up and shared how they’re feeling about everything these days – a year after the class that led to the book.
“It’s nice to be here in a gathering in a celebratory way of a thing that we commutatively did which is nice. Under sad circumstances and a sad sort of thing, but it’s still making the best and most of the situation … I’m very proud of the book. I’m happy to be here, and I’m grateful for Dave for this opportunity,” said Castleton senior and Spartan editor Aris Sherwood.
“It’s good to be here, and one thing I don’t want to get lost in all this is the effort Dave put in. Dave did a great job with this, and this is just one example of the many extracurricular things Dave does,” said Castleton senior Marty Kelly.
Kelly shares more words on Blow and his experience in classes.
“There’s a lot of college professors that aren’t very practical in terms of giving you experience in class. And certainly, journalism lends itself more so than other majors, you can write a story and talk to people and turn it in for an assignment in college, you can’t really do open heart surgery in college. It lends itself to it, but Dave does a really good job of being practical and I really feel like when we get done with his classes that we’re ready to go and do the job for real. And it’s not a commercial and I’m not trying to kiss ass either, that’s how I really feel about it,” Kelly said.
Students say they are thankful for professor Blow and what he’s done for them, but according to Blow, the inspiration goes both ways.
“I’m so glad I did it because this is what we got,” he said pointing at the book. “And these guys are amazingly talented writers and so inspiring to me.”