For GDS Students, Vaccines Signify Beginning of Return to Normalcy

Students walk along the second floor hallway of the high school. Photo by Reid Alexander.

Following the decision of all 50 states to extend vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older by May 1, the GDS community has seen a wave of students getting vaccinated. While students had different experiences receiving their shots, there was a common feeling of relief in knowing that they are one step closer to a return to normalcy. 

“I really didn’t believe it until that syringe had been plunged in,” junior Phoebe Braun said about her experience getting vaccinated. “I was just filled with this sense of relief and amazement.”  

Braun got vaccinated in Camden, South Carolina, over spring break on a whim, driving 45 minutes to the vaccination center on the off chance that they would give a vaccine to someone without a local address, under 18 and unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. Braun got vaccinated in March and said she was one of the first teens she knew to get vaccinated at GDS. 

Braun was not the only student to be vaccinated in South Carolina, which is one of the states that lifted residency requirements to schedule an appointment. Junior Annabel Williams, who was with Braun over spring break, went with her father, who was getting vaccinated, and there were extra doses, so she was able to get one as well. In South Carolina, local officials are working to combat vaccine hesitancy throughout their communities. 

Sophomore Wesley Brubaker didn’t have as easy a time getting a shot in Maryland, unsuccessfully attempting to use family connections in the medical community to get a vaccine. He said that he was not sure how he got an appointment other than that his parents signed him up through the Maryland pre-registration program. On April 18, Brubaker arrived at a mass-vaccine facility in Hagerstown and had only a five-minute wait; however, he was disappointed because the site “was surprisingly empty which is a bit sad considering the capacity that they have to get people vaccinated.” Brubaker said he did not feel sick after his shot.

Some students received doses in their local communities. In Bowie, Maryland, sophomore Bryan Chapman went to his community center to get his vaccine. Chapman had to wait in line for 15 minutes before taking a seat in the gymnasium and receiving his first dose. Chapman said the process was smooth. Afterwards, he had to wait for another 15 minutes to make sure he had no immediate allergic reaction and then took a picture of himself at the end to mark the occasion before going home. 

After receiving her first dose, Williams returned to D.C. and received her second dose at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “About 11 hours after the second dose is when I started to not feel great,” Williams said. “I had really bad body aches and headaches, and over all [was] just feeling really tired and gross.” Despite her sickness, Williams felt relieved and grateful to be “helping America out of the pandemic.”  

Students are excited to have back valued parts of their lives back. “Not having the weather dictate what I do with my life is something I am very much looking forward to,” Braun said.

As the summer approaches, Chapman says he is most excited to be able to be in crowds again soon. “There’s parks in my neighborhood that used to be full in the summertime. Everybody would go to the basketball court and talk to everybody and have cookouts and ice cream and all that sort of thing,” Chapman said. In the meantime, Chapman looks forward to the opportunities more members of the GDS community getting vaccinated brings to the school, as the semester comes to a close.

Lucy Mezey ’23