Sophia Tolli says she was having an incredible senior year at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens. Happily working as a stage manager for the Spring musical “Hairspray” and excited about prom and graduation. Then COVID-19 shut everything down.
“To be sitting there at that booth and to be calling my last show to an empty audience, I remember being like, I hate this. Like this is not what, this is not what it’s supposed to be like,” said Tolli.
She ended up spending the next several months at home. The fun of those final weeks in high school, erased by the pandemic.
“Not getting a proper graduation. And there will just be times I’ll be sitting here like wow I never went to prom like my prom dress sat in my closet for three months and was never worn,” Tolli said.
Tolli is now a freshman at Ithaca College, and the pandemic is taking some of the joy out of that too.
“We can’t even hang out in the common spaces without having a limit," Tolli noted.
When Tolli suddenly lost her grandfather at the beginning of the spring semester she wasn’t able to go home because the pandemic made things a logistical nightmare to travel there and back.
“I lost my grandpa the first week of college. And I was here and I could not go home and see my family. So it was like grieving from behind Facetime calls together and I love you and I’m here for you but I can’t, I just can’t go home. So that was really difficult,” Tolli said while tearing up.
Some special moments haven’t been stolen, only altered. Kamillah Knight and Stephan Spilkowitz, got married in January before guests from 26 states, 10 countries, and every continent, even Antarctica, who attended virtually.
“So I wanted this small intimate wedding and Stephan wanted a big wedding. So we got to be intimate in the sense that we were there pretty much just us but it was big in the sense that we had over 500 people join you know via zoom,” said Knight.
“It felt so authentic you know a few of our guests reported being hung over the next day,” Spilkowitz joked. "My sister is in Australia I have a niece who I haven’t met yet because of the pandemic but because of zoom they were able to be a part of it.”
“All I have to say is like don’t close yourself off to what a wedding could be like, it’s 2021, traditions are being broken left and right and we have so much more to do,” said Knight.
Sophia Tolli agrees. The milestones the pandemic took from her over the past year cannot be reclaimed. It makes her more determined to embrace what comes next, when the pandemic ends.
"I think my biggest goal is to like prove that this one year that we basically lost right, like losing my senior year, my first semester of college, turning 18 in the middle of a pandemic and not seeing my family. So like I want to take all those little moments of 2020 that made me feel like this year is just lost and take it and be like okay but how do I take these things and make them lessons almost for 2021. That’s just what I hope for,” Tolli concluded.