Jade Magallanes: “When I stepped foot on campus, I’m like, ‘Oh, my god, I’m back.’”

Jade Magallanes sneaks a kiss as she poses for photos with her boyfriend Jose Gonzalez.
Jade Magallanes sneaks a kiss as she poses for photos with her boyfriend, Jose Gonzalez. “It was really fun,” she said of the campus prom. “It was a little awkward at first. I can’t believe we’re having a COVID prom. Our dinner was in a to-go box.”
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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Sierra Vista High senior Jade Magallanes, 17, struggled through the pandemic.

Alone at home while her mother, Jefel Santos, was at work, she found it increasingly difficult to get out of bed, turn on the computer and attend class. “I was just so tired,” she said. “I was out of it. I was sad.” Santos sensed her daughter’s struggles and tried to support her. “I felt so bad for her being home alone,” Santos said. Santos would call from work to make sure she signed on to class on time.

Jesus Medina and fellow senior Jade Magallanes collaborate on the morning announcements at the start of a school day
Jesus Medina and fellow senior Jade Magallanes collaborate on the announcements at the start of a school day at Sierra Vista High, signing off with “Have a tasteful Thursday, Dons!”
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

“Every morning, 7:55: ‘Jade, wake up, wake up, wake up.’” Santos worried that her daughter was close to giving up. “She’s not getting the basic essentials from being in the classroom. She’s breaking down during her tests,” Santos said. “It was very nerve-racking. I just wanted to make sure she was OK and all I could do was hug her.”

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They had lost hope that in-class learning would resume before graduation, and Jade worried that her prospects for college were dimming. “I can say this for our whole senior class,” Jade said. “The ones that pushed ourselves were very devastated. We put in the work for sports, clubs, elections, AP courses, testing. We tried so much to be in the spotlight and to be noticed, and for us to get rejected after all our hard work, we were down.”

 Jade Magallanes and her mother Jefel Santos started roller skating together during the  pandemic.
Jade Magallanes, right, and her mother, Jefel Santos, started roller skating together during the pandemic. It’s become routine for them to skate after dinner.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

With help from her mother and her best friend, Jesus Medina, Jade persevered and was hopeful, yet a little skeptical, that going back to class would help improve things. “I didn’t want to go back at first,” Jade said. “It’s like a month. Why am I going back?” With a little push from her mother, who graduated from Sierra Vista nearly 20 years ago, Jade returned.

“When I stepped foot on campus, I’m like, ‘Oh, my god, I’m back,’” Jade said. “I felt really excited when I stepped into an actual classroom. I had a desk, I had my laptop, I had my pencil bag.”

Jade Magallanes, left, joins three other students attending Araceli Castillo-Parrales' AVID
Jade Magallanes, left, joins three other students attending Araceli Castillo-Parrales’ AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) class.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Jade Magallanes in her bedroom
It’s hard to find signs of the hardships suffered through a year of pandemic life on the walls of Jade Magallanes’ bedroom.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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 With a few minutes left before the 11pm cutoff time, a hand full of students continue to dance at prom.
With a few minutes left before the 11 p.m. cutoff time, a handful of students continue to dance at the Sierra Vista on-campus prom.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)