I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who cheered a little louder when the ball hit the ground this New Years Eve. 2020 has been a year unlike any other but certainly one that we will never forget. History unfolded before our eyes this year.
It began with an orange sky. Australia’s wildfires were devastating, even to simply witness from thousands of miles away. The Presidential campaign was in full swing with a long list of candidates chasing each primary. A travel warning and the first domestic case of the coronavirus stirred questions across the country. This all happened in only January, and the busy first month of the year ended with Brexit, the passing of Kobe Bryant, and the declaration of a public health emergency.
The fate of 2020 seemed to become clearer with each passing day, as political turmoil shook the nation and the status of the new virus escalated to a global pandemic. All professional sports teams suspend their seasons, schools shut down, medical professions transformed into modern day super heroes, and millions were left unemployed. Over the summer, our nation’s injustices were put in the limelight. Riots took over cities but many peaceful protests taught us all that we have some learning to do. California went up in flames, and history was made with the announcement of the first female Vice President. Notorious RBG passed away in September and the confirmation of her replacement shortly followed. By December, more than 80 million cases of the coronavirus had been reported, close to two million of those were fatal, and the national food insecurity rate surpassed 50 million. Yet the inoculation process began in the final days of this long year, and with an efficiency rate of 95%, the COVID vaccine is so much more than a shot to us… it is an emblem of hope.
Since the pandemic began, I have actually been busier than ever before, working hard with Seeds of Hope to combat the unprecedented levels of food insecurity right here in New Hampshire. I cannot deny that somedays it can feel defeating, like with every step forward comes two steps back. However when there is a need as urgent as this one, there is simply no other option that to keep focused and stay diligent one day at a time. For me personally, this year held both some of my most treasured memories as well as some testing challenges.
The holiday season has been a reminder of how extremely different life is this time around. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection, and wanted to tie up 2020 reminiscing on the positives of the year.
In January, I had the honor of attending the National Leadership Conference in Washington, DC., where I met with leaders and change makers from around the world. In the midst of the impeachment trials, experiencing my favorite place in such a unique time was something I will never forget.
February is always very busy for me, it began as I continued to follow and support the campaign trail of many Presidential candidates after getting the incredible opportunity to work one on one with them during my time at Phillips Exeter.
The rest of that month was spent working hard to prepare for the Miss New Hampshire’s Outstanding Teen competition. 2019 was an exceptionally tough year for me, so my only goal was to finish the weekend proud of my resilience, passion, and growth. I love (and deeply miss) the feeling of preparing for something like this. The mix of excitement and nerves instils a drive in me that cannot be reached from anything else.
Needless to say, walking out of the competition after reaching and surpassing my goals was the greatest feeling in the world. I would do anything to live that weekend over again a million times. Despite the countless hours that went into my preparation, I will always credit my success to my incredible support system including my family, coaches, and directors.
That was the best weekend of my life… and I held closely onto its memory as things became a little tricky when the pandemic began to spiral worse and worse.
March taught me to live in the moment, as I was living on cloud nine until things seemed to dive-bomb for the very worst. I spent a week with my family in Puerto Rico, relaxing on the beach and spending some time working in their local food pantries. I came home to one of my favorite annual events with the New Hampshire Food Bank and my first appearance as Miss New Hampshire’s Outstanding Teen, a performance at a school fundraiser, a day in my local food pantry, a fundraiser for the Make a Wish foundation, and just one week of classes before the virus sent me home for the rest of the year. As much as I loved those events, I now wish I absorbed them just a little more.
By April, I had adjusted to the quarantine lifestyle and online school was in full swing. At this point, I was busier than I had ever been spending all my free time restocking New Hampshire’s food pantries, holding food drives, and of course making some time for homework too! In honor of Global Youth Service Day, I organized the #PoveyPower 5k, which remotely united close to 100 runners, walkers, and bikers from across New England and beyond and raised enough money to provide nearly 9,000 meals for struggling Granite Staters. It was a perfect day, and I was shocked and so grateful to be honored by New Hampshire’s ABC Affiliate news station as the WMUR Hometown Hero.
Throughout the quarantine period, I routinely published virtual story times for young children home from school and began a fun new project which I like to call #KindnessRocks, which encouraged people to spread kindness in a socially distanced world while keeping active and enjoying the beauty of New Hampshire!
After winning Miss New Hampshire’s Outstanding Teen, I was planning on competing at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition over the summer, which has been my biggest dream since I won my first local title at twelve years old. Because of the COVID outbreak, that got put on hold, along with most-if not all of the other incredible events that come with this title which I have worked so hard to earn over the past few years. It is no secret that this year was anything but what I expected, however those changes allowed me to try new things. Instead of going to pageants every weekend, I got my first job at a local cafe! It was extra special as I was able to establish my Win-Win food waste recycling program where we donated our leftover bagels at the end of each week as well as a 5% off promotion to anyone who brought a donation for the local food pantry… both of which are still active today despite my short time working there. I also began teaching dance and performed in my first outdoor recital.
In the fall I began my junior year of high school! Although we didn’t last too long in the hybrid set up and have spent the majority of the year fully remote, I love all of my classes this year and am desperately looking forward to whenever I’ll get to return to the classroom. I decided to give up my lunch and study periods this year so I could take extra classes, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made!!
I am still busier than ever in the food pantries. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the battle against food insecurity has felt defeating at times, however the outpouring compassion from the community has exemplified enough hope to carry us all through. I have known since I was just seven years old that my purpose in life is to share my strength to those that need it and ultimately put an end to food insecurity. So far, I have provided more than 20,000 meals to families in need around the world, trained and recruited 200 other youth volunteers to fight hunger beside me, and I have so much left on that to-do list. Over the past few months, I have been honored with some unbelievable recognitions that I am endlessly thankful for. A 5,000 dollar grant from the New England Patriots, the Outstanding Volunteer Champion of New Hampshire award, and even a cover story in Hippo magazine have all been the greatest honor and truly mean the world to me.
Just like so many others, I experienced countless disappointments this year. However, I could not possibly end 2020 with any more gratitude in my heart. I have grown more than I’ve ever imagined possible and learned the truth behind the saying, “when one door closes, another one opens”. I learned trust through the uncertainty and grace in times of challenge. It was probably the exact opposite of what I had in mind, but I am so proud of myself and my community for stepping up to the plate and rearranging our priorities to suit this new life and the needs that have come with it.
As we leave 2020 in the past, there are still so many questions about what the future holds. Really the only thing I am certain of is the fact that 2021 will be the year of hope, and I am okay with that. We have never needed anything more than we need hope right now.
Let this be the year that you take it one day at a time, and view uncertainty as potential for something even greater than you originally had in mind. Let us never forget the valuable lessons 2020 taught us, and most importantly, allow us to unite in the name of hope.