A tornado didn’t stop the Thomas Jefferson High School class of 2020, and neither did a pandemic.
“We have to think of what’s ahead of us instead of focusing on what we can’t control,” said Marysol Ortega, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, as she reflects on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the class of 2020 across the country.
Ortega, vice president of her school’s senior class, participates in several sports – soccer, volleyball, cross country running and track and field. She is also an only child in her family and the first generation to go to college. Her senior year has been marked by two major unpredictable situations: a tornado demolishing her school in October and the COVID-19 threat.
“Things changed so quickly for us. One Friday my peers and I were making homecoming decorations and two days later, they were gone as our school got hit by a tornado on Sunday,” Ortega said, reminiscing about the tornado that hit her school and neighborhood on the evening of Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019.
Like many Thomas Jefferson High School students, Marysol was devastated about seeing the school damaged by the tornado, but she also knew she had to remain strong and optimistic to help her peers get through the emotional and physical adjustment.
Thomas Jefferson High School was among three district schools severely damaged by the tornado, causing students to be relocated to other facilities. For Thomas Jefferson students, that meant relocating to the former Thomas Edison Learning Center.
Ortega’s leadership and athletic skills have allowed her to help her peers look toward the future and adjust to change quickly. She was instrumental in keeping her classmates motivated through the school relocation after the tornado.
“We are never going to be ready for the unpredictable, we can’t prevent things that are out of our control, but what we are able to do is to stay positive and look ahead of us,” Ortega said.
That is exactly what Ortega is doing as she plans her future after high school. She will be attending the University of North Texas in the fall to study kinesiology and psychology and plans to pursue a career in athletic training.
“Every situation that we go through is worth it,” she said. “We just have to remember our purpose and motivation, and that this is the beginning of something, not the end.”