“I Am” COVID-19 Cazenovia Student Reflections Book Published

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“I cry because I miss Daddy when he is at the hospital – I am loving and loved” reads poem by Cazenovia student Lila Campagna, the inspiration for a now published collection of narratives, essays and poems by Cazenovia students, staff and community members impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campagna didn’t know that her third-grade assignment in 2020 would serve as a ripple effect throughout the Cazenovia community.

“The book was developed to account for history in the making,” said Cazenovia Library Media Specialist Katherine McGinnis, who was so moved by Campagna’s poem that she opened the idea up to the Cazenovia community at large. The entries came piling in from students, staff and community members, and she spent the summer sorting entries, compiling, editing and publishing the book through Amazon.

“No matter how hard times may be, it is important to remember what we endured throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads the foreword. “Thank you to all of our writers for your courage to share your experiences. We hope this work encourages reflection, inspires connection and brings hope to all those still healing from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

McGinnis said she was grateful to Cazenovia CSD administration who supported her throughout the project and also to middle school librarian Deb McHugh and high school librarian Ben Wightman who assisted in collecting entries. In the “About the Editor” section of the book, she reflects on her own COVID-19 experience, being on maternity leave when the pandemic hit.

“My transition to remote learning happened with an email,” she wrote. “I did not see my students or say good-bye. I simply made my Google Classroom and began posting lessons, attempting to reconnect with my kids via a computer screen.”

McGinnis writes that she did not plan on sharing her personal experience, but realized after reading the entries that all emotions, thoughts and experiences are important to share and vital to understanding the impact of a pandemic.

“I felt alienated and disconnected from my students,” she said. “And that’s when a colleague forwarded me Lila’s poem.”

McGinnis was inspired to create a book that would not only capture history in the making but bring the community together to remember 2020 not only for its challenges, but for its nature to encourage resilience, perseverance and hope.

One entry by senior Michael Parella reads, “I realized that there are parts of me that are only there because of the people I know. I realized that everyone I know adds something to my personality, and without being able to see most of them, those pieces were missing.”

Another entry by fourth-grader Lexi New reads, “The whole time was confusing and was hard. Sometimes I felt like crying. But the one thing that got me through was my family and friends and all the great teachers I had.”

The book is available for purchase on Amazon. The price is set to cover the amazon and printing cost exactly; there are no royalties collected from the book.

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