Assembling Our Stories

Related Article: Our Stories – Life in the Pandemic

About six months into the pandemic, I caught up with a friend, who filled me in on how she and others were coping during COVID-19. “Everyone has a story,” she said. Her comment struck me, leading me to think about the depth of stories out there, ranging from devastating to transformative. Everyone does have a story, and collectively, they reveal how life has been impacted in little and large ways. Simultaneously, I was planning the editorial lineup for this Bulletin. I sought a meaningful way to document the pandemic’s impact on Punahou, beyond School events and practices. The cover package idea came to me as a serendipitous collision of these occurrences. I am also a follower of the Humans of New York series on Facebook, appreciating the deep dive into everyday existence.

My hope with this cover package, arriving nearly a year after our initial coronavirus lockdown, is to tell honest stories about what life has been like for our students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff. It isn’t exclusive to dramatic tales, but offers a range of first-person accounts that show the extraordinary in what might otherwise be cast as ordinary.

I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation for this project. I spoke with 13 of the people we featured (writer Mari Taketa spoke with two others). There are times when work doesn’t feel like work, and that was my experience. It was heartening to chat freely about life with people I didn’t know well or hadn’t spoken to before. I came away feeling hopeful about humans in general, realizing that even in chaos and confusion, there is an inherent quality to shape and direct our own narratives. We are more in control than we may realize, and I took personal inspiration from that.

I would be remiss not to mention the gorgeous artwork that accompanied the stories. These colorful bursts of creativity were submitted by Academy and middle school art students. I love how they seamlessly blend into the package, telling their own stories with insight, humor and heart. Faculty members Joshua Tollefson and Hugh Mosher partnered on the project, tasking their students to submit work depicting life during the pandemic through paintings, drawings and other media. I wish we could showcase everything I received (you can see more online at, because they offer an unfiltered glimpse of how young people have been affected by our new reality. For the cover, we chose a stunning piece by Tilde Oyster ’22 that I actually saw on Instagram prior to the project’s inception. Tilde’s abundant talent speaks for itself. As a teenager, she managed to capture the complex angst of the day from the eyes of a student, but still with bright stars emanating above. Truly a vision of life today.

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