The Trek Episode 16 on 2020: Civics Unplugged discuss 2020 and the good that came with the bad – in collaboration with Humanity 2.0

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

Gary Sheng, Madison Adams,  Ashley Lin, Thanasi Dilos, Allison Su, Nayeli Cruz, Lara Crochik, Sara StClair, Ari, and Prokriti Basu discuss 2020 on this weeks episode of the Trek


  • Civics Unplugged hosts Trek Session with Gen Z community on 2020 and how and they grew and adapted to the circumstances
  • Prominent Gen Z figures discuss circumstantial friendships and the importance of finding the right people in your life
  • Future leaders of America discuss the challenges of 2020, Covid-19 and the personal growth and experience they gained from the pandemic



Brought to you by: Humanity 2.0 – a Non-Profit (Non-Government Organization) focused on identifying and removing the most significant impediments to human flourishing through technology and thought-leadership in collaboration with the Holy See (Vatican).

Special consideration; to CommPro Worldwide for their PR and media support

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Gary Sheng, Co-Founder/COO at Civics Unplugged, Madison Adams, Director of Dialogue at Civics Unplugged, Ashley Lin, Founder/CEO of Project Exchange, Thanasi Dilos, Co-founder of Civics Unplugged, Nayeli Cruz, 2021 Fellow at Civics Unplugged, Lara Crochik, 2020 Founding Fellow at Civics Unplugged, Sara StClair, 2021 Fellow at Civics Unplugged, Ari, 2021 Fellow at Civics Unplugged, and Prokriti Basu, 2021 Fellow at Civics Unplugged

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 00:01

Hello, everyone and welcome to groupthink. Groupthink is our dialogue series at CU, where you pick a topic and talk about whatever feels meaningful, my name is Madison and I’m a high school senior from Verdigris Oklahoma, and I’m joined by some amazing community members and lots of new faces. Now they’re going to take a moment to introduce themselves.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 00:18

Hey, I’m Gary. I’m one of the co-founders of CU. I’m calling from New York city.

Allison Su – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged:  00:38

Hi, my name is Alison. I’m a sophomore in high school, and I’m from Ohio. 

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 00:47

I’m Thanasi, I’m another one of the co-founders of CU and I’m also calling in from New York city. 

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 00:58

Hi, I’m Nayeli Cruz. I’m a junior in college and I’m from Puerto Rico. 

Lara Crochik – 2020 Founding Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:07

Hi, my name is Lara. I’m a college student and I’m calling from Cary, North Carolina. 

Sara StClair – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:19

Hi, I’m Sara a high school junior. And I’m calling from Maine.

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:30

Hi, my name’s Ari. I’m a high school senior and I’m calling in from Westchester New York. 

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 01:36

I’m a sophomore in high school and I’m calling in from Washington state.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 01:43

Hey, I’m Ashley. I’m a high school senior and I am also calling in from Washington Vancouver right now. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 01:47

All right, Gary, I liked that system that worked pretty well.  So, now we’re going to do the word association. You can say one to three words that you associate with 2020. Just shout them out and I will write them down.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 01:58

What group think number are we on right now?

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 02:01

16. Yeah. Anyone can shout out their words first

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 02:25

Challenging. and challenging well, for several obvious reasons, I feel like one we’re all in the middle of a pandemic, most of us are doing school online. I know doing science from home is really hard because I can’t actually touch the things I’m working with. And you know, not being able to see friends or go over to see family, that’s pretty challenging.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 02:30

Acceleration. I said acceleration because I think that it’s accelerated every aspect of our lives and of the things in our lives and of technology and human growth and all that stuff.

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 02:34

Chaotic. I said chaotic because especially in the beginning of the year, every month, there’s something new happening and it was just causing chaos and every different aspect and every state, everybody was freaking out, because first there was the threat, the political threat of world war three, and then the virus and then the murder coordinates. And it was just chaos.

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 02:37

Unprecedented. I said unprecedented, because I think that nobody, no matter how old you are, what generation you’re in has ever dealt with a year like this before. And so we all had to think about how to deal with these problems that we’ve never had to deal with as a group and we’re all kind of unified, but it was all new to us, which I think was pretty interesting. And that’s why I chose unprecedented.

Allison Su – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged:  02:41

Growth. I said growth because of how, you know, I feel like 2020 in general just have made us grow ourselves as a person and maturing, I guess.

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 04:09

I’ll add divisive. And on the other hand, it’s also unifying in a way, because we all kind of have the, you know, major illnesses and things to focus on, but divisive, as in like the political climate of the United States right now is incredibly, like near explosive at this point. You know, the whole mask or not mask debate, you know, everything is up for debate at this point. And you know, I feel like it’s getting more and more aggressive too. So yeah. I feel divisive is also a decent word.

Lara Crochik – 2020 Founding Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 05:47

I would say hopeless and hopeful. I think throughout the whole year, we’ve had times where we felt hopeless like when we’d get a vaccine or when we’d get out of quarantine and stuff like that, but we’ve also had hope in how the communities have worked together in order to better the situation for everyone and kind of how everyone has been working on a solution and like working on a vaccine and stuff like that. And not just with COVID, but in terms of like black lives matter also. And like all of the other things that have arisen during the past year.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 06:22

I’ll go ahead and say reality. I think it helped everybody see the reality of the world in a lot of different ways, how things work, why things are the way they are, how people really think about each other, if people are empathetic enough to wear a mask, stuff like that.

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 06:39

I’d also would add change because especially with this year, there are a bunch of people that went through personal growth that they wouldn’t have gone through before. And they had to change the way they did everything from graduations to work school. Everything had to change.

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 06:59

I’ll add the word telling, because kind of going off Thanasi’s point, I think that because of so much of the all of this stuff we had to go through this year, we were able to tell a lot about ourselves and our character and also the character of people around us. Like do you wear a mask because you care about others or do you choose not to? I feel like we were all able to kind of see ourselves and see others in a different light. 

Allison Su – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged:  07:31

I’d say giving, because I feel like throughout the whole entire pandemic and everything, everyone has been giving back to the communities and helping each other out.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 07:51

I’ve put resilience and love think resilience because, you know, a lot of people touched on there has been a lot of change and we really needed to find ways to adapt and really make the most out of the situations that we were put in. And love because I think the circumstances just fall call for a widened sense of self and just a need to care for each other, like in mutual aid. And yeah, and I think just this year, even personally, I’ve learned so much about what it means to connect with people digitally like strengthened relationship with my family. And so for me personally, love has just been a really big thing.

Sara StClair – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 08:44

I’d say unifying and dividing, because with the mask versus no mask, you really kind of had the opportunity to see how people think. And I feel like that’s divided a lot of people in a lot of ways, like with my friends I’ve become even closer with them because I’ve had the opportunity and the time to get to know them better.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 09:08

I’m going to put an apocalypse not necessarily the definition that is the complete final destruction of the world. But more of the original Greek root of that which means uncover, right? So this was the great uncovering of so many broken systems that we had that, that weren’t able to withstand. You know, I wouldn’t say that this was even close to as bad as of a pandemic as it could be, which is really scary cause we have a lot of work to do, but more information allows us to make things better.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 09:55

And for mine, I’m going to be saying things similar to what everyone else has been, but I’ll just say shock and change. I experienced a lot of shock just because of events that unfolded in the world and growth and realizations that I had within myself and the same goes for change. A lot of change within, you know, not only our country and democracy, but the rest of the world and within myself as well. So, if that’s everyone, we can go ahead and move on to the actual discussion. So if anyone has a question to pose, we can go ahead and get started

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 10:37

Or a provocation, like a statement that they may or may not fully believe, but we’d love to hear people’s responses to,

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 10:53

I was just going to say that I want to speak on a personal experience of mine and see if anyone relates to it or maybe doesn’t have something to add to it. I feel like I have had the somewhat rare experience of really blossoming during my time in quarantine. I feel like I really needed that time for myself. And since I got it and I wasn’t in school as much, and wasn’t doing as much work, I really got to know myself more and got to cultivate really good habits. So I kind of wanted to see if anyone relates to that or doesn’t and yeah, cause I think it’s a pretty interesting idea a mid, such a difficult year just having the ability to kind of cultivate good habits.

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 11:54

So I definitely have it and I honestly feel like it’s such an odd experience where everyone has been saying so many negative things about the year and they’re like, Oh my gosh, you know, 2020 is finally over. And my feelings about the new year coming are probably different than a lot of people’s like sudden relief. I’m like, nothing’s changed. But I personally I’ve always been hyper aware of time moving, I guess. Like sometimes I’ll look at the clock and be like, how is it that I’m already here? But for me I honestly I’m a sophomore this year. So two years away from college and I have honestly really appreciated the last 10 months or so to like, you know, spend time with my parents. I’m an only child. I don’t have siblings. So my parents, I guess I think it started to hit them because they’re like, what are we going to do when you go to regular school? And then after that, it’s like, what are we going to do when you go to college? Because again, only child. So once I’m gone, the house is going to get a whole lot quieter. So yeah, just the recognizing that, and 2020 has been a weird time warp in a way where it feels like things are going really fast, but really slow at the same time. So the two months where our school, couldn’t really figure out how to get the online learning thing happening off the bat. Like we just didn’t have school for two months. So that was me just, you know, what do I do when I have an endless amount of free time, I ended up painting and cooking. So I figured out that, okay, these are two things that I’m really interested in that I didn’t know that I liked before. So yeah. I found myself being able to ground myself in new hobbies that I discovered during quarantine and better manage my feelings and stress. 

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 13:54

Yeah. I heard a lot of people kind of blossomed during quarantine and it made me think of, it’s just so weird how humans think about everything. But my friend was like with the 2020, he was like our monkey brains don’t understand that we just made a number and the number changes, but nothing really changes. But it also just made me think about maybe we’re meant as humans to take a lot more time off and not have so much to do all the time. But not have as much stuff to do because it really forces you being alone and having constant stimulus, like we’re trained to have in normal life now forces you to be introspective and force it and forces you to grow. So I just wonder if the human experience was meant to have a lot more time of self-reflection introspection and just being more alone or with the people you love, then what created it. And I wonder if the reason that we’ve pushed ourselves to be so super social in this culture is because we’re really scared of what happens when we spend time for ourselves with that.

Sara StClair – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 15:09

I know just personally, it was a very, I don’t want to say negative, but there wasn’t a lot of positivity going on with new things every single month. And I felt like this time gave me the time to look within myself and I know that I’ve come out like a completely different person. I’m definitely way more positive, like looking for the positives and the situation instead of like, Oh, this is going wrong. I’m like, Oh, well this is going right. Because there haven’t been too many things this year that went well. So it’s just giving me the time to look at a situation and be able to pick out the positive parts so I can keep going and enjoy myself.

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 15:56

I would say that I have changed a lot also in quarantine because we’ve been in quarantine here for almost a year. It’s almost March, just crazy to think about. And looking back at the person that was March 2020 and the person I’m going to be March 21 is very different. And I’ve also been able to take up different hobbies, like baking also and spending more time on music and things that I really enjoy. And I feel like if we were still in school full time we would have, I wouldn’t have been able to go through those mental things because I would have been focusing so much to try to get the grades, trying to get all my science, my tests. And sometimes you have to start think about my college stuff. And especially where I live, we actually had more time off school because in the beginning of the year we had earthquakes. So we went, we started our second semester in February, really had about a month or so in actual school.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 17:06

Can I pose a question? Are we allowed to do that? Do you think, do you all think that we naturally grow year to year and the only reason we’re all like, Oh my God, we grew so much is because we have nothing else to distract us from noticing it, we’re hyper aware of it. Or do you think it was a little of both?

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 17:27

I definitely think a little bit of both because I know I grow year to year based on my experiences, but the thing with is how you mentioned, the constant stimulus is we’re constantly distracted by something or other, right. And that means cause a lot of self-growth is recognizing things yourself and working to either fix it or own it. So for me for a lot of my life, I’ve been a very social person and everyone described me as an extrovert. And I had this whole thing with a group of friends last year. So I went into quarantine already kind of distant from people. But what I realized during quarantine, probably just like a month or two ago is that somehow I’ve gotten to be much more comfortable with myself in that, you know how you mentioned, because we fear what happens when we’re alone with ourselves. I no longer fear what happens when I’m alone with myself. And I think that is something that if I hadn’t had these 10 months, it wouldn’t happen. So I’m like, yes, of course we naturally grow year to year based on our experiences that change year to year. But this year was so different that we grew a lot more than I think we would have had the pandemic not happened or had the political climate not been as it was because maybe one year you have this one friend group another year, you took too heavy of a course load, whatever. Like that’s small changes and you learn from those things, but this year you’re stuck at home with you and your family and no one else. How do you interact with people? Who do you reach out to in your spare time? Like what relationships do you choose to keep maintaining? And what do you learn about yourself from those choices that you make? So I think the year being as different as it was, gave us a lot of choices that we would normally have to make, which taught us more about ourselves, which in turn forced us to grow. 

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 19:39

I agree with that completely. I definitely think growth is natural with age obviously, but I think that I grew this year in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to had the pandemic not happen because I think that I definitely became more comfortable with being alone and I like to say that I really got to know myself because everyone thinks they know themselves, but then you’re alone for months and months. And you realize like, wow, I really did not know myself before and now I do. And that’s such an awesome feeling. And I’ve never felt it before to the extent that I feel it now before the pandemic happened. So I think that was pretty unique to this year, but I definitely do think that it is possible to achieve that over time. But I think that being alone for so long, just really expedited it. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 20:48

I mean, I think you grow in different dimensions of self. I think the pandemic helped me realize how much of my time was not my own and how much where I spent my time dictated how I grew. So if you are spending like six hours at school a day then your academic ability and ability to memorize facts that you won’t use is growing. But versus if you invested that time into reflection and experimentation you just naturally grow in a different way. And at least for me, I’ve been able to make decisions and try things that I otherwise would not have been able to. Which is why I think I was able to grow in different aspects.

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 21:49

I also think it’s both because like everybody is saying as a person, especially most of us, we’re teenagers, we’re in a time of our life where we’re growing the most. So every year we’re going to grow more and more, but it’s like an example when somebody closely passes away, you, they pass away and you go through a process of grieving. And from that process, you learn, if they don’t pass away, you don’t have the knowledge that you haven’t yet. It’s the same with the pandemic and everything. That’s been happy a year. It’s dependent. It never happened. We would have grown. Yes. But not to the extent that most people did. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 22:27

Yeah. I reminds me of, I think it was Thanasi’s word association for acceleration. It’s not to say that we wouldn’t have had these realizations over time, but it just accelerated it because we had so much time their selves and back to what Ashley said about being able to spend our time in different ways.

Allison Su – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 22:49

Yeah, I agree with all you guys, but I just wanted to add on, that there’s a space, I think it has to do a lot with Thanasi brought up the constant stimulus. But basically the idea of distraction. Like you have space before the entire pandemic, right. You’re focused on the space. Like you can’t get yourself out of space because you’re so focused in a space that you can’t take up any distraction, but then after the epidemic, after the pandemic and everything, you had the space to grow because you can, you’re allowed to take on distractions because you have more time essentially. 

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 23:34

Yeah. I really resonate with that. That’s like what I did. So over the summer actually I found myself a lot more busy than it otherwise would have. Like, because even though a lot of stuff got canceled, I ended up signing up for a lot more stuff than I would have. And I think that was a learning experience in itself. Right. I guess now instead of things happening to you, I think it makes you realize how much control over your time that you do have. And because of that, in the fall, I was a lot more intentional in what I signed up for or I hope I wasn’t more intention. I think I was more intentional, but I definitely resonate with that.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 24:24

Yeah. On that point, I found myself, I was talking to Gary a couple of days ago, but I find myself in two different spaces. Like when I’m distracted by something I really don’t want to do, but I feel like I should do, I use school or college applications or whatever. I find myself, like, my brain is so much more confined. So I moved out of my house into my apartment in September. But I moved out during the pandemic and having so much alone time. It was lonely for a couple of days, but then I realized how much time I had to read and listen and do stuff that I wouldn’t normally do because I felt trapped in my room or I felt like I was being pushed into having a conversation I didn’t want to have, or talking to my friends that I didn’t really like. And so what I’ve seen is I think the pandemic has also freed kids from school in a way that I don’t think anyone likes going to school and even if they do it definitely takes up so much of their energy that they could be using to do really cool stuff. And so, yeah, I think that’s a really interesting point of what do we do going forward? Can we give kids more time? Like actually I know I, Gary told me that you didn’t go to school for two years. And I was like, that’s so smart, like so intelligent. And I wonder if more kids can do that.

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 25:46

I totally agree with the last, like three things that have been said about, you know, now you have more time to take on things and you have more energy to do other stuff. I signed up for probably like, 10 clubs or something like that this year, because I found so many things that I realized were so cool that I hadn’t even thought about before. Like I started doing medical research for our school research club and I have found that to be so interesting. And then I also did I do this fundraiser every year. And I threw myself behind that this year. So last year I think we raised some like 18,000 in 13 weeks this year, I’m trying to do like 20,000 in half that time. So like, you know, I like threw myself into these causes that typically I have always been passionate about the fundraiser but I never had this much energy to expend on the passion because most of the time I’m here, like, you know, I have seven sheets of math around me at this point. But like, you know, despite that I still have like school starting later, I can wake up two hours earlier and get some work for that done or something like that. So that’s definitely something I’ve noticed. And bouncing off of that, I would like to pose another question. And that is what are some attributes of yourself or values that you’ve had have changed during quarantine? Because I feel like we’ve started realizing different things about not only ourselves, but what we care about. 

Lara Crochik – 2020 Founding Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 27:35

That’s a great question. I used to be like a micro manager, micro planner, like I’ve planned my life so far ahead past grad school, all this stuff when I was already in high school and I was a senior during all of this, so all of my plans, you know, didn’t happen and I had all these plans and it would make me so anxious all the time because I was like, I need to do everything perfectly in order to accomplish these plans. And I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do. And then once the pandemic hit and all of my plans, you know, my graduation, all of my summer plans even what college I ended up going to were affected by this. I kind of relaxed a little bit and I’m kind of now living day by day, which I’ve never done before. But it’s a lot more peaceful and a lot better for my mental health. I would say.

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 28:29

I think the value that I gained through all of this was, and I don’t really know how I gained this, probably just through I don’t know, getting to know myself and just being alone and thinking about what I value and what’s important to me. I really value happiness over all else. And it kind of made me reevaluate the way I was doing things in my life. Because I was a junior last year. And so my course load is way too heavy and I just wasn’t sleeping enough. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel good all the time. And once my life completely stopped, I was like, Oh my God, what am I doing if I’m not happy? Like literally, what am I doing? So just kind of made me think about that. And I realized that that’s something that I value overall else. And now in the future, I know to balance things better so that I can kind of keep my mental health in a good state. 

Sara StClair – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 29:42

I found myself in the same situation where when everything stopped, I was like, well, what do I have left to do? And I realized that I wasn’t that happy because I was, well, I was happy, but you know, there’s just a lot of things that were distracting me from really being happy. And when I looked within myself and I was trying to find the positive things and I started being a more positive person. I really started looking at the people I was surrounding myself with because I found that once I was able to look at situations and try to find the best, I was kind of seeing how other people were breaking down those situations. And I realized that I had surrounded, people had surrounded myself with were simply just the kids that I had classes with. And some of them just weren’t the best people to be around because they were very negative people. And I just found that this time it’s given me like, Oh, I don’t want to say it. Like it’s given me the time to look for different attributes that I want in the people that I surround myself with, because I feel like that’s a big part. Because I can make myself happy when I’m by myself. But now that we’re kind of I’m back in school two days a week. So I’m surrounded by those people again. So it’s just been really helpful to find the right people to surround myself with. Because in this time I’ve seen who’s reached out and who wants to maintain those friendships?

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 31:05

For me, I feel like it’s learning to stand up for myself more because like in school, I was always afraid to tell people no, because I felt like I was being mean. And I had to come to realize for myself that, for example, when it comes to homework, if somebody in my class calls me, asks me for homework, it’s okay to give them homework once or twice. But if every single time to ask them homework, I have to learn to say no and to set boundaries for myself and tell them, stop being afraid to tell them no and stop letting people walk all over you pretty much.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 31:48

I think I’ve changed my relationship with love and what love meant in my life. I had this friend group that I had for 17 years, I’m 18, so 17 years. And we were all really close, but then I realized that, you know, I loved them, but there was, there’s a thing that again, they were kind of toxic and pretty negative. And also they didn’t really you know, some people know that life has meaning and really value, beautiful life. And some people just walk you through. And they’re like, Oh, I kind of just hate everything. And I’m just doing it for the cause everybody else does it. And they were those type of people and they would always be making fun of the idealistic way that me and my friend talked about things. And so I realized that while I love those people, I loved being able to see the world in a better way more. And I thank God, you know, with the pandemic, I kind of didn’t have to totally break away and be like, I don’t want to be friends with you. You’re uninvited for my birthday party type stuff. But I slowly pulled myself away from them and brought myself to a place where other things I love that fulfilled me more. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 32:57

I agree with a lot of what people have been saying. I think if I had to pick an overarching theme for what I learned about myself, I would just say how much I was living my life for other people and based on what other people expected of me, because when you go from, you know, kind of the life you designed for yourself in high school, in terms of who you hang out with your extracurriculars, when you’re in it constantly, you’re not questioning it. So when all of that stopped and I had the time to where, you know, where everything stops and then having to go back because my school was in person from the start of the semester where I live, basically everything was the same as it was. I realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying the things that I had been doing and got out of a year ago. So it was like I had this time where I was getting to actually like a lot of people have said, fill my time with things that I actually found fulfilling and made me happy and having to go back to kind of the default way really just helped me realize that I was wasting my time.

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 34:13

I definitely agree with you on that. Like the going back to the default isn’t necessarily, you know, perfect. A lot of my friends were, we’ve been in school-wise lockdown since like March, so middle of March. And we haven’t done hybrid or anything so far. And a lot of my friends have been doing polls on Instagram going like, Hey, you know, what’s your preferred method of school in-person hybrid or online, or don’t care. And I think I’m one of the few people that honestly, I’m fine with the online method because I think so I’ve, again, always been a relatively people person so much so that most people describe me as an extrovert, but I later learned that the definition of extrovert and introvert isn’t are you socially anxious or socially proficient? It’s actually, do you recharge by talking to people or do you recharge on your own? And I’ve always had that, like I need 20 minutes by myself after school because if not, I’m going to snap at somebody. So just being at home and, you know, having joking moments with my friends online, like that has been fine for me. Or just meeting up masked outside in somebody’s garage or something just being on my own I really enjoy it. And I’ve also somebody mentioned this earlier, like redefining, the meaning of love in your life. I’ve always been a very passionate person and I throw myself behind everything that I do, because I fully believe that you know, if you don’t throw yourself into everything you do, then why are you doing it?

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 36:00

Like, if you are willing to put all of your effort into it, then, why are you spending time on it? So I had a lot of friends before that were very superficial and just kind of just walk through life without actually caring about something or they’ll start some community service or fundraising something because community service hours, like if I ask somebody you know, what’s your connection to the cause? They’re like, well, I don’t have one. It’s just community service hours. And I’m like, I mean, that’s a legitimate reason to do it. But I started realizing I really value passion in people. And I really value people who love what they do and who love life and find moments to be happy because everything on the outside looks so negative now. And if you can’t find the good in it, then you’re just constantly going to be talking about something negative and drive people away. Because you know, you can’t have those energy vampires around you all the time because you’re going to start feeling drained. So yeah, I really, you know, have started to realize the amount that I value passion and energy and zest for life.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 37:11

Where are you all going to spend like, let’s say the vaccine actually works and hopefully we’re all back in the fall. Are you going to shift where you spend your time? Because if you spend a lot of your time in school and then extracurriculars, and then you’re building your college application and then you apply to college and then you go to college, that was the before. Will that be the after for you all? Or are you like, what has changed? What do you want to spend your time on when you, I guess come out of quarantine?

Allison Su – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 37:40

For me before the pandemic, I was really inactive conversant. Like basically, even if I commit myself to, I don’t know, for example dance, I was really afraid to put myself out there. Like even those days, you kind of have to perform and everything. But I was still afraid to put myself out there, but then after the pandemic and everything, I feel like I stopped being afraid to put myself out there. So I feel like after the pandemic and everything, I feel like I’m just going to continue to put myself out there because I feel like the more I put myself out there, the more I grow as a person and the more I work, like experiences and everything. So I think that’s something that’s going to shift. 

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 38:28

Allison, I’d be curious as to why you as to why you think that that’s the case. I’m sorry, what was

Allison Su – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 38:36

Because I feel like, you know, the whole entire world is really chaotic by now. And then through the world, people have to become really empathetic with each other. Like people start to understand each other about, you know, what happens to them or work issues and everything, and just like, try to understand people. So I feel like because of his whole, entire pandemic and everything, people start connecting with each other. And so that kind of like seeing on social media, that kind of helped me go forward a little. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but that’s why I kind of started to put myself out there more and not be afraid of it. Because in the past I was so afraid to put myself out there and everything.

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 39:32

I think that after the pandemic, I want to actively put more time towards checking in with myself because I was able to do that since I had time. But even when I don’t have time, I want to make sure that I do it. You know, even when I don’t have months upon months, just sitting in my room and think I want to be able to like I said before, keep my mental health in a good place. So I want to continue to journal on, continue to meditate and do all these habits that I’ve cultivated, even when I’m busy. And I think that that’s the hard part to continue to do. The good things, even when you don’t have all the time in the world to do them, but I’m going to commit to it and I’m going to do it.

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 40:20

For me, I feel like I’m going to spend more time creating experiences and memories because especially with the pandemic, a lot of people feel like they wasted an entire year because they haven’t been able to go out and do stuff. So for me, it’s spend more time creating memories that I’ll have with me forever. 

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 40:58

I think I am going to, I’m not a scheduler, I’m a live life person. And I definitely agree with Ari where she says you don’t have all the time in the world, but you still have certain things that you want to make sure you do. And I definitely want to make sure I spend some time growing in the way that I want to because I realized two years ago I did this weird backward growth thing where I unlearned a quality that I’d always had that somehow, I got elected as ASB president and I’ve always been a very blunt person and, you know, I told it like it was, and I always told the truth no matter what, and I didn’t change my words for sugarcoat things. Because it’s not what people wanted to hear. And I started becoming a lot more of a pushover, I think. And I realized that I kind of want to unlearn that because I did that because of like, I don’t know, pressure from outside sources to I don’t know, just conform to the whole, be nice, don’t be overboard or pushy or anything. So, yeah, I think I realized that I kind of want to unlearn that because I need to learn again how-to put-up boundaries for myself and be assertive, like a person who knows what she wants and doesn’t hide that from people. So I want to spend time asking myself questions about me like are you happy with who you are right now? Because I realize I am not happy with who I was in eighth grade anymore because I was doormat, and I don’t like that. So yeah, I’m going to do my best to ask myself are you sure you’re happy with who you are and fix myself if I’m not.

Lara Crochik – 2020 Founding Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 42:16

I think for me, it’s kind of like what a lot of people have said but finding meaningful friendships. I was in college for two weeks before I came back home. But during that time, over zoom I’ve made so many friends that are actually interested in the things that I’m interested in and have similar values to me, which was the first time in my life that I’ve had people who’ve gone through the same experiences and have the same life goals. And I’ve also met people that have completely opposite that life goals, but I’m kind of figuring out who I am through these people. And I think I’ve had some really adult conversations, which I haven’t been able to have before. So I think just connecting with people who are going to help me grow and that I can help grow instead of just wasting my time with people who don’t want my time, if that makes sense. So kind of figuring out what can help me grow as a person and how I can help others grow. I think that’s one of the biggest things that I want to change post pandemic.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 43:44

There’s my friends and I joke around like, there’s these people in your life that are filler characters, like how you would regard in a movie the people in the back and they kind of don’t add anything, but they allow you to distract yourself from the fact that you have nothing else better to do. Which at least that’s how I felt. A year ago, people, one of them in this call would send me podcasts and I’d be with my friends all the time and I would never listen to them and looking back, I’m like, I was so dumb because I love listening to them now. But those people provided me no benefit to my personality, to my knowledge, they didn’t expand my worldview. I literally got zero out of those friendships, but I was still spending most of my time there. And it was like I would equate it to the same reason people are addicted to drugs or people are addicted their phones because it fills a void that they don’t yet know how to fill themselves. So that’s how I saw those filler characters. And I’m really disappointed in myself for not seeing it sooner.

Lara Crochik – 2020 Founding Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 45:00

I think a lot of what you said also has to do with circumstance. And I feel like that’s also changed because of orienting. Like a lot of people said quarantine gave them an excuse to cut off friendships or kind of end friendships or help them figure that out. And I feel like a lot of people are just friends with people out of circumstance. Like they go to your school, they’re in your class, there’s someone you can eat lunch with. And I feel like once you’re able to find your time alone and figure out what you truly value and stuff like that. You don’t have to be friends with those people out of circumstance. So I feel like, I guess being able to have your own company makes you have better company because you’re able to pick and choose because you don’t just want randoms.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 45:39

Yeah. I just wonder how we get to the point where everybody, not everybody feels this way, but like school is where most of the friendships come from. Right. And you have those circumstantial friendships, and you don’t waste four years, but you spend a lot of your time with people who don’t fulfill you. So I just wonder how we get to the point in society of when people can be like, okay, this is what I want out of a friendship like that level of wisdom, I guess, to know that, because I think knowing it a lot younger is super helpful at least to me,

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 46:15

I guess something my mind just jumps to is that the way we structure schools, essentially tells us why do we still put people in classes with people who are the same grades as them, are there better ways to come together? I feel like in order for people, like school does define so many of our friendships. And school plays. I mean if you’re spending six hours a day in school, you’re spending six hours with the people in your classes and if those people are chosen for you, then you have no agency over who you spend time with and who becomes your friends unless you intentionally do not have friends in school. But I think a big part of that starts with just giving more people options in where they’re spending their time learning and growing.

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 47:21

So definitely what Lara said earlier about circumstance, because frankly at this point, I’m pretty sure my grade has some 600 students in it and 400 of them were from my previous school. And the fact that we have seven periods all in our grade, more or less, that you just get flip-flopped among them. And I knew every single person out of my old school by name and that’s a lot of people to know. And I feel like out of all of those people, there were maybe eight people that I actually wanted to be friends with, or that actually added value to my life. But you don’t need to know those 400 other people and it’s definitely the circumstance of it and how we structure school because, you know, half the time I just was friends with people because I didn’t have lunch with the people I would regularly hang out with. So I was just like, Hey, you’re in my class, we both know each other, let’s just eat lunch together. So something like that. So I feel like, yeah, I definitely agree on the whole circumstance, how school is structured, that kind of thing. Because I don’t think we’d be in those fuller friendships otherwise. And it’s just also kind of like a matter of convenience. Like if you have a friend in your math class and you don’t know how to do a math problem, then you need a person you can reach out to, to be like, Hey, can you explain this to me without being weird about it? So convenience and circumstance circumstances is what I’m going to say is the main thing.

Thanasi Dilos – Co-founder, Civics Unplugged: 49:02

I’ve been summoned by Josh. So I have to run, but you all are so amazing. This was the coolest thing I’ve done. And it was a great way to slow down after a really interesting day. So thank you. Bye.

Sara StClair – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 49:25

Yeah, I feel like it was just, it’s a lot about circumstance, like the classes you’re in. And I found myself last year, before we were sent home, joining a lot more clubs. So I could find those people that I have the same things, same interests. And I did find myself distancing my life and myself from those friendships that I just had out of convenience. And I think quarantine helped with that because I had started to find those people I had similar interests with. So I was able to keep up with them during quarantine.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 50:07

So we can go to the reflection. I’m going to go ahead and send the link in the same chat for all these notes. So you all can take a moment to look over them. And when you have a reflection that you want to say, just shout it out and I’ll write it down 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 50:28

Literally about anything, this conversation, the topics the actual like format of group think. 

Lara Crochik – 2020 Founding Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 50:42

I am glad that everyone had such personal growth during quarantine and stuff like that. And I’m glad to hear that you guys enjoy the time. For me, it was a really tough time. I would not say that I handled it well, but that was just because I felt like I was robbed of things that I was waiting for, for a long time. And that’s just circumstances like me being a senior. But it makes me hopeful that you guys had a good experience and that you guys learned more about yourselves and more about how to better your mental health and stuff, because I think what you’ve learned you can pass on to others. And I think that it’s really good to learn that earlier because I had to learn that through different ways when I was in high school. So I’m glad that you guys kind of got a pause and you had a positive experience is what I’m trying to say. So, I’m glad that you guys got that.

Ari – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 51:38

Regarding just the conversation in general. I really applaud everyone for being honest and being vulnerable because it allowed me to learn a lot more about you, which I really enjoy it. And I don’t know many of you, so I really enjoyed this conversation because I found a lot of common experiences and common opinions. So yeah. Thank you for being honest, even though, we might not know each other that well, so I really enjoyed this. 

Nayeli Cruz – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 52:03

I just want to say that I found it kind of, I guess, shocking to see that there were other people who actually enjoyed 2020, like me, because a lot of people they’re always like, I hate 2020 and I actually kind of liked it because of how much I got to grow as a person. And it’s good to see that there are other people like that as well.

Prokriti Basu – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 52:36

I definitely agree with that. I honestly think that a lot of times I was afraid to say that I didn’t hate 2020, because everyone’s like, Oh, you know, 2020 sucks, cancel 2020. But I’m glad to see that there are other people who also think the same way. Because frankly I grew a lot in 2020. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about others and I honestly think that you know, the pandemic is terrible and so is COVID-19, but I’m glad that something good came out of it. And I’m glad that there are people that recognize that something good. And I’m glad that it left a positive experience on anybody’s life. Because you know, it has left such a negative effect on so many. 

Sara StClair – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 53:26

It’s really refreshing to see that other people took something positive out of the year because I’m a small town, like 70 people in my grade. And I feel like a lot of people have that small town mindset where it’s just walking through life, just getting it done, not really enjoying it. And it was just really nice to see that other people grew.

Allison Su – 2021 Fellow, Civics Unplugged: 53:57

It was really interesting to just hear you guys’ experience because I feel like everyone has different experiences and everything, and it allows people to learn from each other based on each individual’s experiences, which is different. So I really appreciate that. 

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 54:45

Ashley. Do you mind sharing your experience, you don’t have to go into too much detail, about doing group think with your family. In case it might inspire some people to try this out with some friends?

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 54:56

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think a lot of people have touched on this type of dialogue, where you can be vulnerable and authentic, it really helps you connect with people and get to know people on a deeper level. So last week on Sunday, I did my first ever group think with my younger sisters. And we literally just chose a topic. It was a conversation fueled by people’s questions. I don’t necessarily recommend importing this format and just dropping it into other communities you’re a part of, but definitely channeling this spirit of slowing down. I guess something that I thought was kind of funny. It was just at the beginning of this group think where it just felt really fast. Which is really good, but I feel like in a lot of our calls, at least zoom calls, I feel like it’s always driven by an agenda and you get in and then you talk about X, Y, and Z, and then you get out and it’s just very fast paced. And I feel like it’s just really nice to like this type of space where it’s okay to slow down and where it’s okay to explore deeper feelings and things that you might not you know, have space to talk about in your day to day. So yeah, highly encourage creating of spaces with family and with current groups of friends, it has really helped me deepen my relationship with my sisters already. And so I’m really excited to continue doing this. And so we’re going to do it weekly now, which is really cool.

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 56:58

Ashley, I’d be curious to know how the format changed when you did it with your sisters.

Ashley Lin – Founder/CEO, Project Exchange: 57:04

Yeah. so I was actually brain dropping on this, but I think when I did it in person I think what one of the design choices we made for group think was writing things down. It allows people to see what they’re being said on paper. So it kind of validates what people are saying like, it was kind of awkward to do that in person. My sister’s asked me if I was like taking minutes and it was like, no, I’m not taking minutes. Well, I think if it weren’t too hard because it was in person. And so it kind of just naturally called for me to look in their eyes and put away my device and connect with them authentically. And so we decided we were going to have a set time in the beginning, which is more so just talking and then have a different set time where we reflect on that conversation and that’s when we’re going to take notes and stuff. And then we just called it something different. So we called it a sleepover and we sleep over in someone’s room and that’s where we do this. But just tiny choices. Like honestly just experiment and mess around with it and change things little pieces at a time and it all turned into something really cool.

Gary Sheng – Co-Founder/COO, Civics Unplugged: 58:35

Thanks for sharing Ashley. Anyone have any final reflections?

Madison Adams – Director of Dialogue, Civics Unplugged: 58:46

I guess I can go ahead and say it’s basically echoing things people have already said, but Nayeli touched on, I didn’t realize that so many other people had grown so much and appreciated the experience that they had throughout 2020. And also, I really appreciated Thanasi’s question about, do we grow from year to year or did we actually grow more than we did in previous years in 2020? I hadn’t thought about that before. And of course there was responses about it being both just a really interesting conversation and I enjoyed having all of you here and I hope that you come to one in the future because I just really enjoyed hearing from all of you. All right. And so have a great rest of your night and I will hopefully see you again soon. Bye.

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