It’s been a trying year for students who’ve been working hard to keep their grades up despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“I think what I’m most excited about today is believe it or not gym," said Angel Gomez, who’s missed the daily walk from the subway station to Humanities Prep Academy.

What You Need To Know

  • Angel Gomez was among the high school students that returned to their schools for in-person learning

  • Having spent most of the year learning remotely, the 15-year-old has gotten help from the Harlem Educational Activities Fund to keep his grades from suffering

  • Gomez says learning remotely has been filled with challenges that he’s had to overcome

He has spent most of his sophomore year learning from home and trying to make sure his grades don’t suffer.

“If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to fall behind," said Gomez, age 15.

Monday, he commuted from his Harlem neighborhood to Chelsea for the first time in months as the city reopened public high schools for in-person learning.  

The self-described motivated student spoke with NY1 via Zoom last week about what it was like navigating the immediate change to remote learning at the height of the pandemic, first figuring out how to get a laptop and now dealing with occasional connectivity problems that pop up during class.

To keep up, Gomez has gotten support the Harlem Educational Activities Fund or HEAF, a non-profit that offers free academic support programs for what they call the city’s forgotten students.

“Students weren’t on zoom in this way before or ever, and having to present themselves in this forum,” said Sean Harrell, HEAF’s chief program officer.  

Harrell says the organization’s workshops have helped, like virtual mentoring sessions to teach kids to adapt and thrive, as part of HEAF’s effort to continue the its 100% graduation rate for its participants.

“We work with them on nurturing  their development, their academic strength," said Harrell.

Gomez says he’s not wasting any opportunities.

“There’s a lot of clubs that HEAF has where there’s a lot of knowledge going in through you that can help you prepare for your future," said Gomez.

He’s hoping that this return to school will keep his academic performance on the right track.

“I am worried for another shut down but I won’t let that throw me down in the slightest even if it does happen," said Gomez. “I’ll just go back home, continue going to school because I got to do what I got to do and I just got to keep pushing on.”