(Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a new series that takes a look at how recent graduates’ (class of 2020) lives were turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
A week supposed to be filled with good memories, of fun times spent with friends unwinding, before wrapping up the rest of the school year on a good note.
That wasn’t the case for many this year — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — as spring break was ruined before it even started, with spring breakers arriving at their destinations to find out things were closed or closing.
For recent Gunnison High School graduate Etaoin Burton, spring break got even worse after she arrived in Texas — when she received a text message from her dad, saying they (her parents) had coronavirus.
“I was in Texas when I found out they had gotten it, and I was so terrified. People tend to push this pandemic to the back of their mind, because they have other stuff they have to do and they don't want to think about it. But when it hits you and you realize people in your life are sick you don’t know what to do,” said Burton. “When I came home my mom had the brunt of it. She was in bed and I couldn’t get near her because I didn’t want to spread it. I just remember her being so weak and I was really afraid. I was going to lose her for a little bit. My parents are completely fine now, but it was such a scary time for me. I realized you only have so much time with your parents, so I’ve started to spend more time with them.”
Burton will have a lot of time to spend with them, as she received more heartbreaking news. Recently she learned Savannah College of Art & Design will be closing their campus for the fall, and will only be offering online classes.
“It's a pain, Gunnison is a very small town. You know everybody and you know all your classmates,” said Burton. “I was expecting to go somewhere else and meet new friends, but I guess I have to wait a little bit.”
While Burton still plans to attend Savannah College of Art & Design, she won’t do so until the campus opens back up, and will look to attend Western in the fall so she can get her general education classes done.
“I’m hoping to transfer the basic classes I take at Western over to Savannah, and hopefully next year I’ll be able to finally go and I’ll have three years left at that college. It is a pretty expensive college, so going to Western will be cheaper.”
The cost of tuition at Savannah College of Art & Design for one year is $37,575, compared to Western which is $20,769 — however Burton could save $9,874, by not living on campus or purchasing a meal plan.
When Burton does step foot on Savannah College of Art & Design campus, she’ll be majoring in animation, focusing on 2D animation — and will have some practice under her belt. Her parents bought her a new laptop for her birthday (Friday, Jun. 19) and previously purchased an animation program (TVpaint animation).
“My dad got me one of the best animation programs he could get, and that means the world to me and I'm probably going to be doing nothing but playing around on it producing stuff. I even have been thinking of making a YouTube channel just to get some rough stuff out there,” said Burton. “When my parents learned that I had this kind of dream, they supplied me with everything they could. I really have no one else to thank but my parents to tell me to go get it. My parents have always been ... do what you need to do, but you have to work for it and I’ve always appreciated that about them.”
“I never had a dream like hers, where I knew what I wanted to do at a young age and took the steps necessary to achieve it,” said Anthony Burton, Etaoin’s father. “I was more like I need to get a job, and if I have a family I need to do this, but I was never as passionate as her. I'm just impressed by her passion. I don't know anyone who says I want to be an animator, especially growing up in a small town. She taught herself how to draw, and I got her all the equipment she needed, tablets and stuff to draw digitally. This isn’t a hobby for her, this is something she wants to do and I will do everything I can to help her out.”
(Brandon Warr can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)