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Teens adjust to summer like no other due to coronavirus pandemic

Some teens, like potential Olympian CJ Cummings, are trying to stay positive.

Teenagers are entering a summer unlike any of us have ever experienced. While adults might take a week or two off in between work, the summer provides teenagers time to spend with friends, get away from their parents, earn money, learn for fun and get a first taste of freedom.

This summer, everybody is figuring out new ways to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lockdown has been hardest on young people, according to the U.K.'s largest study of adults' wellbeing and mental health during the pandemic, with 18- to 24-year-olds showing the lowest levels of life satisfaction, and some of the highest levels of loneliness. For many, it may seem as if they're losing their teenage years and they have no idea when it will end.

All of the classic go-to summer positions for young people -- retail, restaurants and pools -- have been shut down or have limited openings and most companies have canceled internships. School isn't even officially out for the summer and the unemployment rate for teens aged 16 to 19 hit 32% in April, marking a high not seen since at least 1948, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When it comes to seeing friends, that's also a state-by-state decision. But most officials are still encouraging social distancing and wearing masks in certain situations. So not your typical carefree summer.

Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, urges everyone not to lose sight of the unique, and difficult, situation facing young people.

"We do have a large number of people who aren't going through the same type of experience that many of us went through when we were younger and that's not fair," Lee said.

Many young people didn't just have their pool parties with friends canceled. Others had plans to spend summer on the national stage dashed, and are trying to make the most of a difficult situation.

CJ Cummings was close to qualifying for his Olympic weightlifting debut in Tokyo, when the pandemic halted his international journey.

Olympic officials called off this summer's games and postponed them until next year. Now Cummings is training in a makeshift gym in his hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina, looking ahead to 2021.

"It will come; I've just gotta keep that in my head," Cummings said. "Since 2016, I was like, 'OK, 2020 is going to be my year,' just training hard for that. ... It got canceled and it was just like, you know, I'll work harder. But it just pushed it back to next year so I was like, just gotta stay positive."

At just 12 years old, fashion designer Ashlyn So has already shown her work at New York Fashion Week, but when the pandemic struck it inspired her to dedicate her new free time to hand-making face masks for front-line workers.

"It's amazing how you can learn how to adapt to these grand issues, and these problems," said Lee. "And then later in your life you're like, 'OK, no sweat, heck this isn't a huge pandemic, I can deal with this.'"

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