Despite the pandemic, these Pittsburgh kids have high hopes for 2021

Photos, from left: Addi Pavely, Bilquisu Abdullah and Malcolm Kurtz

Kids suffered more than their share of disappointments in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

They bought outfits for proms that never happened, tickets to amusement parks that were never used and birthday invitations that were never sent. They missed hugs from their grandparents, graduation ceremonies and first dates with first crushes.

But if nothing else, kids are resilient. They seem to rebound more quickly than adults. Many kids face 2021 with an optimism that is part of the genetic DNA of youth.

Kidsburgh talked to Pittsburgh kids, asking them what they are looking forward to this year. Here’s what they had to say:

Mason Anthony

Mason Anthony, 17, Hampton

For Mason Anthony, 2021 will be about popping the bubble he’s formed with three close friends. When the pandemic struck, the quartet decided to follow social distancing protocols, but not give up on hanging out. Activities were limited to their small group and included a little New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house, where they slept in the basement with the door open to the outside.

“It was pretty cold, but it was worth it,” says Mason,  who is taking hybrid courses at school.

He’s practicing with the Hampton baseball team, where he plays outfield and first base. Mason joined the school bowling team, too — again, social distancing protocols are followed, with rival teams kept separate from each other. He’s looking forward to finalizing his college choice, where he hopes to study computer science.

Despite his busy academic and athletic schedules, Mason works at a grocery store as a curbside pickup associate. Considered an essential worker, he hopes to get vaccinated soon.

Ysa and Audrey LePage.

Ysa LePage, 11, and Audrey LePage, 9, Sewickley

For sisters Ysa and Audrey LePage, 2020 was not a total loss. They worked hard after they were forced to take online courses. Ysa is eager to go back to in-school classes.

“I didn’t appreciate it as much,” Ysa says. “I just didn’t see how great it was. And now that (the pandemic) has happened, I appreciate it much more.”

Audrey is more eager to return to other activities, including being outdoors more with her white chihuahua, Stella, and bowling. Her high game is 100, achieved when she was only 8.

“I do take her out around the block,” Audrey says. “But I don’t take her farther than that.”

In addition to planning a vacation to see family members in New Hampshire and dining at Ichiban Hibachi Steakhouse, both girls are hopeful about getting back to their former routines.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my friends,” Ysa says, “and to be able to be out somewhere by the end of the year without having to wear a mask.”

Dallas Glenn.

Dallas Glenn, 16, Point Breeze

“In 2020, I made new year’s resolutions, such as traveling, working out, getting a job and learning how to play guitar,” Dallas Glenn says. “Once the pandemic hit, I gave up on all of that, as most people did. During the pandemic, however, I started cooking more, writing songs and learning more songs on the piano.

“In 2021, I’m making my goals less ambitious. The thing I’m most looking forward to is hanging out with my friends again. I dropped off Christmas presents at their houses and it just reminded me of how much I miss them.

“I’m also hoping to get a job this summer so I can be a little more independent. I think 2020 has taught me that I don’t have to have all of these big achievements every year. I’m looking forward to the little things that make me happy, like music, friends and cooking.”

Ivry Sasson.

Ivry Sasson, 16, Squirrel Hill

“I’m most looking forward to seeing how Joe Biden acts as the new president and what legislation he creates to help deal with problems in our country,” says Ivry Sasson, who has big plans for 2021.

“I’m looking forward to being able to do in-person chess tournaments rather than online and being able to drive and get a permit since I just turned 16. This year, I want to get back to my fitness routine by going to the gym at the Jewish Community Center.”

Another ambition is “ending the school year with good grades and doing well on the finals and the AP tests, despite the tough learning circumstances.”

Bilquisu Abdullah, 17, Turtle Creek

“2020 made me realize my true values and the core importance of life,” says Bilquisu Abdullah. “It helped me to finally get over my hesitations and qualms about enjoying my happiness. So in 2021, I am simply looking forward to enjoying life by the moment with the people I love.”

As a senior, Bilquisu is missing out on a lot of the traditions associated with high school.

“But there is still light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “I still have hopes of being able to graduate right beside my friends and classmates that I’ve grown up with,” she says. “My plans consist of starting my first year of college in the fall, going on a senior trip with my best friends, and whatever else presents itself as a great opportunity for me.

“I am inspired by everyone who has realized the importance of making it through 2021, and am especially proud, as well as grateful, for the nurses, doctors, teachers, essential workers, etc., who spearheaded the hope for a better future.”

Alia McFarland.

Alia McFarland, 15, Canonsburg

For Alia McFarland, 2021 will be about setting up her future. She’s planning to tour college campuses this summer, but already knows where she’d like to go.

“I’m planning to apply to Tufts (University in Massachusetts),” Alia says. “I want to major in women’s and gender studies, with a minor in psychology.”

A saxophone player in the Canon-McMillan High School band, Alia is a little disappointed that she only got to play at one football game. But she’s hopeful that the coming year will bring more opportunities to spend time with bandmates and friends.

“I’m looking forward to seeing them again,” Alia says. “I haven’t seen most of them in quite some time.”

Once the pandemic subsides, Alia is looking forward to a trip to Disney World in Florida. But that probably won’t happen until 2022.

Brynn Davis, 10, South Fayette

Brynn Davis.

Brynn Davis wants to go to Taco Town (her nickname for El Paso Mexican Grill) and New Dragon for dinner with her family. She misses dining out at these Bridgeville restaurants that have been off-limits since the pandemic started.

While Brynn has adjusted to learning online — her favorite subjects are art and language arts. But, she says, “I miss being able to go outside and see my friends.”

Brynn is looking forward to playing soccer — she’s a goalkeeper — and eventually visiting her grandparents in Ocean City, N.J.

Addi Pavely, 12, Wexford

Addi Pavely is a three-sport athlete. In addition to track and basketball, she’s a member of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds elite girls team. One of her goals is to be able to play sports without a mask once vaccines are available.

“It’s definitely harder to play wearing a mask,” she says.

Addi’s other ambitions for the year include maintaining straight A’s in school and getting back to a full-time, in-person schedule. She wants to go out to dinner with her family, too. Mad Mex and Burgatory are two of her favorite restaurants.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my relatives,” says Addi, who misses spending time with friends, too.

Gibson Musisko.

Gibson Musisko, 16, Swissvale

When the pandemic forced Gibson Musisko to stay at home, he took advantage of his newfound “breathing room.” A member of the band Spare Lights, he worked tirelessly on new songs and sounds last year.

“I’m definitely excited for 2021,” Gibson says. “I made big advances in my music last year and started making stuff I was pretty proud of. I’m excited for that to evolve and progress.”

When the weather turns warmer, Gibson plans to do more rehearsals outside with the band. Having just turned 16 means getting a learner’s permit and a driver’s license. He’s hoping for a car, he says, “so my mom doesn’t have to drive me everywhere.”

A job is a possibility, as his father just took over Droopy’s Cross Creek Bar and Grill in Elizabeth. And Gibson plans to prep for the SAT and start to look at colleges.

Malcolm Kurtz, 15, Squirrel Hill

Malcolm Kurtz is passionate about nature. A member of the Three Rivers Birding Club, he looks forward to leading youth birding walks for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy at Frick Park.

“I am really looking forward to it,” Malcolm says. “I am also planning on doing tree planting for Tree Pittsburgh sometime this year.”

Malcolm says he’s adjusted to online classes — “I realize that being safe is the better option” — but he wants to interact with his classmates at Pittsburgh CAPA as soon as it is safe. He hopes to continue meeting his friends and girlfriend on short walks, but without masks and the need for social distancing.

A tennis player, Malcolm hopes to begin playing again soon. And he hopes to travel a bit with his family.

“We don’t have any plans for visiting relatives until things settle down a bit,” Malcolm says. “In the summer, we will drive up to Erie to visit relatives.”