As THS has grown, it has had the opportunity to have a global impact, with chapters across the country and even in Canada! Teen Carlos Payá Barrachina learned about the work THS was doing through his AP U.S. History class at the Kent School in Kent, CT, where he attends boarding school. Payá Barrachina is originally from Alicante, Spain and currently resides there. He had been on spring break in early March, home in Spain, before travel restrictions and global health guidelines were set in place. “For this reason, I had no travel issues. However, all my belongings stayed at my school, which means that I will have to pick them up whenever schools reopen,” Payá Barrachina explained.
His AP U.S. History teacher learned about the work THS was doing on TV. According to Payá Barrachina, she was surprised by the innovative organization and reached out through social media to inquire about THS’ participating in a COVID-19 related project the Kent School was doing. As part of the project, Payá Barrachina interviewed individuals at THS, such as co-founders Dhruv Pai and Matthew Cassertano.
While participating in the project, Payá Barrachina was also attending online classes. A usual class schedule from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time transitioned to a class schedule from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Spain. “While classes did not conflict with my sleep schedule, I had to change my studying schedule and do most of my assignments right before classes, something which was quite awkward,” he said. “Overall, [taking online classes] was a positive experience. Not knowing what to expect from online learning, I must say I was surprised by the capacity technology has on keeping groups of people ‘together.’”
In addition to online learning, Payá Barrachina was staying socially distant in Spain, which he explained has been one of the countries most affected by the pandemic with the highest number of deaths per one million citizens. “[That] is something that really shows our weaknesses. Throughout most of April, our sanitary system collapsed in Madrid and Barcelona and made it impossible to attend [to] every patient in risk. Reasons for the massive outbreak of the pandemic in Spain are the close distance and frequent connections with Italy (one of the first countries with a significant number of COVID-19 cases) and the late response our government had despite knowing that the number of cases were rapidly growing,” he said. “Fortunately, the situation is much better now and the country is almost fully reopened.”
This project, which culminated in interviews and a final video allowed for the development of cross-cultural connections between teens. Payá Barrachina enjoyed learning more about the creation of THS, the reasons for the rapid expansion of the organization nationally and internationally, and plans and objectives THS has for the future. “I would like to thank Dhruv and Matthew for their availability and their willingness to be interviewed, and I think it really shows the humble origins of this incredible organization,” he said. He hopes that many people are able to watch the project and “get to know two amazing people who have created a unique teen organization.”
Payá Barrachina also wants to thank the entire group for the kindness they have treated him with. “I only have positive words to describe the people that form this organization, and I encourage [everyone] to keep doing everything the way [they’ve] been doing it.”