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The WHRO news team wanted to know how the pandemic had transformed the lives of middle school, high school and college students across Hampton Roads. So we asked them to document their lives for us.

Reporters picked different locations and sent packets out -- each with instructions, a question sheet, a self-addressed envelope and a disposable camera. We dropped these packets off in YMCAs, a library, a bowling alley and other public locations across the community where local students might happen upon them.

We found the idea from the work of Sydney Boles, a reporter with Ohio Valley ReSource. Boles is based at WMMT in Whitesburg, Ky.

Our team wanted young people in Hampton Roads to use the cameras and show us what their lives are like during the time of COVID-19. 

Chloe Robinson, 16, was the first to respond. She is an 11th grader who attends Gloucester High School. She loves taking pictures, she said, and she focuses on self-portraits.

"I take them so they can speak to people," she adds.

The pandemic has shrunk her world. She spends most of her time either in the house or in the ice cream shop where she works.

"I love hanging out with my dad and just listening to music," she says.

She tries to stay as positive as possible. The stress of growing up and the stress of this unique time are real, though.

"The struggle with school and trying to do it online, and just like everything," she says, "like not being able to go to your family, and then people dying, and then you’re scared because you can’t really talk to your family besides being on the phone."

Some of her photos have a fun, exasperated feel, showing her dealing with the challenges everyone faces, trying to keep a home virus-free.

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Some photos are more somber. In one shot, she wonders, "Is this really happening or is it a dream..."

But Chloe is determined. "Let your smile change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile," is her caption for the photo below.

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We asked Chloe what she wanted people to know about her. 

"That I will love you no matter what, and that I care and that they are important in the world and, whether or not they know it,"she said.

"They are important, and they are needed in the world."

Gloucester County Public Schools has "one of the most ambitious return-to-school plans" according to the Daily Press. The school administration wants to bring all grades back in a hybrid learning system on November 12.

Chloe will hopefully be able to see more of her friends and keep taking snapshots. The county, along with the rest of Virginia, is in Phase 3 of the state COVID plan. That limits businesses to 50% occupancy and private gatherings to 250 people.

WHRO Journalism has dropped off camera packs to locations in Franklin, Norfolk, Isle of Wight and other places in the area. If you are interested in participating in the COVID camera project, send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you find one of the COVID Camera Packs, show us what you’re doing with your days. It can be what you do for fun, how you prepare for school, your dog sunbathing -- anything you have going on! Just don’t send us anything you wouldn’t post on social media, please.

Once your camera is full, put it in the provided envelope. Then complete the personal ID form, so we can give you full credit for your photography. We’d like to stay in touch with you, and maybe even interview you on the radio. Please include yours and your guardian’s contact information.