Rachel Masson
ASU Student Journalist

How strong family relationships impact lives

October 16, 2023 by Rachel Masson, Arizona State University

Left to right: Maria Banuelos, Alexis Banuelos, George Banuelos, Emily Banuelos, and Alyssa Banuelos. The Banuelos family gathered to support Emily as the Spartans faced Maryvale High School (Banuelos family photo).

Rachel Masson is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Camelback High School for AZPreps365.com

Emily Banuelos is like many high school students. She’s a varsity volleyball player at Camelback High School, is involved in various extracurricular activities, and has a close family. She’s also dealt with mental health issues from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a survey conducted in 2021 by the Arizona Department of Health Services, about 40% of high schoolers in Arizona felt that their mental health was not good during the pandemic. However, Banuelos’ family united to support her during isolation to keep her from becoming just another statistic.

When the coronavirus spread in America, many people  were affected by a lack of social interaction. Many people also became depressed because of the isolation they faced.

Banuelos started to get emotionally worn down from constantly being around her family and getting into small conflicts with them.

“When you’re hanging around your family too much, you guys can bump heads,” Banuelos said. “My family and I were really bumping heads and it was tearing me down because I really cherish my family.”

Banuelos also started her freshman year at Camelback High School in the fall of 2020, going to school virtually. She began to feel depressed from the tensions at home and lack of socialization with her peers caused by isolation.

“One day I messaged a teacher asking for a hotline or a number to call because I felt like I was going to do something to myself,” Banuelos said. “I wanted help, and I hated the way I was feeling all the time.”

The teacher then reached out to Banuelos’ parents to make them aware of the situation. Banuelos’ mother, Maria Banuelos, said that although her daughter was struggling, it wasn’t until the teacher notified her that she knew how bad the situation was.

“Even though her sisters, dad and I were home, we didn’t really notice anything,” Maria said. “Sometimes we don’t always see everything.”

After being notified, the Banuelos family gathered to support Emily during her depression. The family started doing things together during isolation such as family lunches, going outside for fresh air, and having movie nights.

“Even though we couldn’t go to the movie theater, we would try to go get snacks at QuikTrip or go get ice cream and then come back and sit in the living room to watch a movie,” Emily said.

By sitting together in silence watching movies, the Banuelos family was still able to spend time with each other without needing to converse.

“Watching movies is one thing we all love doing together,” Emily said. “Watching movies definitely saved us a little bit.”

With the support from her parents and sisters, Banuelos’ mental health improved and her feelings of depression began to go away.

At the beginning of the spring semester, Camelback students had the choice of attending school in person or continuing virtually. Though Emily and her family were nervous about resuming in-person classes, Emily chose to go back in person.

“As hard as it was, because at that time there were still no vaccines for her age, we sat down again as a family and spoke to her and made the decision to allow her to go back,” Maria said.

Banuelos could now be more sociable with other students, and try to resume a normal high school life. Upon returning to school in person, Banuelos met one of her best friends, Yarinet Garcia.

“We met through volleyball and played on the freshman team together,” Garcia said. “We got along very well because we both had the same hobbies, we were both in the same grade. We’re sort of like the same person. What she likes, I like. What she doesn’t, I don’t.”

Banuelos was the libero for the Spartans during her freshman year while Garcia was a defensive specialist. Together, the girls were the captains of their freshman volleyball team.

Volleyball allowed Banuelos and Garcia to get closer over the past few years as they spent time together during practice and class as well as outside of school and sports.

“She’s very funny and joyful,” Garcia said. “She’s full of joy all the time. I’d say a word to describe her is loving. She’s always caring and very understanding.”

Since the pandemic, Banuelos has resumed her life before the coronavirus by playing sports, making friends, and joining school clubs and organizations. She is no longer in a dark place and is thankful for the love and support she received from her family.

“In times of need, my family has always been there for me,” Banuelos said. “My sisters are the best thing yet and my mom is my everything. Family is everything to me.”