At 18 years old and as a pupil at Newry's Scared Heart Grammar, Inez Murray should have enjoyed a year of formals, birthday parties and whispering to friends in the study hall.
Instead, she has been putting in longer hours than ever on school work at home and watching as her pals struggled with isolation, social distancing and the added complications over what would happen with their exams through her involvement with Crisis Cafe, which aims to promote mental health and wellbeing in young people.
"Every single young person across Northern Ireland is unique and complex. As a result I can't represent every view, but I can tell my own story," she said as she addressed MLAs on the Education Committee yesterday.
"When we returned last August I was so excited to go back to school.
"I was going into my final year, to see my friends through this last year before we went our separate ways.
"I was excited to be in classrooms again, to talk to teachers, to queue up in the canteen, to whisper under my breath in the study hall so the librarian wouldn't catch you catching up with your friends.
"That's how you're supposed to feel being back at school."
But while the excitement was there, she said the fear of being in school while her family remained at home was never far from her thoughts.
"I was also terrified. My 89-year-old grandmother, who lives beside us and was in our support bubble, has her meals with us every day. I see her every single day," she said.
"Going into school wasn't necessarily me being worried about myself getting Covid, I was worried I would bring it home to her."
Inez said the mental burden she carried was "immense".
"It's not just me, there's thousands of young people across Northern Ireland worrying about the health of their families. Despite this I was expected to continue as normal; we all were," she said.
"This year was supposed to be formals, 18th birthday parties. That hasn't happened. It's been the opposite.
"We all use terms such as isolation and social distance to describe the physical act of preventing the spread of Covid-19, but they also describe how it feels to be a young person - isolated from your friends. You can't reach out and make new ones, you have to pick a few close friends and keep to yourself. You become insular and withdrawn at a time when you need new friends the most."
For young people there is absolutely no social life, Inez said, adding: "Young people turn to obsessing over diet and exercise. I've seen so many fall into that regime these past few months. And we're studying so hard, staring at screens for long hours when we don't even know what we're working to.
"The academic pressure this pandemic has created combined with the uncertainty from the Department of Education has been so toxic for our mental health.
"We feel let down in terms of exams. The department has had months and months to give us clarity and we're still in the dark. We feel let down by politicians, and in conversations with young people two words pop up again and again: 'do better'.
"Politicians agreed that they would set aside differences so the next generation would have a chance at a better future. If we are given that certainty and support by politicians we can still have a chance at that brighter future. Please give us that chance."