On Jan. 2, fresh off her shift at Panera Bread, Anne Laurie sported a baseball cap and a t-shirt that read, “Crust me, it’s good.”

“Happy New Year! 2021! New beginnings, new blessings, new everything. I’m so excited for this year,” she said, smiling into her iPhone camera.

A senior at Everett High, Anne Laurie is chronicling her senior year with GBH News as part of our COVID and the Classroomseries. Her optimism is boundless, in spite of a year in which the pandemic has exacted a brutal toll. In April her father died of COVID. Her mother, a certified nursing assistant, recovered from a bout with COVID this spring and is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia.

Just when things felt utterly bleak, some joy broke. On Dec. 18 — which also happened to be her 18th birthday — an email from the Howard University's admissions office arrived in her inbox.

“It said, ‘Congratulations! You did it!’ Oh my God! I only read that line and I was like, wait. It took me a while to realize. I was just like, hold on, hold on, hold on,” she said in a video diary recording. “Like, I kept repeating that line over and over and over again.”

Attending Howard has been her dream since sixth grade, when a youth leader at her church first told her about the historically Black university in Washington D.C.

“She told me that it’s an amazing school for Black people and the experience is unmatched,” Anne Laurie recalled. “I remember watching multiple videos and all referred to Howard as the mecca and the more I hear it, the more I see it. It’s where all the high achieving Black students come together and celebrate their excellence.”

Now that she’s in, the next step is finding a way to pay for college. She’s applying for a scholarship that would cover tuition and living expenses.

“That would be such a blessing because we don't even have that much, anyway, to begin with,” she said. “I was actually thinking about financial aid and loans were going to be my go-to because we don't really have pocket money like that. I really hope I get the scholarship because I really, really, really need it.”

Moving closer to attending what she calls her “dream” school is a high point during a senior year largely spent attached to the desk in her room. Everett High has been fully remote since March. Yet even from afar, Anne Laurie still feels a sense of community.

“Some of my teachers reached out to me and said ‘happy birthday,’ and they were just, like, wishing me congratulations on my acceptance at Howard,” she said in a Dec. 29 video diary recording. “And it really touched me and my mother because I feel connected with them, you know, like they actually genuinely care. I'm really blessed to be going to Everett High.”

She’s also grateful her mother was home for the holidays, including New Year’s Day, which is also Haitian Independence Day. Both of her parents were born in Haiti and Anne Laurie spent some of her childhood there.

“My mom was dancing and celebrating her life, you know, because you never know what could have happened,” she said. “But she's alive today, so. And that's all that matters, that's all that matters.”

Jan. 1 would be the last time Anne Laurie and her family got to celebrate together this winter. Four days later her mother left for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for what will be a three-month-long leukemia treatment.

“She left today,” Anne Laurie wrote in a text message on Jan. 5. “I hate today.”

Anne Laurie applied for a job at the Starbucks inside the hospital, in part so she could visit her mom. But on the day she was admitted to the hospital, her mother learned that no one would be allowed to visit her during her treatment because of COVID.

“So that’s really weighing on us … heavily,” Anne Laurie wrote in a text. “My mom was hoping that we could visit her, that’s something that would bring her joy. But that’s impossible now. I really hate this.”

Doctors have indicated that Anne Laurie’s mother may be a candidate for a stem cell transplant. And as she has so many times during the pandemic’s most difficult moments, Anne Laurie rose to the challenge. Perhaps, she later wrote, she can donate stem cells to help her mother.

“I want them to test me to see if I match. I really hope I match with her,” she said.