"I’m just trying to keep looking at the positive side," she tells PEOPLE. "My family really has been a rock for me and supported me through all this.”

By Tricia Despres
April 13, 2020 05:15 PM
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There is nothing like The Voice winner Chevel Shepherd’s smile.

The 17-year-old’s positive spirit and carefree attitude made her a fan favorite on the competition show’s fifteenth season. But these days, the high school senior is coming to grips with the possibility of her graduation ceremony being canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Keeping that smile on her face has become a challenge, she says.

Chevel Shepherd
| Credit: Shutterfreek

“I finished all my high school classes in February, so I was just waiting to walk the graduation stage in May,” the 17-year-old tells PEOPLE. “But the fact is that that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”

The sadness in the teen’s voice is understandable. She’s one of many students across the country who are mourning the cancellation of pivotal events such as sports seasons, proms and graduations.

“It’s crazy to see the stores empty and the streets empty,” says Shepherd, who is social distancing with her family in Farmington, New Mexico. “I mean, now people are walking their dogs down the middle of the street.”

“It’s sad because I really wanted to graduate in May and see all my classmates, but I know it’s safer this way so that the virus doesn’t keep spreading,” she adds. “I’m just trying to keep looking at the positive side. My family really has been a rock for me and supported me through all this.”

Through the pandemic, Shepherd and other students like her are doing their best to stay connected and positive, considering the virus that has already taken more than 100,000 lives worldwide.

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Chevel Shepherd

“I’m really proud of people my age,” says Shepherd, who would have been filming a movie this month. “We have all come together and supported each other on social media.”

Shepherd says that she has turned her thoughts toward the blessings that come with the unscheduled break, especially for someone who has been so busy building a music career, propelled by the help of Voice coach and mentor Kelly Clarkson.

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“Since I travel a lot, I’m not home much, so getting to sit at the table with my family all at once is really amazing,” says the teen who grew up listening to her share of Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker and the Dixie Chicks. “We are watching movies together and doing activities together and just loving each other. It’s an even stronger connection than we have ever had because we are all in it together.”

Shepherd is also using the time to connect with her fans “to make sure they are okay” — and even to learn a new instrument.

Chevel Shepherd
| Credit: Shutterfreek

“I have been wanting to learn guitar for the longest time,” she says. “So, with this break, I have been able to pick that up a bit and learn more, so that’s been a really cool thing with my music.”

With a debut EP expected later this summer, the star has used the time to reflect on her new music, including “Everybody’s Got a Story,” a song written by Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark. The track is expected to be featured on her forthcoming EP.

“Knowing that people are listening to my new music and liking it has really made me feel good on the inside,” she explains. “Music is my passion, so it really is helping me get through everything.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.