Throughout my primary school years, I remember occasionally being asked a question that I now ask my children: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I think we all can relate to this. When I was asked that question, my mind was set on being a pediatrician. Once I got to college, I changed my major three times and finally pursued communication studies.
Now that I have completed my education, and we’re living in a completely changed world, I look back at the little girl who was ready to take on the world as a pediatrician. It’s hard to let it all sink in with everything that has happened in the last two years. Every day is not promised during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the world we live in now is much different from what it was just two years ago. As the world changes, our students’ college experience has also changed. As an AmeriCorps college coach, I witness these changes first-hand.
I can’t speak to the experience of being a college coach before the pandemic, so I interviewed a fellow coach I serve alongside at College Possible Omaha, Elliott Abromeit. He got the full experience of being a coach during and after the COVID-19 shutdown. “Serving from home behind a computer screen and not being able to interact with students or other AmeriCorps members was difficult, and I think that isolation was even more difficult for our students,” said Elliott.
I work with many college students. One senior shared details with me about her experiences of isolation during the 2020 shutdown. She went through many ups and downs with her mental health and bottled up her feelings. She told me she had come to the point in her college journey where she wanted to give up because of the pandemic-related challenges she was facing. As her coach, I encouraged her to stay enrolled, helped her focus on her future, and encouraged her to reflect on why she was in college. This is just one of many similar conversations I have had with the students I serve.
Even though I am a college graduate, being a college coach has heightened my awareness of how important college is for the future. Coming into this term of service, I thought I would be meeting with students who have their future laid out and are ready to take on the world. I soon learned that this is not the case for most students. I work with students who are dropping out of their first year, not enrolling, or finding a career that does not require a college degree, mainly because of the impact of the pandemic. Serving with College Possible helped me realize how important it is for students to enroll and stay enrolled in college so that our future as a country remains one filled with promise.
This story was written by T’Netha Bailey, an AmeriCorps member for College Possible Omaha.