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Pandemic has students rethinking their future
Kate Ogden
Even though Turlock High student Kate Ogden has been disappointed in the lack of in-person speech and government activities during the pandemic, she still hopes to attend law school at USC (PAWAN NAIDU/The Journal).

Local high school students had ideas of what their next steps would be after graduation, but the pandemic has made many of them reevaluate how they should plan their future. From what profession they want to get into to where they want to attend school, students are preparing for a life post pandemic.

For some, the pandemic has inspired them to look into entering careers in the medical field. With many students knowing someone who has been affected by COVID-19, they want to assist in future medical emergencies.

“I saw my grandpa hospitalized with the virus and it wasn’t looking so great for a while,” said Pitman junior Rebecca Foreman. “I want to make sure next time when I can do something to help, I will be able to. I want to be a nurse, because I feel like they’re on the frontlines and are the first one’s people look towards.”

Others have had their set goals questioned by not being able to participate in activities in the traditional way.

“Through Mock Trial and speech I cultivated a love for public speaking, which has centered me in wanting to go to law school, and those programs being online have at times dwindled my interest. I still plan on hoping to go to USC and going to law school, and it’s disappointing some institutions are online, even though I know it’s the safest way,” said Turlock High Senior Kate Ogden. “If I had to work remotely I would, but my first choice will always be in person as it works better in engaging me long term.”

The pandemic has inspired some students to seek more community-service related career options, not just in the medical field.

“When people were forced to stop working, they needed help,” said Turlock High sophomore Doug Campbell. “It also became obvious there were basic services and needs people didn’t have access to. Politicians are too busy fighting amongst themselves sometimes; I want to get people the help they need.”

“I feel like the politicians were trying to do the right thing, but got scared and started going overboard with mandates and lockdowns,” said Turlock high junior Lindsey Chavez. “The next generation of leaders need to be strong enough to stand up for the people they represent and fight for their freedoms.”

One thing that some students view as a positive change, is that many people are operating with more flexible work schedules due to the pandemic.

“I wouldn’t want to do it every day, but working from home some of the time sounds nice,” said Campbell. “My parents like working from home and they seem to have more time to spend with the family, which has been really nice.”

“One good thing coming out of this pandemic is that it made us evaluate how we do things,” said Foreman. “I don’t think I’ll be able to work from home with what I want to do, but I know a lot more people have more flexible work schedules and it has been a nice change of pace.”

While some students have seen the benefit of more time with family caused by the pandemic, others are ready to spread their wings.

“I love my family, but we have spent a lot of time together the last almost two years,” said Chavez. “I think I will go to school out of state and write my own story.”

Along with affecting students’ possible areas of studies, the pandemic has also increased anxiety about finances and overall wellbeing as high students plan for their future.

Analyzed survey research by the California Education Lab at the University of California, Davis details the high level of uncertainty and financial stress experienced by California high school seniors as they weighed their college plans amid an unfolding pandemic.

“College Uncertainties: California High School Seniors in Spring of 2020” summarizes the results from a survey commissioned by the California Student Aid Commission that captured the perspectives of nearly 16,000 high school seniors who applied for college financial aid for the 2020-21 academic year. Researchers, who included UC Davis School of Education faculty, further analyzed the findings and released their analysis earlier this month.

“We are deeply committed to understanding and supporting young people's transition to college in the midst of all this uncertainty, and our partnership with the California Student Aid Commission ensures that our research reaches policymakers and higher education leaders who are well positioned to address the enormous and numerous challenges college students are facing,” said Michal Kurlaender, School of Education professor and faculty director of the California Education Lab.

Responses to questions about shifting plans, personal and family financial status, overall well-being, and students’ viewpoints on remote learning revealed:

·         More than 70 percent of high school seniors reported concern about their personal and family financial situations, with higher levels of concern expressed by students of color.

·         90 percent reported concern about personal health and well-being.

·         One in three reported concern about going to college far away from home as a result of COVID-19.

·         More than 80 percent said they were concerned about taking college courses online.

·         Fewer than 10 percent planned to delay college enrollment altogether; Black, white or those who had the highest levels of financial need were the most likely to say they planned to wait.

“These sobering findings highlight the ongoing pandemic’s upheaval on the lives of young people who continue to express high levels of stress amid the uncertainty,” said Sherrie Reed, executive director of the California Education Lab. “We wanted to better understand their experience, and our best approach was to ask them.”