College grads cope with new reality

Road is rocky, but these go-getters ready for challenge

The excitement and anticipation of graduation are somewhat lessened now, but the feelings of missing out are still strong for college seniors who are graduating this year.

For three in this area, the road to the end of their undergraduate education had been anything but normal – and then the pandemic hit.

The road is rocky for South Dearborn High School graduate Georgia Hummel, who will graduate from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in biology. For her, the last semester, the last two months, has been tough. Most of her classes were laboratory-based, which are hard to take online.

“Without the equipment, you can’t do them at home, you can’t,” the 2017 high school grad said.

Hummel, who lives in Moores Hill, had just completed a month-long online training on how to handle mice when the school closed up due to the stay-at-home mandates.

“The first thoughts going through my head (when the school closed) was that I’m not going to be able to do that, like there’s no way you can,” she said. “So I was very confused and very worried about.”

One class was “nothing but handling mice” and she was afraid she was not going to get credit for it.

Her goal is to go into research or to work with cardiopulmonary perfusion, which is a person who runs the heart-bypass machine during some cardiac surgeries.

It’s not only lab courses, but other courses like biostatistics are harder without a teacher to ask questions and explain problems in person.

“I now have to teach myself, because it’s hard for the professor to teach a math course and a statistics course remotely,” she said “They’re trying but you’re not getting the same level of help that you would be able to hands-on with them showing you examples, writing it on the board, and stuff like that”

For 2016 East Central High School graduate Charlotte White, who is graduating from the Christ College of Nursing and Health Science in Cincinnati, she is missing the hands-on experience of her last semester. 

She missed her role transition, where she would work hands-on with a nurse and a patient, a required course in order to sit for a license.

The situation was “discouraging” because she did not get the opportunity to be in a hospital. Although some medical students were able to work at hospitals during the pandemic, she and most of her fellow students were not asked to help out.

The Ohio Board of Nursing has said new graduates can work under a temporary license until December 2020, but the grad must take and pass the licensing board test before the end of the year.

White, who grew up in Yorkville but now lives in Batesville, hopes to work in a critical care unit and become a flight nurse on a medical helicopter.

Baylee Gabbard was in a much better position when the pandemic closed things down. Gabbard, a 2016 East Central grad, was doing her student teaching at Shonto Preparatory and Technical High School on a Navaho reservation in Arizona.

She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies education from Indiana University. She was at Shonto school though the IU Global Gateway for Teachers program. Since she had been there since the beginning of this year, she met the state’s requirement of 10 weeks of student teaching, although the school requires 14 weeks. 

IU waived the four weeks.

Another lucky break for Gabbard, she already has passed her teaching license tests while most other education majors still have to take the test.

Now the hard part comes for all three soon-to-be college graduates, finding a job.

Hummel, who will get her degree in thee years thanks to dual credit classes she took while at South Dearborn, is hoping to get into a certification program somewhere; she’s hoping to get into the program at the Cleveland Clinic.

For White, since the nursing boards have been postponed, she is hoping to find a job in health care. She’s also hoping prospective employers will overlook the absence of her role transition.

“I think they need to because they … (need to) step back and look at the big picture that we weren’t the only ones going through this, it was everyone, and it was out of our hands, out of our control,” she said. 

“It’s not something that we could have totally helped. I think the hospitals personally may just have to revamp their orientation programs for those incoming new nurses.”

Gabbard, who lives in Hidden Valley, has applied to schools and hadn’t heard anything back. She was scheduled to have nine interviews this week through IU, all virtual of course

And all three will miss the actual graduation ceremony.

“I definitely will miss it,” Hummel said. “I had friends and family that were planning to come and watch it.

“Not going to really get to say goodbye to your friends. … It’s definitely been hard. Realizing that you’re not going to get that typical college graduation, you’re not going to get to celebrate and get all of them in your cap and gown and with your friends and family on that day.”

There will be a graduation ceremony for White as she graduates from Christ College just not a normal one.

“They’re calling it a driving commencement ceremony” in a parking lot of Reading Road in Cincinnati, she said. “We park in the parking spots, stay in our vehicles unless and until they call our names, and then we walk up. I don’t think it’s like really a stage of any sort of walking over but we still get to walk up and get a diploma of some sort.”

Gabbard was looking forward to walking across the stage accepting her diploma. But for now, like Hummel and White, she’ll just move to find the next stage of her life in a most unusual time.


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