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Milwaukie High, near Portland, Oregon, is known as a “safe school,” principal Carmen Gelman said. Sharing space with the Milwaukie Academy of the Arts, the school attracts students who struggle with anxiety as well as LGBTQ students who might feel unwelcome elsewhere.
After two years of the pandemic, Gelman is proud that her students have learned to express themselves. For example, they asked for a room at school to gather together when they feel emotionally overwhelmed. But as seniors prepare to graduate, she said it’s “like pulling teeth” to keep them focused on academics.
“They wanted teachers to stop giving them homework,” she said. “Their priority is their mental health, not the university.”
The impact of the pandemic on this year’s graduates is captured in new survey data showing that one in four seniors have changed their plans for the future because of COVID, and some are less eager to continue their education . Released Wednesday by YouthTruth, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, the data shows English language learners, LGBTQ youth and students of color were more likely to reconsider their next steps. The results are based on responses from more than 28,000 high school students from 2019 and this year, allowing for comparison with the last senior class to graduate before the pandemic.
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Black and Hispanic students and boys, for example, are less likely to say they want to go to college than those who graduated in 2019. Eighteen percent of graduates this year said that they were considering giving up. But this rate was much higher among LGBTQ students (26%) and transgender students (37%). And Hispanic students are more likely than white students to say they’re unsure of their next steps — 14% versus 9%.
More states are allowing students to take “mental health days.” But could the practice backfire?
Reduced access to college education and career counseling could be one of the reasons for the change in attitude.
In 2019, 40% of graduates said they received guidance from their school on career paths, according to findings from YouthTruth. Of the students in this year’s class, 33% said they had received such advice. And the percentage of students saying there is an adult they could ask to write a college recommendation letter declined for males, rural school students, and Hispanic students.
“I felt like I was all alone”
Older people told 74 they were hesitant to ask for help and counselors sometimes did not offer advice unless asked.
Yan Kyaw, a senior at Senn High School in Chicago, said his school has partnered with OneGoal, a nonprofit that focuses on preparing students for higher education. But he struggled to take advantage of the help while learning remotely.
700 days since lockdown
“I had a support system, but I didn’t use them because I felt like I was all alone,” said Kyaw, who will attend the University of Illinois at Chicago and study business. . In first year, he did not ask for comments on his college essays. He often found himself sitting on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He described his high school years as “a punch in the stomach”.
Due to the pandemic, many seniors have deprived themselves of the kind of volunteer and internship experiences that colleges often seek and have had fewer in-person college fairs and opportunities to “set foot on a college campus to pay a visit,” said Geoff Heckman, head of the counseling department at Platte County High School, near Kansas City, Missouri.
Students “did their best to choose next steps based on virtual tools and online information,” he said, “but without the real face-to-face conversation that is so helpful in determining direction. that they really want to pursue. ”
Rajsi Rani, a graduate of Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, Calif., said she misses informal communication the most.
“Because everything was virtual, there was no knowledge passed on by word of mouth, which I found very useful for this type of information,” she said. “I did my own research on career ideas. It was not provided by my school as I believe it was before the pandemic.
For some students, the pandemic has not necessarily been a setback, but rather has helped them identify their goals.
Monty Woods, who attends Milwaukie High, said he always planned to stay close to home and attend Clackamas Community College. He takes care of his mother, who is disabled, and says he used to think about becoming a teacher. But the pandemic has changed my mind.
“I saw how exhausted it was to every staff member,” he said. Now he plans to study business administration.
“To make a break”
Some seniors also lacked financial aid advice. The survey shows that only a quarter of this year’s graduates said they received help applying for aid, compared to a third in 2019.
This decline manifests itself in federal financial aid application rate. According to the National College Attainment Network, overall rates — including new filers — fell nearly 9% from a year ago, continuing the downward trend that began in 2020. Every state saw a decline , ranging from less than 2% in Texas to nearly 17% in Michigan.
More than a quarter of a million fewer students applied for financial aid during the pandemic, signaling the effect of COVID on college entrance
The Network’s report notes that “secondary schools must sort through student supports, learning loss and study, mental well-being and basic needs often receiving more attention and investment than post-secondary transitions.” “. The researchers suggested that the “booming economy” may also be causing some students to choose work over college, especially those who were on the fence.
The pressure exerted by the pandemic on family budgets has caused many students to take up jobs or work more hours. Shelly Reggiani, executive director of equity, community engagement and communications for the North Clackamas district, which includes Milwaukie High, heard students working up to 30 hours a week “to keep the lights on.”
“These young people were forced into this adult role at such a young age,” she said. In the past, she added, the term “gap year” often referred to travel plans or postponing a year of varsity sports. Now, she says, “it almost seems to be synonymous with ‘I’m taking a break.’”
‘A lot of them choose the job’: As teenagers pile up jobs to support their families, schools scramble to keep tabs on students they haven’t seen in a year
Milwaukie High senior JohnTasia Simmons, who goes by the name “Tae tae,” is just glad she improved her grades enough to get into Portland State University. She struggled with a learning disability all her life, which she said was “not a good mix” with online learning. She fell behind in algebra and English, and nearly failed history.
“My missions piled up. My grades looked terrible,” she said. “I thought I should start at community college.”
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