SPJNews students were assigned advance stories before the conference began. Many were completed before much of Louisiana was shut down by Hurricane Ida.
Spring 2020 introduced a new form of learning for many students across the country: online learning. Many didn’t know what to do and according to various data, students suffered with mental health issues, and it reflected in their studies.
However, with vaccinations and herd immunity being reached in many communities, many students are feeling anxious about going back to in-person classes.
“I do enjoy being on campus and seeing all of my friends after dealing with online learning and I am afraid of going back,” said Sebastian Witte.
Witte is a Loyola senior, who recently became fully vaccinated, and said he is upset because of the year he lost to Covid.
“I went through my entire junior year online being isolated from my friends,” said Witte. “I can never get that back and I am trying my best to not think about it, but I can’t help but to think ‘what I could’ve done during that year.’”
However, he said he is experiencing a sense of Déjà vu with the rise of cases with the Delta Variant.
Louisiana is among the top states with rising covid cases with the variant overwhelming hospitals in the state, like in Spring 2020.
“Every time I look at the news or read the paper, I ask myself ‘will tomorrow be the day everything shifts back online?” said Witte.
“Will tomorrow be the day I suffer again with my studies while losing my senior year?” However, Witte isn’t alone.
“I don’t know if I could handle another year of online learning,” said Maggie Smith, also a Loyola student who struggled with her mental health and studies during online learning. She said she will be doing anything possible to avoid that situation.
“Sitting down in front of a screen all day is the worst kind of feeling anyone can experience,” Smith said. “Schoolwork was being piled on me and, when I reached out to some teachers, I wouldn’t get a response until three days later.”
Her situation was made even more challenging because she is also a mother.
“I had a four-year-old with me during this,” said Smith. “I was definitely struggling with keeping my child calm while focusing on my schoolwork and zoom classes.” “I was afraid to go back to fully in person because of the potential of me getting the virus and bringing it back home to my son who can’t be vaccinated.”
But Witte and Smith are both optimistic about the semester with Loyola requiring a vaccine mandate, encouraging teachers to assign seats to help with contact tracing, and the school having a ninety-one-percentage rate for vaccinated students.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction for me to enjoy my senior year,” said Witte. “And I feel even better now that I am a part of that huge number of vaccinated students looking out for one another.”
“I am proudly fully vaccinated and did my part when the vaccines first came out,” said Smith. “I am even prouder of my school mandating something that can save lives and at the same time give me a sense of ease so I can fully enjoy my senior year.”