How Broward College inspired hope through the time of COVID-19
Walking through the courtyard in the direction of our first classes, anticipation awaits as we prepare for a new semester with each step we take. The sun is beaming, there are barely any clouds in the sky, and we can feel the wisp of the cool air dancing through our hair. It is spring 2020 and the questions fill our minds about the seating arrangements in the classrooms, the upcoming deadlines and getting to know our new professors.
From the long line inside the Dunkin Donuts in the library and the computer lab filled with students studying– we would never expect that a few months later, we would be in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.
One year later, Broward College, students have yet to have a ‘normal day’ on campus. One year later, and some Seahawks have never walked into their professor’s office hours. One year later, our hearts long for human interaction without needing to be in front of a screen.
We miss it. We miss being able to experience the magic of writing articles in the newsroom, collaborating on new ideas for upcoming issues, and meeting one another in person. Our hearts long for that experience.
Although there is a hole in our hearts from what once was pre-COVID, the Broward College community that stretches through South Florida has worked tirelessly, with unity, to ensure that its students are properly equipped in all areas of their lives.
Broward College’s mission statement says, “Transforming students’ lives and enriching our diverse community through academic excellence, innovation, and meaningful career opportunities,” according to broward.edu. BC has lived out its mission statement.
There have been drive-by food and hygiene distributions that students in need can participate in; partnerships with Feeding South Florida, and progression in the plans of the Seahawk Marketplace, BC’s newest edition of an on-campus pantry.
In addition, there have been virtual initiatives to get students plugged into the community through social media and YouTube. Student Life has created ways for students to remain actively engaged in physical fitness through the Wellness Wednesday videos released weekly on their YouTube channel.
Among the list of programs for student access, Student Lingo provides opportunities for students to develop academic and professional skills with virtual lessons. The online library services offer research appointments with librarians, the Academic Success Center, and online tutoring.
As Broward College offers these programs, for those who don’t have access to a computer, there is a “laptop/webcam loaner program” that students and staff alike have benefitted from, as well as wifi access on each campus that can be used, while maintaining social distancing of course.
Going above and beyond, Broward College has been an active member of the community when it comes to healthcare resource outreach. On February 25, 2021, Broward College’s North Campus, in Coconut Creek, opened its auditorium doors as a COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing site open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with no appointments necessary.
At the time of its opening, people over 65 years old were eligible; around North Campus alone there are over a dozen 55 and older communities, granting easier access for anyone in that age bracket who may have faced difficulties finding access to vaccines.
“The college is engaging community partners to create awareness and support residents who most need to access vaccinations,” said President Haile, via school-wide email, Message from the President.
A couple of months later the vaccination and testing site is still operating at 7 days a week with new eligibility for anyone over 18 years of age, people determined to be extremely vulnerable by a physician (form required), health care workers with direct patient contact and long-term care facility residents and staff. We are so proud to be a part of this community enrichment.
In a survey conducted by Boston University, published February 2021, 83 percent of 33,000 students across the country say their mental health had negatively impacted academic performance in the fall semester of 2020. Furthermore, at least two-thirds of college students are struggling with loneliness and isolation, which is at an all-time high reflecting the toll of the pandemic and the social distancing necessary to control it.
Broward College has also ensured students have access to counseling services to take care of their mental well-being so they are mentally prepared to handle class loads. The counseling services offered to students, “…during a 12-month period of 6 free sessions with a therapist. Four free sessions with a psychiatrist and additional sessions can be arranged as needed and/or based on a payment sliding scale,” according to Seahawk Outreach Services.
This pandemic has caused not only physical, emotional and mental stress but also has created financial stress. Members of the BC community have also had the opportunity over the last year to apply for the Cares Act Grant to provide financial assistance. Application for the Cares Act Grant will be available at least through the 2021 fall semester.
According to @bccentralsl via Instagram, “last year Broward College awarded more than a million dollars to its students to assist in paying for their classes, books and supplies.”
While it has been challenging and risky to collaborate with peers, mentors and professors in person, the college has provided a multitude of ways for students to receive extra support. We long for life pre-pandemic, we, at the Observer, are grateful to attend a college that stays true to its mission to transform students’ lives and enrich our diverse community.