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Campus conundrum

Campus conundrum

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For Goochland resident Kindrick Braxton, earning a college degree has always been part of the plan.

It’s why he worked so hard for the past four years, earning his advanced diploma as a member of Goochland High School’s Class of 2020 while also starring on the Bulldogs’ varsity football team.

It’s why he visited several schools in order to find just the right fit, eventually deciding on Christopher Newport University in part because the school would give him the opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a physical therapist. An added bonus? His football career would be able to continue with the CNU Captains, for whom he hoped to earn a spot playing safety in the fall.

What Braxton and thousands of other recent Virginia high school graduates never could have imagined, however, was how COVID-19 would impact their lives at such a pivotal time, putting a damper on — or in some cases derailing altogether— the college experiences they have been looking forward to for so long.

Making it even more difficult is the fact that many of the colleges and universities around the state that have not already barred students from returning to campus in the fall have embraced different strategies for bringing students back safely. And in most cases those strategies are subject to change as the traditional start of the fall semester draws closer.

While Braxton is still planning on attending CNU in person rather than opting to take his classes online, his move-in date has already been changed from Aug. 8 to Aug. 20. And although he will still have the opportunity to play football for the school, it won’t be until the spring.

Braxton said the decision to stay on campus was motivated in part by the fact that, as a Biology major, many of his classes include labs that can’t be completed online.

He admitted that the uncertainty of starting this next chapter in the midst of a pandemic has been unnerving, but adds that he and many of his peers are simply trying to make the best of the situation. He and his soon-to-be roommate have talked about the situation, and both feel confident that taking the proper precautions will ensure they stay safe.

“I’m a little bit rattled by the whole thing, but I know personally there is only so much I can do,” said Braxton. “I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed, but it’s definitely not the college experience I had been planning on.”

Braxton certainly isn’t alone. Last Sunday, as he headed off with his family for a final getaway before the start of the fall semester, recent GHS graduate James DeLoach said he, like so many other students, was watching and waiting to see how his first year at Virginia Tech will begin.

DeLoach, the Valedictorian of his class, said it was certainly strange to wrap up his high school coursework from home after schools shut down in March.

DeLoach plans to major in Computer Science, and could potentially take all of his classes virtually, but he said he would still prefer to be on campus.

As of Sunday Virginia Tech was still allowing students to live on campus if they choose to, and DeLoach said he feels staying there will be a better option for him. He’s excited to get to focus on subjects that interest him so much, he said, even if he and his fellow students may not get to experience all of the social activities that normally accompany college life.

“I think at this point, we’re just trying to make the best of the situation and take what we can get,” DeLoach said. “And also to stay safe, of course.”

For Demond Morris, who is set to begin his college career at the University of Virginia in just a few weeks, safety is definitely a priority. But so is regaining the sense of normalcy that so many recent graduates lost last spring when they were forced off their high school campuses.

“Having lost the end of our senior year, we don’t want to risk this new start to our freshman year of college,” said Morris, who plans to major in Political Science and Government with an added focus on business and finance.

Morris, who is eying a future run for public office and already possesses a knack for eloquent phrasing, neatly summed up the intended goal.

“We want to start on campus,” he declared, “and we want to end on campus.”

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