Changing Plans
Pandemic effects challenge Boylan grads during start of college
By Lynne Conner, Observer Corresondent
April 15, 2021
ROCKFORD—Last fall four members of the Class of 2020 from Boylan Central Catholic High School here were planning to go to college during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
With their first semester of college now completed, these grads and their parents reflected on the changes and challenges of college life during this unprecedented time. 
“I think we’ve had a harder transition than freshmen in past years, but in a sense it was nice because we didn’t know what college life was like, so we didn’t know what we were missing,” said Marquette University freshman, Katie Milos. 
Since starting at the Milwaukee university last fall, Milos said that some COVID-19 restrictions have been lessened for the second semester. 
“I have more in-person classes this semester than last semester which is very nice. I feel it’s hard to learn when you’re not physically in the classroom interacting with the professor and other students. There are also more social events in person this semester, but with people social distancing and wearing masks,” she said. “Last semester, all social activities were virtual and it is really difficult to meet people that way.”
Marquette University didn’t have a spring break this year so that traveling students would not be exposed to COVID-19 and bring it back to campus. However, Milos said that she and her friends found simple ways to enjoy the spring weather. 
“One of my friends bought sports equipment, so that we could go outside in small groups and just play catch,” she said.
Campus life has also reflected eased coronavirus restrictions. 
“First semester, we would pick up meals and sit outside or go back to our rooms,” she said. “Now, the dining halls are open and using regular plates and cups instead of disposables. So, I think that we are moving more toward normalcy.” 
Milos added that Marquette is planning to have all in person classes this fall.
David Girgenti started college at Carthage in Kenosha, Wis., but transferred to St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, after his first semester. 
His mother, Lori recalls several factors that contributed to the move. 
“During David’s first semester at Carthage, more and more of his professors moved their classes to an online format until every class was taught remotely. That created a really difficult learning experience for him especially being away from home and at a college where he couldn’t meet with his professors in person,” she said.
After the move to online classes and after learning that David’s intended major was no longer being offered at Carthage, Girgenti said that it made sense to transfer. 
“He’s been much happier after the move, is doing better academically and is having a better experience at St. Ambrose,” Girgenti said. 
“The majority of David’s classes at St. Ambrose are in person with a few classes as hybrids,” she said.
“We are pleased with the college president’s plan for ‘responsible normalcy’ where full student activities and in-person instruction would return this fall.”
 Girgenti feels that moving her son from a school in Wisconsin to a school in Iowa also played a part in David’s overall satisfaction in college. 
“I think the switch to a state that is less restrictive (on COVID-19) made a difference. His professors at St. Ambrose are passionate about the need to have traditional classroom instruction,” Girgenti said.
Gretchen Schmid’s plans to attend Iowa State University took a detour as this freshman enrolled in community college first semester.
“We made the decision that Gretchen would stay at home when we found out her classes would be online at Iowa State. At that point, there was so much uncertainty with respect to COVID, that she stayed home and took classes at Rock Valley,” said Gretchen’s mother, Katie Schmid. 
“Iowa State allowed us to defer her scholarship and her admission to January. It was a pretty seamless transition and we moved her into her dorm at that time,” she said.
Schmid said that her daughter has both online and in-person classes and that after arriving on campus, Gretchen had to have a COVID-19 test within 48 hours with documentation of a negative result.
“We’ve had a great peace of mind about Gretchen’s move to Iowa State as she is living in a large dorm room with her Boylan classmate Teresa Winkelmann. I know it’s still not the traditional college experience, but Gretchen has acclimated well.” 
“Thank God for Facetime, because we can see and talk to her often since Gretchen won’t be back home until May,” Schmid said. “Her brothers live off campus and have also been a great support to Gretchen as well.”
“Despite COVID-19, he has had a great first year,” said Anna DeRocher of her son Luke Voelker. Luke is a freshman at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and moved to campus this past fall after taking GCU classes online at home. 
“Luke has hybrid classes at GCU but he absolutely loves being there. He loves the campus, he likes the people he’s meeting, and he likes his classes. I’ve not heard one complaint since he’s been gone,” DeRocher said. 
“He’s been outside a lot with his classes and for social activities,” she said, “So even with Arizona being less restrictive than Illinois, Luke hasn’t had any issues with COVID-19. There are definitely protocols in place; but being in a warmer climate gives people some freedom. 
One of the biggest adjustments for DeRocher and her son has been the distance and managing trips home. “Luke didn’t come until Christmas break, and then had online classes for a couple of weeks after the holidays. When I took Luke back to school, I did work from home for two weeks before returning to my office.”
DeRocher remains optimistic about her son’s continued success at GCU. 
“Even with COVID-19 overshadowing Luke’s departure to college, he has met new people, learned self-reliance and how to handle different life situations. He told me that he is making friends and making memories,” she said.


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