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Northwest-Shoals CC students grapple with coronavirus closure

As a college student, one of the primary events to look forward to is the commencement ceremony, a day when graduates can celebrate their years of hard work with friends and family.

This May, seniors at Northwest-Shoals Community College will have to find other ways to celebrate, as NW-SCC is postponing May commencement ceremony because of the COVID-19 virus.

There are 420 students set to graduate from NW-SCC this May. The commencement ceremony was previously scheduled for May 7.

“Every decision concerning the operations of Alabama’s community colleges is being made with the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and administrators at the forefront,” said ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker.

The commencement ceremony will be postponed to a later date, but NW-SCC feels it is too early to set a firm date at this time, according to a NW-SCC press release.

All students graduating at the end of the spring semester will have their degrees and awards reflected on their transcript at that time.

NW-SCC senior Briana Weeks said although she understands why postponing the commencement ceremony is necessary, it is still difficult to process.

“When I first found out, I was mad,” Weeks said. “It was tough for me to wrap my mind around that I wouldn’t get to have that graduation ceremony I have been looking forward to all year.”

Weeks said although it has been tough for her to deal with the non-traditional end to her time at NWSCC, she knows she will have another college graduation when she graduates with her bachelor’s degree.

Weeks said one thing that has helped her during this time is having the support of her little sister as they go through similar difficulties together.

“My little sister is a senior in high school, so she does not get to have her high school graduation ceremony,” Weeks said. “This time has been tough for us, but I think it has brought us closer together because we understand what the other is going through, and we are able to go through it together.”

NWSCC senior Jarrod Lasseter said he is looking on the bright side of things when it comes to the non-traditional ending to his time at NWSCC.

“I think at this point, it is better to be safe than sorry,” Lasseter said. “We have never experienced anything like this before, so everyone is just doing what they believe is best.”

Both Lasseter and Weeks said they plan to continue their education at the University of North Alabama in the fall.

Ever since community and state colleges closed normal operations in late March, NW-SCC students have joined fellow students across the state in completing their classes for the semester entirely online.

While this might not make for much of a change to students who are used to doing the majority of classes online, other students have had to make adjustments to get through the semester without traditional face-to-face classes.

“This is the first time I have taken online classes,” said NW-SCC student Brent Gonzalez. “I definitely have a lot more respect for students who only take online classes because this has been a challenge for me.”

Gonzalez said having classes move entirely online has given him more of an appreciation for being able to have face-to-face interaction with teachers. He said moving classes online has come with several challenges, but things have been pretty smooth for the most part.

Several of his classes utilized online features anyway, so Gonzalez said these classes did not change too much. Other classes, such as history, had to change their entire structure.

Gonzalez said it has also been different adjusting to classes from older professors, who typically work strictly through lectures and not book work.

NW-SCC student Emma Russell said she knows what to expect from online work since she has taken an online class in the past, but it has been difficult adjusting to some classes moving online.

“One class I am taking this semester is speech, and it is very different now,” Russell said. “Instead of preparing speeches and presenting them for the entire class, we now have to video our speeches.”

Russell said she feels taking classes online is more difficult than taking classes in person because of the inability to ask questions in real-time.

She added since the majority of her classes utilized online features already, now teachers are adding video lectures in addition to online features.

“It hasn’t been the hardest, but it has been a challenge,” Russell said. “It has been different, and it’s something that is going to take some getting used to.”

As for Gonzalez, he said moving all classes online has made him realize online structure is not for him. “I can’t wait to be back in the classroom with teachers,” Gonzalez said.