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  • Jacqueline Simon

2020: The Pandemic Class

I decided to return to college in 2014. I was middle-aged, recently divorced, and depressed. I figured I needed to accomplish something meaningful in my life. I didn’t feel as though I had anything to lose. I decided that I was returning to college to pursue nursing. I spent my first semester at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and I jumped right into courses such as chemistry. I failed nearly every class. I didn’t fit in at SIU-E because most of the student population was young. There wasn’t much diversity in that regard. It was then that I decided a community college was best, so I transferred to Southwestern Illinois College for a year. I also decided to focus on completing general education courses before declaring a major. I took advantage of tutoring services because I realized my long-term memory was really bad. In 2007 I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer so I attributed some of the memory issues to medication. I began to see my grades get better and my confidence improve. I was ready for university life and chose to attend the University of Missouri-St. Louis, UMSL.

The University of Missouri-St. Louis is where I soared academically and gained my confidence. I didn’t feel ashamed of my age because there were people of all ages all across campus. I also felt comfortable because of UMSL’S cultural diversity. I met some of the most amazing professors and students. I started seeing my true strength in writing and declared myself an English Major.

In December of 2019 I visited my guidance counselor to discuss classes and she assisted me with applying to graduate in 2020. That was an emotional moment for me. I finally made it!! It started off difficult and there were many times that I wanted to give up. I am so glad that I didn’t. I couldn’t wait to share the news with my mom, sons, family, and friends. I immediately started working to lose weight so that I could take graduation pictures to commemorate the occasion. I think I finally had a little peace and self-gratitude in my life. I was proud of myself. But the joy was short-lived when the Coronavirus started dominating the news. Although I had heard of it happening in China, I honestly didn’t pay it much mind. It wasn’t until the virus started wreaking havoc globally and now in the United States that it caught my undivided attention. We should have been paying attention and taking extreme precautions when the virus was devastating China. I believe many lives could have been spared.

In the beginning of this pandemic I was selfishly sad and angry that all my plans were ruined. I had to do a self-check, that involved me being grateful to God that I am still here to be able to graduate because I could have died in 2007 from cancer. I never in a million years could have imagined the state of the world right now. I am in total disbelief, but I see it as a message from God that we were all moving too fast in life. Always doing this or doing that. Not much quality time spent with our families, etc. Now we are forced to buckle down. I know what it’s like to be really sick and I don’t ever want to experience that again so postponing a graduation ceremony is a small price to pay in order to save lives. The biggest accomplishment is earning my degree. I’ve owned my own daycare facility for 12-years, so I have that to fall back on. My goal in life was to always work for myself. I just can’t imagine what it will be like for new graduates entering a work world with a collapsed economy. This is new for all of us and we will figure it out together. We will be better, stronger in the end.


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