For 2020 high school graduates, first year of college was just as crazy

Last year, when the COVID-19 health crisis closed schools, Jimenez Romero was completing her senior year at Franklin High School from home via a spotty internet connection. There was no prom, no senior day interest and, most importantly for Jimenez Romero, no in-person graduation. She celebrated the culmination of 12 years of public education from her couch in South Seattle.

In The senior year was crazy, a documentary released in late 2020, Crosscut followed Jimenez Romero’s transition from high school to freshman through the lens of an iPhone. Despite the upheaval of many important life events due to the pandemic, Jimenez Romero has kept the positive attitude his father always told him to keep. As she and many other students complete another landmark academic year under social distancing protocols, Jimenez Romero appears to have maintained that positivity.

“I really tried to go to college without any expectations, just because I knew this year would be very different,” Jimenez Romero said. “Overall, it was another good year to explore and get to know the college.”

Because of his background in community organizing, Jimenez Romero first wanted to study political science. Now, thanks to a full university scholarship, she is set to double the major in Law, Society and Justice as well as Journalism, the latter inspired by her work on the documentary.

Jimenez Romero was president of the student government, yearbook editor, and varsity athlete in Franklin. For her first year at UW, she decided not to get involved in any organization on campus, as she was already struggling with “zoom fatigue”.

UW’s predominantly remote model and state guidelines for social distancing made the usual college experience (parties, late nights at the library, just sitting in a lecture hall) impossible for first-year students. year as Jimenez Romero.

She says she was able to make a small circle of friends on social media. She made a point of making more Latino and first generation friends in college. According to Jimenez Romero, she is only allowed one other person at a time in her dormitory and residents can only eat in the dining rooms for two.

“If we had a group of four, we had to eat at two separate tables or we could go to a lounge with a capacity of five,” Jimenez Romero said. “We tried to get around the guidelines and be as safe as possible. “

Due to safety guidelines for UW buildings, Jimenez Romero said she and her friends spend a lot of time outdoors. One of his favorite places is the University Quad, famous for its brief pink color when cherry blossoms bloom each spring.

She and her friends have fun wherever they can. The avenue, the lively street that crosses the university district, is lined with restaurants. Jimenez Romero said she tried every boba shop on The Ave – no small feat. She also frequents Noodle Nation to get her fix of Thai food.

“[Noodle Nation] is the best Thai food in the U District, but to me it doesn’t compare to my favorite Thai place where I’m from, ”Jimenez said, referring to Thai Recipe restaurant in South Seattle.

Entering university, Jimenez Romero feared she would contract the virus. The University of Washington COVID-19 Case Tracking Dashboard reports 1,728 positive cases among staff, faculty and students tested on campus. During the first few months, she tried not to visit her family because her mother is at high risk.

Powered by the Seattle Flu Study Team, UW launched the Husky Coronavirus Testing Program, which has been providing COVID-19 self-swab testing to UW students and faculty since September. 2020. Jimenez Romero said she gets tested once a week before her recently. achieved full vaccination.

Because she and her parents are fully immunized, Jimenez Romero now feels more comfortable seeing his family. The eldest of three children, her younger siblings are always happy to see her.

“We have a bunk bed so he was able to talk to her easily,” Jocelyn, who looks like her sister, Jackie, said over the phone. “Some nights I tried to talk to her, but then I remembered that she wasn’t there.”

Although they follow FaceTime and a sibling group chat, Jocelyn said there was no way to replicate their spontaneous late-night chats and midnight snacks while her sister was on campus. .

Jocelyn also had to take on new responsibilities when her sister left, from cleaning up to helping her father file his taxes.

Jocelyn, a sophomore at Franklin, still goes to class remotely, unsubscribing from the hybrid model offered by the school. Initially, Jimenez Romero’s family used cellular data to access their digital classroom because they did not have a reliable internet connection. They weren’t alone. According to Connect Washington over 280,000 children live in homes without high-speed internet. Almost 100,000 of these children are Latinos.

Eventually, Jimenez Romero’s family was able to connect to the internet through hot spots provided by their public schools. According to Jocelyn, securing this resource was a challenge and the Internet is still far from ideal.

“It was really difficult because we couldn’t go to school because the Wi-Fi was breaking down,” Jocelyn said.

UW makes Wi-Fi available to students throughout the campus. Jimenez Romero no longer has to worry about missing classes due to internet access issues. To help his family feel that same “relief,” Jimenez Romero used some of his scholarship money to pay for better Wi-Fi for his family.

Jimenez Romero returns home for the summer to do what she calls a “brain break”.

“At UW, I’m really happy that I can be independent, but there is always a part of me that is missing from my home, my family and my community,” she said. “I know I’m still close, but it’s a very different vibe in North Seattle compared to South Seattle.”

UW, one of the first universities in the country to move away, is expected to have its most ‘normal’ term since the start of the pandemic when it returns this fall with an in-person learning and a vaccine requirement.

Jimenez Romero is excited to learn inside a UW building (although she said she knows they fall short of the hype). But after missing the end of his K-12 experience, the biggest excitement is around three years later.

“I just had to adapt,” Jimenez Romero said of learning in COVID-19. “Now that I missed my high school diploma, I’m really excited for my college degree.”

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