The first official COVID-19 case in the United States was recorded on January 20, 2020. Two months later, the United States went into lockdown as cases began increasing. Schools across the country went from in-person classes to virtual learning. Restaurants went to takeout only. Only grocery stores and other essential services were open to the public.
No one could have imagined that 2020, the start of a new decade, would bring so many hardships. Among those hardships were students who historically struggled the most with school having to adjust to learning online, studying at home, and for some, completing work without access to the internet at home, often resorting to going to other areas near their home to get internet access.
When we spoke with high school students within the Lion’s Pride programs, they discussed how the pandemic has affected their studying. Daisy Nieto, high school graduate from UIC College Prep and a first year at University of Chicago had much to share on her experience. When asked how much learning has been a challenge for her, Nieto stated that, “it was significantly harder to stay focused last year when school was virtual, so in that way, yes, learning was greatly hindered.”
Daisy Nieto was a Big for the Lion’s Pride program during the 2020-2021 school year and appreciated how the Lion’s Pride supported her during the pandemic. “Programming helped me understand a bit more about planning for the long-term and helped me think about things I hadn't considered before,” said Nieto.
Similar to Nieto, Ryan Garcia, Manager of Pre-college and Career Exploration at Noble Schools, saw the direct impact of the pandemic on students and the continued struggles students are experiencing firsthand as a result of last school year’s remote learning. While trying to accelerate learning recovery has led to schools feeling that they should be doing more, Garcia does not think that approach is what is best at this time.
“It's hard to picture what schools could be doing in a sense of the word ‘more’ as I imagine there's a lot they're already doing with trying to adjust to how the pandemic affected their lives as well,” said Garcia. “I believe schools should take this opportunity to look at the systemic approaches to providing education and try to better utilize the time that students spend in classrooms by offering other opportunities to experience things that will help them in their future.”
A study conducted by Lurie Children’s Hospital highlighted the impact of the pandemic on student mental health specifically with 1,500 parents reporting that 44% of their children experienced changes in their mental health which led to disorders. However, only 18% of those students got professional help, a statistic that Lion's Pride hopes to change with our programming.
In the past year, Lion’s Pride as an organization has recognized an increase of our students when it came to them expressing depression and frustration with online school. In response to student needs, Lion's Pride has been working with students on how to better prioritize their studies while also attending to their social-emotional needs. Through programming, we have taught students on how to manage their time and what strategies they can use to improve their overall mental health to no longer feel stressed about school work during this time.
Students are generally having trouble staying focused in this post-lockdown world and would like more to be done within the schools to support their transition back into the classroom. More learning support and engagement opportunities to help them excel in the classrooms such as the Lion's Pride program can help students not feel they have to rely solely on themselves to succeed. As we approach the end of 2021, we believe the new year can bring more ways for schools to continue supporting their students and make sure they are taking care of themselves academically and mentally. Lion's Pride is just one of many ways students can receive the support they need to find success in school. For more information about the Lion's Pride program, email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.