By Diana Seoud, MA, Post-Secondary Coach  

Due to the nation’s fight against COVID-19, a lot of things look different this school year. We are two months or so into the new school year and many people are wondering how our high school and college students are doing. Every foster youth we serve is on their own path, and I’m happy to share the students I support as a post-secondary coach are doing well. My scholars have settled into remote learning and believe it or not, it’s helped them to build some unexpected muscles around communication and self-advocacy skills. 

Pivotal reached out to students immediately after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and learned that a significant number of our college scholars faced an unprecedented challenge: no computers at home. Because campus computer labs had shut down, these students no longer had access to the technology they needed to complete their college coursework. To keep these students on the path to graduation, Pivotal created an Emergency Assistance Fund. To date, we have provided roughly 120 laptops, or one for every scholar who needed one. Having their own laptop closes the “distance” between learner and teacher. One of my post-secondary scholars, Naw Paw, says, “I don’t know of any other foster youth program that gives you a new computer straight out of the box. Most agencies loan you a used one and expect it back. I am so thankful that Pivotal supported me with a new laptop this year. It’s helped me tremendously.”

Although they may not even realize it, thanks to their new computers and the transition to distance learning, my scholars are practicing and learning new communication and self-advocacy skills every day. For example, students no longer have the luxury of walking up to their professor after class to ask a question or visiting during office hours. Instead, they must be more comfortable writing a professional level e-mail or making an appointment to meet with their instructors online. Jasmine, another post-secondary student I work with, shared, "I’ve been struggling in my Pre-Calculus class and I really needed extra help. It felt awkward, but I went ahead and reached out to my teacher to let him know. He offered to set up additional time on Zoom so we could review what I find challenging." Examples like these are wins for Pivotal scholars. In the past, something as small as writing an e-mail or making a simple phone call was nerve racking for many students.

I’m not going to lie, the pandemic has definitely created some serious challenges for everyone. But it’s good to know that my scholars are finding ways to be resourceful and build unexpected skills that help them today and will continue to help them later in life. I look at it like leg day at the gym – no one ever wants to work out their legs, but if they skip it then they might look a little funky!