By Christine Salinas

With COVID-19, high school students everywhere are dealing with a lot more than they are used to. We caught up with Chelsea Kolander, Pivotal’s High School Coaching Coordinator II, who shared valuable insight into how high school students from foster care are doing and how Pivotal is supporting them. 
 
Pivotal: Being a high school student these days is tough already and COVID-19 has made things even harder. How are our high school scholars generally doing?
 
Chelsea: Thanks for asking about them. It’s been a difficult time. Some of our upperclassmen have questions and concerns about what this means for their graduation and unit completion, while our younger teens were already adjusting to high school, and now having to navigate this additional change in school format. Many youth are missing their friends, feeling worried about the virus, and coping with having to pause some of their favorite hobbies such as sports or after-school activities. Many of them don’t have cell phones or reliable WiFi so now that meeting in-person is not an option, getting in touch with them to provide support has been harder. When our coaches do connect with youth, they spend lots of time educating them about staying safe from the virus, reassuring them that things will be okay, and helping them navigate distance learning. Figuring out this “new normal” is important to their emotional and physical well-being. Coaches are also communicating with caregivers, academic counselors, social workers, and other supports to assist youth as a team.
 
Pivotal: Distance learning is not for everyone, and yet, that’s what school districts have had to pivot towards. What’s that been like for our high school scholars?
 
Chelsea: Right, it definitely introduces some new challenges. Our coaches are providing vital academic support right now. There is a lot of anxiety for the students who were struggling with classes even before COVID or were in the process of changing school placements to a school that could better meet their learning needs. So, our coaches are drilling down into specifics like accessing school portals, finding class assignments, and even offering brief tutoring around academic concepts that students need help with because they no longer have access to dropping by teacher’s office hours or attending on-campus tutoring or homework club. Coaches are working with youth virtually on resumes, scholarship applications, and other goals-in-progress to make sure that they will be able to continue working towards their dreams. Youth are balancing those obligations with other responsibilities, such as picking up free meals from school districts, requesting loaner laptops, and setting up resources such as free internet service. It’s a lot for teens to manage on their own. Depending on where students are living, they have different responsibilities and needs, and so our coaches are tailoring their approach and efforts every student’s unique situation. 
 
Pivotal: What should people know about our coaches and our youth?
 
Chelsea: Our coaches are dedicated and creative in supporting their youth, and our youth are resilient and persistent in working toward their goals and adapting to all of these changes and uncertainty.