By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
High school graduations, in whatever form they took, are over and recent graduates are now looking at a whole new set of challenges as they prepare to enter college this fall. Several members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) have shared their stories with the One Feather.
Raylen Bark, valedictorian of the Cherokee High School Class of 2020, is entering Dartmouth College. “As of right now, we’ll be going in early September; however, they’re still deciding on whether or not we will be on campus or school will take place online.”
She noted that the usual freshman orientation was held online through Zoom. “Virtually meeting classmates, professors, and the staff was different,” she said. “I wish I could have met everyone in person on campus. Admitted students were able to visit the college through a program, but, of course, it was cancelled. We missed out on our preview for the next four years. Getting paperwork and forms filled out without direct help from the school has been the most challenging because businesses aren’t open and it has made everything so difficult.”
Nola Teesatuskie, a member of the Swain County High School Class of 2020, will be attending school across the country at Washington State University. The structure of her classes is yet to be determined. “So far, they said it is up to the professor’s discretion. If they have a class over 50, then they have the option to split the class into thirds or do online classes.”
Her orientation session was also online and involved three days of learning about the school and their individual course of study culminating in a session with their advisor on the third day to discuss and work out their fall course load.
Teesatuskie said one aspect of all of this has been the hardest. “I think the most challenging is the uncertainty of what is exactly going to happen. We mostly have an idea, but it’s still a waiting game to see how long we can guess around about what is the best route for us. The only thing I know of so far is that our classes may be online, and they may only do one person in a dorm.”
Winston Welch, the lone graduate from the remote McGrath School in Alaska, has enrolled in the culinary certificate program at Southwestern Community College. “Classes are scheduled to be online, but the labs will be on campus. The last time I looked, orientation was planned for on-campus, but of course, that may change.”
Remote learning is nothing new for Welch. “I have a lot of experience with online learning. The Iditarod Area School District, where I graduated, uses Acellus for a lot of classes. Acellus was self-paced and college classes won’t be. So, that will be new. I am going to have to learn how to use Blackboard.”
He added, “I’ve done a lot of online school so I’m not worried about that so much. But, I am coming into college from a very small school. It will be very different not knowing my teachers and knowing they don’t know me.”
Welch said the labs he will have to do for his culinary education will be difficult to navigate. “The greatest challenge going to college during the pandemic for me is getting back to North Carolina from Alaska. I know how to be safe – like wearing a mask, keeping distant from other people, and washing my hands all the time, but it seems like a lot of people aren’t doing those things.”