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Finding Hope Amid Chaos

By Mylesha McCardell
May 20, 2020

In the latest installment of our Forward Together series, Mylesha McCardell, a Year Three Fellow from Houston and a culinary arts major at Johnson & Wales University – North Miami Campus shares her story.

“Campus will be closing all residence halls due to COVID-19.”

This was the email I received from my school in Miami, Florida, expecting me to find a way home to Houston, Texas by March 22, 2020. Keep in mind, this is the beginning of the spring semester of my freshman year, so I just paid part of my tuition and my friends and I had just returned to campus from spring break. So, my funds to go home were close to nonexistent.

Luckily, one of my friends owns an old pickup truck and invited me to live with her in Tampa. However, most of my belongings stayed behind on campus since there was no space and I couldn’t afford a storage space. Then, considering that both of my grandparents, who I live with, are out of work due to COVID-19 and retirement, I had to wait three weeks until they finally had enough money to pay for my flight home.

I worried about being quarantined at the airport, as well as my grandparents’ overall health and safety as they both have weakened immune systems. So, everyone was nervous, including me, because I had to travel across states to get home.

Once I finally returned home, the stress didn’t lessen. In fact, it got worse. I worried about teaching myself through online classes. I wondered about when we would return to campus so I wouldn’t be too behind on labs and how I was going to get my things in storage. I also stressed about money.

Since the school changed my student status from full-time to part-time, my financial aid also changed. I went from having to pay $180 to close to $2,000 for a term that I didn’t even get to finish. Also, culinary lab courses required to stay on track are only being offered in the summer and will cost most than $2,000 (and that’s without a meal plan).

When I called the school asking how they expected me to pay any of those fees at this time, they basically said, “We hope you’re doing well, but there’s nothing we can do except set your spring term balance for a later date.” I cried because not only will I be behind, since I can’t afford summer classes, but the labs I wanted to take will no longer be available. All of this makes me feel as though my school doesn’t really care about their students. However, I should’ve guessed that when they gave me a $50 Shell gift card expecting that would help me get from Florida back home to Texas.

Even though all of this is going on at the moment, I’m still trying to keep positive.

While completing my online work, I’m also applying for more affordable schools. Possibly, even better schools. Many college students are probably doing the same, since we’ve basically all been robbed of our last term.

But knowing these are frustrating times has actually brought me closer to my family and has helped me find the light in this situation. You’d think we’d grow sick of each other, but that’s not our case. My family sees that I’m really struggling with school, so they’re making sure to look after me. My advice to everyone dealing with similar problems is to hold on to family, or whoever you’re living with, and look to them for support.

Help us continue our work toward supporting Fellows during the COVID-19 pandemic and closing the college degree divide across the country by donating here.

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