Local Schools Youth & young adult

Pandemic upending lives of Raven seniors

Grace Hernandez, a senior and student teacher from Benedictine, holds a beanie she received her freshman year, a memento from her time in college.

by Moira Cullings

ATCHISON — Graduating from college and jumping into the workforce is challenging enough for many young adults.

Add a pandemic into the mix, and the situation becomes unprecedented.

“You never know what could happen on a day’s notice that could change your plans,” said Benedictine College senior Kyle Lauterwasser.

“When people think about what they’re going to do when they get out of college, no one thinks they’re going to have to put their lives on hold and wait for something like this to pass,” he said.

Kyle Lauterwasser is a marketing and finance major at Benedictine who plans on returning to the college in the fall to complete his masters degree.

‘An added stressor’

Not only are many college seniors missing out on graduation traditions, but they’re also searching for jobs in a time when many companies are under a hiring freeze.

“There are still companies out there hiring,” said Megan Dougherty, director of career services at Benedictine College. “But there are some industries as a whole that students have been looking at that, unfortunately, aren’t going to be options for the time being.”

Megan Dougherty, director of career services at Benedictine, is utilizing technology to keep in touch with students, especially those looking for a job in this unusual climate.

The pandemic has caused a bump in the road for students hoping to enter a variety of fields.

Lauterwasser, a finance and marketing major, has plans to pursue a master’s degree at Benedictine in the fall. He had been actively seeking a summer internship before the coronavirus outbreak.

“The process has been on hold for a lot of the internships and opportunities I was looking at,” he said. “It’s definitely an added stressor.”

Grace Hernandez, a Benedictine senior studying education, was student teaching English at Atchison High School and looking at full-time teaching jobs for the fall semester before the pandemic.

“I don’t have a job lined up,” she said. “I was in a good place with a couple of schools — we were both interested in each other — before everything hit.

“Everything feels kind of on hold right now.”

Grace Hernandez was student teaching at Atchison High School before schools closed. Now, her experience is much different.

Before schools were closed for the remainder of the academic year, Hernandez was teaching a full day of classes, using her cooperating teacher’s lesson plans.

“After spring break, I was going to start implementing my own lesson plans,” said Hernandez.

She never had the opportunity and is now helping her cooperating teacher by running a Google Classroom page.

“I’m a little worried that I’m learning how to do something that won’t really be relevant to my actual teaching career,” said Hernandez. “But I could also be learning really important skills that are going to help me [in the future.]”

‘Everyone’s looking for answers’

“Not even two months ago did I think my seniors were going to be in this situation,” said Dougherty, who has worked hard to be a resource for students who are struggling with the stress of the situation.

Kyle Lauterwasser is working on completing the remainder of his senior courses online.

“The challenge has been getting the word out to students to let them know that we are still here as a resource and how we can help them,” she added.

Benedictine had launched a career services platform last year, which, among several functions, allows students to schedule video appointments with Dougherty, and has become even more pertinent during this time.

The school recently launched a webinar series hosted by its alumni and career services office. The first webinar took place April 16, and alumni who work in human resources filled students in on what’s happening in their companies and gave job-seekers advice.

The school also offers students a folder of resources to help with job searching amid the coronavirus pandemic. Students can freshen up on interviewing skills, check out companies that are hiring and learn more about how to navigate the job application process during this time.

The biggest issue Megan Dougherty has seen graduating college seniors face is their interview process coming to a halt.

Although Dougherty hasn’t heard of any students who have had full-time job offers rescinded, she knows of several situations where students were in the middle of an interview process that has suddenly come to a halt.

“We go through how they can follow up in a way that shows interest but also understanding,” said Dougherty.

“Another thing I’ve really been trying to communicate is patience during this time,” she continued. “Everyone’s looking for answers, including the companies that are needing to hire.”

There’s no handbook to navigate the challenges this pandemic has brought onto millions of people, but young adults like Lauterwasser are turning to their faith to get them through.

“It’s a matter of trust,” he said, “not only in your abilities, but also [knowing] God is going to take care of the plans that he has for you.”

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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  • I have a special attachment to the Students at Benedictine College. My heart was saddened with all that has been postponed for this Very Special Class of 2020. These students (Graduates of 2020) are Sincere, Solid, Positive and Very Faith Filled. I could go on and on about the Quality of their Education at BC and the Sincerity they have to go out into the world and to make Something of Themself and be a Sincere Part in Making the World a Better Place in the future.

    I would like to Thank each and everyone of the BC Class of 2020 for being so Positive and Caring to be whenever I would visit the Campus. I Wish for You the Most Positive and Beautiful Future that God will be Guiding You Toward “ ONCE A RAVEN ALWAYS A RAVEN”.