Kim Cassels planned to leave for Peace Corps service in Zambia after graduating from Fort Lewis College. But then the coronavirus outbreak came. Now, she’s not sure what will happen.
“I’m not terribly worried about it. Grocery stores need people if all else fails,” Cassels said.
While schools postpone graduations and students work remotely, many graduates are heading into the summer with uncertainty about what the future holds.
Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in recent weeks, underscoring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But school administrators are still preparing students for jobs with the hopeful message that the economy will stabilize soon. Students are just trying to make it through the upheaval.
“It helps because everybody’s pretty much in the same boat,” Cassels said. “That, in a way, gives me peace of mind.”
In the last two weeks of March, 10 million people filed for unemployment insurance. Using Department of Labor data, The New York Times estimated an unemployment rate as high as 13%, by the end of March. The unemployment rate during the recession in 2010 was 9.6%.
FLC Career Services is seeing some signs of the economic instability. Recruiter interest is down about 66% in some major group categories, said Jeff Saville, Career Services director.
But staff is still posting about 40 new jobs a day, and students have about 2,300 job opportunities they can pursue.
“We are approaching this in a positive sense that this is all going to get cleaned up,” Saville said. “In my personal opinion – not my FLC opinion – if this doesn’t get cleaned up, this is going to be the least of our worries.”
Saville said some students are nervous. Some soon-to-be graduates who wanted to stay in Durango are broadening where they might work or what they might do. Others are considering graduate school programs instead of entering the workforce.
‘Anti-climactic finish’In addition to uncertain summer jobs, high school and college seniors are bearing other losses, as well.
La Plata County high school seniors have their prom outfits, but no prom to go to. They’re spending their last semester of school away from their friends. They’re not sure when, or if, they will have a graduation ceremony.
FLC and Bayfield High School have postponed graduation; Ignacio High School and Durango High School are still deciding what to do. Proms in Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio have been postponed.
“It’s a little stressful seeing we might not actually get to have the ceremony,” said Emma Candelaria, a Bayfield senior. “Then all the schoolwork on top of that and not actually getting to learn in the classroom. It’s a little bit difficult.”
Dylan Hilliker, a Bayfield senior, is focused on “staying sane” amid the upheaval.
“It is what it is. All the seniors are trying to do their best to keep up with what’s going on,” he said.
Ellen Campbell, an FLC senior and cycling team member, said it was an “anti-climactic finish” during what should have been a sentimental semester.
James Young, a college senior who fills the role of Skyler the Skyhawk, the FLC mascot, said getting that “little piece of paper” at graduation is part of college, and he’s willing to wait to get it.
Cassels said she looks forward to graduating, but she is focused on finishing her classes – and having realistic expectations.
“Who knows how long this’ll last for?” she said. “The only thing I can do is the best I can and not expect anything out of it.”
firstname.lastname@example.orgHerald Sports Editor John Livingston contributed to this report.