Coronavirus Restrictions Affect On Point for College and College Students They Help

Mar 24, 2020

Classes back underway for many colleges, though sidewalks like these at OCC remain empty as all learning is taking place remotely.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Many college students enrolled in local schools started classes again this week after spring break.  The isolation policies due to the coronavirus are affecting students’ learning … as well as organizations that help them. One student from Syracuse is trying to keep her dream alive amid the changes and restrictions. 


Here at Onondaga Community College spring break is over, but just about no one is walking any of the sidewalks or hallways.  Jeanette Brown Delee is finishing her final semester at OCC.  She knows switching to all on-line instruction will be mixed bag.

“I feel like the majority of my classes, I can learn out of a textbook. That’s how I learn better anyway.  But one of my fellow students said, ‘I’m a better hands-on learner,’ and I was thinking ... (some) learning is better in class.  Those teaching moments aren’t going to be the same when I’m on the computer.”

OCC dorms are silent during COVID 19 campus shutdown
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

She’ll also miss connections made in the library, the cafeterias, and the personal meetings with counselors from On Point for College.  She says they check-up on her, and helped her get her footing when she started college.

“My first year, they gave me pillows and blankets and things, because I come from not the best means.  And when I’m in school they come and they check on me periodically, which I really love because it keeps me on track.  They ask me how I’m doing in classes and I’m like, ‘Well I could be doing better in one class,’ and they’re like, ‘You’ve got to pick it up….’  They’re very motivational.  So I like that abut them too.”

On Point for College  Executive Director Sam Rouser has had to figure out ways for his staff to work remotely for everything from college tours to helping with applications and other paperwork, such as financial aid forms.

“You sit down next to the student and you help walk them through that process of them filling out that application.  It would be difficult to do if you just had a phone call because you can’t see what page they’re on and that makes it really confusing.  So you need a platform where you can actually (see), like Facetime or Zoom or What’s App, where you can actually see the screen.”

They’ll also continue assisting students academically using virtual methods, which doesn’t always work for those who relied on campus resources.

“...and have gotten really accustomed to a math lab, a writing lab, and getting that one-on-one help is going to be a real challenge, not only on the tutorial side, but on the language barrier side.  So, we’re reaching out to organizations like RISE, who work with multiple languages for students.”

Weekdays during classes, this student parking at lot at OCC is usually jammed.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Rowser says he’s not worried about long-term effects on students going to or through college, especially given the tech savvy of many in the current generation.

“I’m not so worried that it’s going to be damaging to futures, because at this point we have so many of our partners out there that are opening doors and opening opportunities for us to do whatever it takes to make sure that our students don’t fall behind and don’t lose out.” 

On Point for College officials say they still need volunteers to help tutor online, as well as general financial support.  The coronavirus response wiped out their major fundraising dinner.

Jeannette Brown Delee is a psychology major who plans to go to the University at Albany next year to study Pre-Med.  But she wonders about the end of this school year.

“I am kind of disappointed though that I won’t get to walk the stage, because it’s a moment I’ve been waiting for.  It’s kind of unfair because me as a student, I’ve worked really hard.  And I know it’s only an Associates (degree) but it’s actually a lot.  A lot of people don’t achieve this status, especially coming from where I came from, the South Side of Syracuse.  It’s kind of disappointing.”  

Jeanette says she’s rolling with the punches brought on by all the changes from coronavirus isolation.  Rowser wonders if this experience might have long-term changes on how students go to college.  In the meantime On Point’s staff members are trying to do their best connecting with current and would-be students online.  Though the latest challenge is to assist a chunk of the 3,000 students they help who don’t have access to a computer. 

This copy has been updated with style corrections.