“My goals for the school year are to really enjoy and take a strong interest in my classes, to start preparing for grad school,… and to be happy.” LEDA Cohort 13 Scholar Brittney is tackling her junior year at the University of Nevada, Reno with a grounded plan to make the most of an unusual academic environment. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced her classes this semester to alternate between remote and in-person sessions, and, like many other students throughout the U.S., Brittney has found it challenging to stay focused and motivated when watching lots of instructional videos or trying to cover challenging course material on Zoom. One thing that has helped her is studying and doing homework with friends, which allows them to mutually hold themselves accountable.
Starting up the semester after summer break proved to be a bit of a relief for Brittney. “The pandemic has taken so much away with regards to our ‘normal’ lives that going back to college felt needed,” she said. “I wanted to have the normalcy of classes, studying, research, and my job on campus at the UNR Child & Family Research Center in the Early Head Start Program.”
One highlight for Brittney during the pandemic was her summer experience at the YMCA of Southern Nevada as a Summer Camp Lead for children five to seven years old. She helped write facilitation guides for the camp’s programs (such as STEM, Art, Literacy, and Character Values) and onboard new staff. She said that the opportunity allowed her to “learn more about myself as a leader,” and she anticipates returning to the camp next summer. “I love the YMCA with my whole heart, and I continue to learn more every summer I’m there about behavior modification, management, and leadership while working with amazing kiddos.” Brittney’s summer experience also included conducting research at UNR on Intersectional Identities, focusing on the daily experiences of people of color with both visible and non-visible disabilities.
Looking back on past summers that were also fulfilling, LEDA stands out in Brittney’s memory. “[At the LEDA Summer Institute,] I learned so much about the state of the world, met amazing people that helped me become the person I am today, and learned a lot about myself.” LEDA continued to be a reassuring presence in her life during uncertain times. “LEDA is a support system,” she shared. “I know that I can reach out to my LEDA counselor – or anyone at LEDA – and find resources for anything that I may need.” She also credits numerous organizations in her home community of Las Vegas that provide students with resources like laptops, WiFi access, and study spaces, as well as UNR-specific programs like Pack Provisions and First in the Pack that work with first-generation, under-resourced students, for providing important support.
Looking to the future, Brittney hopes that colleges and organizations like LEDA continue to empower young adults to advocate for their beliefs and use their voices to organize for change. She is particularly passionate about encouraging young adults to vote, as with our #LEDAVotes campaign. She envisions her future career to contribute to this supportive network. “I want to work with children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and other adverse abilities. I want to help families and kids find ways to advocate for their or their children’s needs, to find resources and programs that work for their specific behavior and developmental stage.”
Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks on how LEDA Scholars are adapting to the “new normal” of the school experience this year.
Published November 11, 2020