LEDA Cohort 16 Scholar Panisara was part of the very first LEDA virtual Summer Institute this year. Although she was a little bummed out to find out that this year’s program was going to be virtual, she knew that it would still be a great experience. The class that she enjoyed the most was Aspects of Leadership because it was focused on current events and issues in today’s society, and she enjoyed listening and learning from other Scholars. Panisara anticipated that senior year was going to be busy and stressful, so she knew the importance of taking the time to unwind and relax. “Finding time for hobbies is a great way to give your brain a rest and have some fun while doing what you enjoy. I’ve been watching Netflix (I recommend Avatar: The Last Airbender) and creating fashion lookbooks by taking pictures of styles from my own closet.”
This year, like most students, Panisara will be taking online classes. She knows that as much as she would love to go back to school, see her friends, and have a normal senior year, that won’t be possible for various reasons, and she believes that the decision made by the leadership in her county will be for the best interest of the community’s health as a whole. Panisara actually enjoys having virtual classes because she feels that she can learn at her own pace; however, she does feel there are some challenges to virtual learning, such as time management and not being able to get a high-school-senior experience that includes social events such as senior picnics, homecoming, and football games. Despite this, Panisara tries to keep a positive attitude. She believes that it’s important to live in the present and to focus on the good things about virtual learning, such as having more time at home to spend with her family.
While Panisara was concerned about how much community there would be at a space like a virtual Summer institute, she was pleasantly surprised. By the end of the summer, she felt she was able to see self-growth that she believes would not have been possible without the support from her mentors, teachers, and peers who helped her prepare and alleviate the stress of college applications. “I have met some of the most empathetic, passionate, and genuine people throughout my journey so far. LEDA Scholars are by far the most supportive people and I know that we all have each other’s backs for the long run; after all, it’s LEDA 4 Life.”
As Panisara reflects on the pandemic and the current racial justice movement, she feels it’s important for first-generation students like her to be updated on new resources, whether it’s information for scholarships or tips for virtual learning and tutoring. In addition, she stresses the importance of mental health support. “I know that a lot of my peers are working jobs to help out their parents while simultaneously working hard on school and college applications. By just being there for us and providing an outlet for us to talk or let our emotions out, LEDA and other organizations would be doing a lot for us during this time of uncertainty.”
As she reflects back on the virtual Summer Institute, Panisara encourages everyone to apply to LEDA, whether it’s virtual or in person. Despite not having met any of her fellow Scholars face-to-face, she was able to make friends and felt a strong sense of community was built. “I’m still in contact with a lot of the Scholars, and we’re even making plans in the future, years from now, to meet up. It’s so cool because I’ve never been surrounded by such like-minded peers.”
Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks on how LEDA Scholars are adapting to the “new” back-to-school experience this year.
Published September 23, 2020