College graduation can bring equal measures of joy and stress as grads take the next steps in their adult lives. This is especially true for the 207 Berea College graduates who now face the pandemic and a grim job market after claiming their degrees in May 2020.

Fortunately, Berea College students graduate with the skills and labor experience they need to succeed, giving them a leg up in even the dimmest of job markets. We caught up with three outstanding recent Berea grads to see how their post-graduation plans are adjusting to these harrowing new conditions. You may remember these three Berea grads as they were featured in Berea College mailings over the last year.

Portrait of Ronnie Sloan
Instead of studying in Wales, Ronnie ’19 is off to earn her master’s degree in Utah. Like her tuition at Berea College, her graduate school expenses will be completely covered.

Ronnie ’19, graduated in December 2019. Before the pandemic she planned to attend graduate school in Cardiff, Wales, but then COVID-19 halted international travel. Thankfully, Ronnie cast a wide net and found another option for her graduate study.

“I decided to attend the University of Utah to get my master’s degree in City and Metropolitan Planning. They offered me full-time teaching assistantship in exchange for waived tuition, fees, books, insurance, and a housing stipend.

I have been working an essential job recently (Don’t worry, I always wear a mask, gloves, and constantly wash my hands!) to pay for my living expenses and save for my move to Salt Lake City. I have exceeded my savings goal! Please let donors and alumni know that we appreciate all the care and resources that they have given to the College on our behalf!”

Portrait of Angelica
Angelica ’19 awaits the departure date for her Peace Corps mission in Mozambique, while helping a loved one recover from COVID-19.

You may also remember Angelica ’19, who graduated alongside Ronnie in December. Angelica’s diligence earned her an internship for the United Nations and set her on a path to foreign service that had to take a pause when COVID-19 struck.

“I got into the Peace Corps to serve in Mozambique this August, but with COVID-19 my service has been postponed. My immediate family is doing well, but one of my extended family members is recovering from COVID-19, which has challenged us all. Until I get word from the Peace Corps, I am writing and helping out in my community. Thank you all again!”

Anahí ’20 is a Physics major and former hand on the Berea College Farm who, unlike Ronnie and Angelica, had to graduate away from campus in May 2020 after the College ceased on-campus instruction. Of entering the workforce during the pandemic, Anahí said:

Portrait of Anahi on the farm
Pandemic cut the final semester short for Anahi ’20, but she still earned her Physics degree and is applying for related jobs while cashiering to make ends meet.

“I was already looking at grad schools and applying for jobs in my major (like my dream of working for NASA) but those options have shrunk in this new economy. Still, I’m applying no matter what. In the meantime, I’m working as a cashier to help with family expenses since my mom and other family members got laid off and are trying to find stable work too.

I’m grateful that my family is all well and healthy, but I am most grateful for seeing communities come together to bring supplies and financial help to those who lost more than others. That makes me feel like I’m back at Berea, which was always so generous and, I think, always will be.”

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