Across the world this past spring, people’s lives were thrown into disarray as they were asked or forced to quarantine in their homes at the onset of a global pandemic. Rashana ’24, however, was faced with a particularly unique obstacle: home was no longer an option.
Rashana’s experience at home in Louisville had been really tough, and at the beginning of 2020, she moved into a domestic violence shelter for women and children in eastern Kentucky. While states across the country began to close down, she continued working long shifts at the local Walmart and acting as a tutor for the children at the shelter.
“My days were long,” Rashana said, “but I didn’t mind.”
Rashana kept her pending acceptance to Berea College in the back of her mind and looked forward to being on campus in fall 2020. She remembers receiving her acceptance letter at the post office with her mom.
“As soon as I saw the envelope with the Berea College stamp, I started crying,” she recalled. “I’d been blessed
to get this chance.”
The transition from the shelter to the College residence hall went smoothly, and Rashana thinks the worst mental-
health challenges of the pandemic are behind her, deliberately left behind at the shelter. “I got really depressed and angry at the beginning,” she said. “I had to remind myself that it’s not forever.”
Rather than feeling isolated on campus, Rashana says she feels like she is gaining extra time to focus and reflect on herself more deeply. She is taking a mix of classes in person and online, and she works remotely with the Bonner Scholars program to implement enrichment programs for middle school students in Madison County.
Rashana admits wearing a mask and staying socially distant all the time can feel isolating, which makes it easy to lose focus on her goals, but there still is community to be found at Berea, even in quarantine. Living in a residence hall and sharing a room with another student has certainly created social opportunity. She also regularly attends a healing circle facilitated by counseling services, which provides a safe space for students with adverse childhood experiences.
“It’s nice to know I’m not the only one suffering from past experiences and that not everyone wants to stay on the same level,” she said. “They want to grow.”
While Rashana has been supported by online classes and virtual resources, it also has proven to be very difficult for her existing health conditions. She experiences seizures that often are triggered by too much screen time.
“It’s challenging, but I have confidence it will get better one way or another,” Rashana said.
Rashana intends to continue to chip away at her double major in psychology and computer science, and she hopes to implement her studies in the military.
“I want to use [artificial intelligence] to design programs to support veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other disorders,” she said.
Like everyone else, Rashana doesn’t know when or if things will go back to normal, but she no longer feels intimidated by that. “I’ve adapted to it,” she said. “I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I’m in a great place, along with my peers.”