Valley Center, CA
May 26, 2022
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Garden club helps college students in the year of COVID-19

The Dos Valles Garden Club has awarded  scholarships to applicants who are full time  students  whose career plans are related to the broad realm of agriculture and are residents of Valley Center, Pauma Valley or Rincon or have attended school within the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District. 

Choosing the scholarship winners is always difficult, and this year with its COVID-19 complications has been doubly challenging for students. 

The follow-up interviews with the awardees from last year proved to be enlightening. It can be said that that the past year’s “college experience” imposed limitations upon all students. Despite the unexpected changes they persevered, developing new skills and enhancing those they already possessed. 

Outdoorsy Hayleigh Watkins who is attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and majoring in Environmental Management.

Hayleigh Watkins applied for a scholarship last year as she completed her first two years at Palomar College and was transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Environmental Management. She’s a Valley Center High School graduate and like so many young people in VC had the opportunity to be inspired by our wildlife surroundings. 

She’s an “outdoor girl” who chose to spend this year in San Luis Obispo at an off campus residence with only one “in person” Forestry class on campus. Most classes have been online and attended at a computer screen. Hayleigh identifies learning to be even more disciplined as a student in the COVID-19 college environment. She remains very positive about her classes and appreciates the increased level of focus this year has required.

Alyssa McKeever is a freshman at UC Davis majoring in Animal Science.

Alyssa McKeever is a freshman at UC Davis majoring in Animal Science. Alyssa’s achievements at Valley Center High School were exceptional academically, in sports and in leadership. She is living in the dorm at UC Davis which she says is only one third occupied. 

Many college students have opted to continue living at home while attending classes online. Alyssa felt that being present at the university would help to “set her up for success.” When college returns to normal she intends to obtain a part time job on campus. She’s determined to pay for her education herself as well as paying any college loans after graduation. Alyssa’s approach has been to create as much of the college experience as possible despite COVID-19 constraints. She obtained permission to practice with the Track Team although they aren’t officially soliciting new members this year. She’s impressed with the efforts of her class professors to keep students excited. Chemistry course lab work is performed online by her professor which the class watches. 

Palomar College Freshman Tristan Loefke conducting lab work at home.

Tristan Loefke is attending Palomar College as a freshman and planning to major in Conservation Biology. Tristan has been home schooled prior to college and due to all classes being offered online his academic world is much the same as before. Although he began with some disappointment about not attending classes as he’d expected, he has been surprised at how much he’s learned online. He values his interaction with other classmates on Zoom as well. 

Online learning and utilizing the necessary software is a new skill for him. He brings exceptional self motivation and discipline to his class work from his home school experience. Class Labs in the traditional sense aren’t possible, but he has a professor who has provided students with the beakers, tubes, etc., to conduct the experiments at home and grants the lab credit by requiring students to send videos of their lab work.

These three students have approached the aspects of this year at college differently and similarly. 

A spokesman for the garden club told The Roadrunner, “It is inspirational for all of us to see how they have taken a ‘lemon’ year and made ‘sweet lemonade.’ The same can be said for many of their professors and teachers. So many have devised clever ways to present material, maintain student achievement levels, effective testing, student participation and student mental health. We’ve all been called upon to develop skills this past year we never expected to need. The surprise is we can use these skills in so many ways as we move through 2021.”

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