‘Devastated’ Chicago college students opt to stay home after last-minute shifts to all online classes, strict COVID-19 restrictions

‘Devastated’ Chicago college students opt to stay home after last-minute shifts to all online classes, strict COVID-19 restrictions

As more universities announce minimal or no in-person courses, some students are skipping dorm living this fall or deferring their education altogether. SINGAPORE, Aug 7 — The multi-ministry task force addressing the Covid-19 pandemic acknowledged a recent spate of suicides and attempted suicides at the coronavirus-hit foreign worker dormitories, and said that managing the workers’ mental health is a “work in progress.” Speaking at a task… Work meetings via webcam can make it harder to maintain a human connection but games can help coworkers get to know other beyond cameras and screens.

Eli Stone, of Lake View, was ready for the “normal college experience” and set to start his freshman year this fall at Brandeis University outside Boston.

But when Brandeis released its reopening plans, Stone, 18, said he couldn’t imagine finding new friends or developing new relationships when he was living in a single dorm and taking all his classes online. So earlier this summer, he deferred his enrollment for at least a semester.

“If I was going this year, I’d really only have three years of a college experience because I don’t think spring will be normal,” either, Stone said. “Starting college during a pandemic would have been really hard for me.”

Faced with almost completely online schedules and strict COVID-19 protocol, students across Chicago who realize they won’t enjoy the traditional college campus experience are choosing to live at home or defer their education altogether. Some students’ plans have literally been upended in the past several days as many universities announced fewer and fewer — if any — in-person classes and strict rules for living in the dorms or even being on campus.

Up until last week, Ariel Hulfachor was planning on making a cross-country road trip to Santa Clarita to start her freshman year at the California Institute of the Arts. Hulfachor, 17, of Oriole Park, had already wrapped her head around potentially living in a hotel room for the fall, since the school’s dorms couldn’t accommodate social distancing guidelines.

When the school announced last week that classes would be completely online in the fall, the Whitney Young Magnet High School grad said she was “devastated.”

“I was pretty convinced I was going because of the nature of my education,” said Hulfachor, who’s planning on studying fine arts. “I didn’t think it would be possible for me to do it without their facilities or in-person instruction.”

The fine arts curriculum typically involves using the school’s materials and machinery to complete projects, Hulfachor said. Instead, she will take her fall courses online while in Chicago and is disappointed knowing many of her classes will be lecture-style instead, she said.

Hulfachor said she’s hoping the school could have in-person classes in the spring, though she’s not getting her hopes up. Even if the college introduces a hybrid model for spring semester, with limited in-person classes, going to campus still might not be an option for her, Hulfachor said.

“I may just stay here because of the cost of living up there,” Hulfachor said. “I don’t know if it would be worth it.”

At 27 years old, Danielle Di Silvestro isn’t a traditional incoming college freshman. Having already received a psychology degree from Roosevelt University, Di Silvestro is going back to school for music production this fall at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.

“In my head, I want to move down there yesterday because I just want to be among the students,” said Di Silvestro, of Arcadia Terrace on the North Side. “But what’s going on now in Florida is scary.”

Di Silvestro had already told friends she was moving to the Orlando area for school. But now, she’ll be completing fall semester online from Chicago.

Even those plans are subject to change, Di Silvestro said.

“Right now, my plan is to start online in September and then be six months online — that’s the plan as of today,” Di Silvestro said. “A big part of me is like, ‘Why don’t I just defer until things settle down a bit?’”

Instead of going to school this fall, Stone, who deferred his admission to Brandeis, will be working as a campaign manager for Sarah Yacoub, who’s running for the Wisconsin State Assembly. Stone worked on eight other political campaigns in high school and hopes to work in Chicago politics after he graduates.

Stone already said goodbye to some of his high school friends as they leave for college, he said, making it “kind of hard” not starting school at the same time as his peers.

Whether he goes to Brandeis in the spring or waits a full year before starting college is a decision Stone is waiting to make until after November’s election, he said.

“If they say it’ll be completely normal in the spring, which is unlikely, I’ll probably go [to Brandeis],” Stone said. “But socially and academically, it might be easier to start next year.”

Source: chicago.suntimes.com

Author: Clare Proctor

Charles Scharf - Wikipedia

Charles Scharf – Wikipedia

Charles Scharf

Source: en.wikipedia.org

Managing migrant workers’ mental health a ‘work in progress,’ says Singapore official after self-harm incidents | Malay Mail

Managing migrant workers’ mental health a ‘work in progress,’ says Singapore official after self-harm incidents | Malay Mail

SINGAPORE, Aug 7 — The multi-ministry task force addressing the Covid-19 pandemic acknowledged a recent spate of suicides and attempted suicides at the coronavirus-hit foreign worker dormitories, and said that managing the workers’ mental health is a “work in progress.”

Speaking at a task force press conference yesterday, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health (MOH), said that he is aware of incidents of self-harm and attempted self-harm, adding that they are a “cause for concern.”

“I do not pretend that the work is completed (or) that we have a very comprehensive system of support,” he said.

“But the task force is committed to making sure that the mental health needs of the migrant workers are looked into, supported — not just now, but that there is a sustainable framework that would continue in the dormitories even after the outbreak comes under control within the dormitories.”

He was answering a question posed by TODAY about whether the task force is looking into formulating a more comprehensive plan to tackle mental health issues resulting from the foreign workers’ prolonged isolation.

Videos circulating on social media appear to portray various incidents of foreign workers standing precariously on rooftops or ledges of dormitory buildings. One photograph online purportedly showed a worker who slit his throat at a Sungei Kadut dormitory on August 2.

They followed news reports of several unnatural deaths involving migrant workers.

In April, a 46-year-old Indian national died from injuries after being found motionless at a staircase landing at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. In May, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi worker was found motionless at a factory-converted dormitory in Kranji Crescent.

Then on July 24, a 37-year-old Indian worker was found dead at Sungei Tengah Lodge, the largest purpose-built dormitory here, housing some 25,000 workers in 10 residential blocks on Old Choa Chu Kang Road.

Yesterday, Mak empathised with the workers’ predicament and said that the authorities are “indeed concerned” about how the workers had been accommodated in facilities under “very tight regimes” and were not allowed to enter the community freely.

“Prolonged periods of isolation will obviously have potential adverse effects on any individual, not just a migrant worker, but anyone who has to be cooped up in isolation, where there are limited opportunities for social interaction,” he added.

However, he stressed that mental health had been a concern for the inter-agency task force handling the Covid-19 outbreak at worker dormitories for “quite a while, ever since they started work in the dormitories.”

The inter-agency task force includes a workgroup looking specifically into mental health issues, he said.

The workgroup had worked with the Ministry of Manpower and various private stakeholders or partners across many domains, including counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, to look into how they can support the workers’ welfare in different ways.

For instance, they had “taken pains” to help the migrant workers celebrate holidays to make their stay at the dormitories “as meaningful as possible, albeit within the lockdown regime that they are in,” he said.

He added that the team had also provided phone numbers for the workers to call should they need help, and had staff members encourage workers to step forward should they need counselling.

The ministerial task force was also asked if it would consider loosening some of the restrictions on the migrant workers’ movements soon, given that all foreign worker dormitories are set to be cleared of Covid-19 by August 7.

In response, Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the ministerial task force and is also Education Minister, referred to factors to be considered before workers will be allowed to mingle freely in the community on their rest days.

One is that the authorities had often found residual Covid-19 cases after clearing environments where there was a high viral load, he said. He referred to positive Covid-19 cases among construction workers living in the community even after they had been isolated.

Of the community examples, he said: “We had tested them, We had cleared them. But even as we subject them to regular testing, we still see quite a number of workers testing positive, despite them serving 28 days of isolation… Nearly one month.”

He said that the situation would have to be monitored even after clearing dormitories where large clusters had emerged, and even after their residents have resumed work.

“We need to put them through a routine and regular testing for a while more, to be assured that we are indeed clearing and testing every worker, and that they are indeed free from the virus,” he added.

However, at some point, the authorities will certainly look at expanding the provision for the workers to head out, be it to recreational centres or to the community at large on their rest days, Wong said.

“We will plan and stage that step by step to ensure that this is done in a safe manner for the workers themselves, and also for the community at large,” he said. — TODAY

Source: www.malaymail.com

Author: Friday, 07 Aug 2020 07:09 AM MYT

How to make video meetings more like in-person experience? Add social hours, games, trivia and fun

How to make video meetings more like in-person experience? Add social hours, games, trivia and fun

Camille Schmidt was recently asked at a meeting to share something about her that no one at the company knew. As opposed to the previous meeting, when she needed to announce a hidden talent her co-workers weren’t aware of.

If it sounds like getting-to-know-you day at school, it should. The intent among leaders at Philo, a TV streaming company, is to humanize the dry video meeting and make them come to life.

Meetings “will never be the same as in person, but this way continues to make us a cohesive group,” says Schmidt, a communications manager for Philo. “It’s the social hours that really connect us as a company. We have 10 new hires that have come aboard since the pandemic. And I feel like I know them, even though I’ve never met any of them in person.”

Keeping the human connection going when you’re behind a video camera is a question most of us are all grappling with during these challenging times. Whether we like it or not, we’re all being asked to learn, meet or look for new jobs via webcam.

When Mark Comon had to cancel all his photo classes for his Los Angeles area camera store, Paul’s Photo, and shift them online, he had to figure out how to replicate an experience that allows for student/teacher interaction. Learning photography, of course, is about asking and answering questions and reading the room to gauge how things are being comprehended.

Tips:Yes to the camera, no to the sweats: The do’s and don’ts of video meetings

Expert advice:Six tips for looking great in a Zoom meeting

For Comon, whose Creative Photo Academy offshoot teaches most nights, one simple answer was to open the class a half-hour early. “The instructor is on, people know they can come in and hang out, which we encourage. We want this to be all about personal interaction, not just a dried, canned thing.”

And it’s worked out so well, he’s not sure he’ll go back to physical classes.

“A lot of people like the online class better,” he says. “People don’t have to drive here,” and they can interact with the photos displayed by the instructor better on a computer screen.

For Randy Lehrman, who runs the Los Angeles event company Real Genius, he also turned to gaming to keep afloat.

He offers DJ services for weddings, corporate parties, birthdays and bar and bat mitzvahs and has shifted to online parties for companies and organizations in the guise of trivia contests.

It won’t make up for the 2020 party cancellations, but “it’s fun, and it’s great being able to interact with people and hear them laugh again. They’re stuck at home, too.”

He uses breakout rooms to interact more closely with people. “I break the ice, talk to them about they’re doing, put up funny backgrounds because this is new norm and we’re all getting used to it. We’re just bringing the party to them in a different way.”

For Tyler Haak, an account executive for Schneider Electric, which sells fixtures to hotels, he’s used to traveling to meet with clients and he really misses the personal touch from analog meetings. “The handshake, walking side by side, the opportunity to finish the meeting and grab lunch afterwards.” 

But with video and without travel, he can do way more meetings, “so I’m seeing more people.”

He just has to work harder at bringing the personal interactions into the video meeting, he says. 

One way to do that is with the gamification of meetings, says Gamal Palmer, who runs the Diversity Gym consultancy. He starts every meeting with a prompt to participants to put things into chat or respond to a poll and asks them game-like questions like “What name would you change to that would describe the way you’re feeling today?” and they respond in kind. 

“In-person we have body language and general mood or energy,” to read how a person is feeling, and that’s missing on video meetings, he says. So he finds that he needs to be “more explicit” in giving direction, several times, “to help people engage, and to honor the fact that people learn and absorb differently.”

Susan Kjorlien, who runs a San Francisco area-based college consulting business for high school kids, gave her up her office and moved her meetings online recently.

Video conferences are more efficient, and it’s easier to do show-and-tell on a video meeting, where she can share her screen instead of turning her laptop around in the office.

It also makes her a better advisor. “I make a conscious effort to be more upbeat and positive and connected because there’s a screen there,” she says. “That’s helped me become better connected.”

Finally, how to deal with looking great on camera? “It’s about understanding that we are going to be on camera all day and you need to dress professionally, make sure your hair is combed and makeup is good,” says Schmidt. “It’s just like getting ready for work.”

Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter

Source: www.usatoday.com

‘Devastated’ Chicago college students opt to stay home after last-minute shifts to all online classes, strict COVID-19 restrictions

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