JHS Staff guides students toward future amid pandemic

Alexis Caplener, a JHS senior, listens as Austin Copenhaver, a career coach, discusses options she has for the future.

JONESBORO — Austin Copenhaver, a career coach at Jonesboro High School’s Business, Communication Arts and Law Academy, said students are facing an uncertain future.

“Right now, the students think every week coming up is uncertain,” he said.

In an ever-changing educational environment, which can pivot from in-person to virtual learning with short notice, both Jonesboro Public School’s administration and career coaches are doing their best to encourage students to pursue their goals for the future.

Chris Cross, JHS college career coach, said this year is a lot different.

“Last year we had the opportunity to talk to students face to face,” he said. “This year we are using online forums like Zoom, and PowToon, which is a virtual cartoon presentation to get the word out to students about services,” Cross said.

Students are hesitant to go to school right now in the face of the pandemic, Cross said.

“I am trying to remind them that yes, they may not get the full experience right now,” he said. “I am encouraging them to start their first year at a two-year school to get their basic courses. They can always transfer and hopefully COVID-19 won’t be here then.”

Other challenges students are facing in addition to the uncertainty of the future, is that they have to do everything virtually.

“I usually encourage students to go on college campus tours and to sign up for internships,” he said. “This year those who normally partner with us on the internships are not accommodating students because of COVID-19.”

Copenhaver said he is encouraging students to look at alternatives.

“Colleges are all switching to virtual tours,” he said.

Dr. Jeff Flanigan, JHS Stem Academy principal, said the school is also setting up alternatives to the internships that normally occur this time of year.

“We are doing virtual internships, virtual meet and greets, and virtual question and answer sessions,” he said.

While none of these virtual options are as good as the in-person experiences students normally receive, Flanigan said the school is doing its best to accommodate the needs of future graduates.

If he has seen any positives in education this year, Flanigan said it would be the increased communication between staff and parents.

“The interaction with parents has increased, as we have been educating students in their homes,” he said. “It has been a lot easier to communicate with parents and I hope that never changes.”

Krisselle Nwokeji, an 11th-grade student at the JHS Health and Human Services Academy, said she has seen some positives emerge from the pandemic.

“It has allowed us to become more independent and learn to do things on our own,” she said.

Nwokeji said her biggest concern is taking the ACT and scoring high enough to gain entry to the college of her choice.

“I want to pursue the medical field,” she said, noting she has not yet decided between being a surgeon or a pediatrician. Nwokeji has been more fortunate than some students and has been able to do an internship.

“My father is a pediatrician here in town, and I go work in his office,” she said.

Flanigan said students have a ridiculous resiliency.

“That is a quote,” he said. “I have been both pleased and amazed at students’ lack of complaining. Students like Krisselle will not be deterred from being a doctor. If anything the pandemic has spurred her on.”

Flanigan went on to say the pandemic has also spurred the natural curiosity of this generation.

“There is a need for creativity so we can find a way to do the same things (we have always done) yet differently,” he said.