Coping with and overcoming the stress of the coronavirus pandemic took center stage at the virtual Nevada stop of Jill Biden’s Back to School tour, with six students sharing how they had been affected by COVID-19 and resulting school closures with the former second lady.
Biden, a teacher and community college professor, said her husband, Joe Biden, understood that both students and teachers would need more mental health support upon returning to schools, along with more funding for protective gear and classroom space to allow for social distancing.
“Joe knows the best policies don’t come from politics, but from listening to parents and students and educators,” Biden said.
The virtual campaign event took place by videoconference and was hosted by Columbia University professor Sonya Douglass Horsford, the spouse of Democratic Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford. Other stops tare taking place in battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania.
The students attending the town hall — all leaders on their campuses or in the Nevada Student Council — shared how they’d overcome both personal challenges and kept up morale at their schools during virtual learning.
Northwest Career Technical Academy senior Paige Lawrie said she feared for her grandmother’s health when she moved in with the family, as both Lawrie and her mother are essential workers who couldn’t avoid contact with people reporting COVID-19 positives.
“I’m scared for her health, scared that at some point I’ll have to choose between my education and her safety,” Lawrie said, adding that she’s channeled her anxiety into helping her school.
Bryanna Salazar, a senior at Liberty High School in Henderson, said losing the structure of school sapped her motivation, but she’s now setting high expectations for herself again while applying to college.
“Now that we’re in a better place financially, I feel like I need to do this for my family,” Salazar said, adding that her older brothers had missed out on college due to the family’s finances.
A self-described proponent of community colleges, Biden encouraged Salazar to consider the option before a four-year school — and to encourage her brothers to do the same.
“I got my doctorate at age 55,” Biden said. “Tell them to go back to school and get their degrees.”