By Don Krim
“I chose this field because I want to help my country. We see problems but rarely come up with real solutions.”
One voice from one student struggling to get to a place with internet for Jóvenes Adelante’s Orientation 2021—an event that would have been in person but for… on a day that by chance the student’s community had no electricity.
On Thursday, July 15, news hit the street that COVID-19 Delta variant case numbers were rapidly on the rise in Guanajuato, and specifically in San Miguel de Allende. The most vulnerable population: unvaccinated 18–30-year-olds. Jóvenes Adelante had scheduled an in-person orientation/meet and greet with its 34 new students, a few current students and graduates, the JA team, and mentors!
Carefully planned, this event was to coach and safely model what students can hope to expect when they return to classroom settings, whether as soon as August or in the new year. We wanted them ready to emerge after almost 18 months of COVID, using what we have all learned as they come out of their cocoons of safety into their new, and likely varied, university environments.
Best laid plans. On Thursday the JA board and staff met and evaluated the pluses and minuses of going forward in a live event: what were the risks, how might it go wrong, what was the latest we were hearing from universities (already revising their reentry schedules in the face of new data.) It is always JA’s objective to be ahead of the curve, or at least in sync, never behind. In the end, we were conservative and decided on a new message: community-wide safety first; time to hunker down, adjust, be safe, be responsible for the community, register for the vaccine, and be ambassadors of the safety message within your families and communities. Doubts about vaccines? JA has contacts with expertise, JA can answer questions.
JA’s contingency plan to switch to an online format was ready to go. That is what comes from building staff, systems, and a sustainable and agile infrastructure. We are agile and so can meet our constituent needs on terms that are flexible as the environment shifts.
In a lively and interactive online format, each student introduced themselves to each other and to the JA team and vice versa, learned about their benefits, requirements, and obligations to JA, and experienced their first success skills workshop—a stress management session complete with two practical guided imagery exercises. The initial emotional letdown gave way to reality.
So there we were, meeting 34 new faces on a screen as if we were watching an old rerun of Hollywood Squares-enchantment, pride and hope jumping off the screen one by one. Agility, adaptability, flexibility, and staying focused are the watchwords of the day.
To learn more about Jóvenes Adelante and how to be part of our support program, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or find more information at www.jovenesadelante.org