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Tracking the Finish

Senior looks beyond the present to commencement and seeing friends again

Story Series

Like many of her peers, Bridgewater State University senior Jessica Haywood is saddened over all that has been lost in response to the coronavirus outbreak. However, like many of her fellow Bears, she is rallying and making the most of this unprecedented crisis. 

The first news of the pandemic came at a bad time. Through the BSU Community Service Center this past March, Jessica was leading an alternative spring break trip in Washington, D.C., to help individuals experiencing homelessness.

Things were going well; the group was serving food in soup kitchens and had taken a trip to the capital to learn more about what can be done about the problem of homelessness.

“We were having a great experience,” Jessica said, speaking on behalf of herself and the six students she oversaw on the trip.

When news began to spread that events were being canceled and schools were closing in response to COVID-19, as team leader she remained calm.

“I tried not to freak out,” she said. “I kept trying to be hopeful. I didn’t want our entire trip to be about the virus, but instead focused on the positive things we had accomplished.”

Eventually, as a safety precaution, the group was called home early.

The following weeks are a blur, Jessica said, like dominoes crashing down: the bad news kept coming.

In her other role as captain of the BSU track team, Jessica learned the entire spring season was canceled. She again did her best to stay positive, this time for her teammates.

“I told them to not focus on losing a season, but to be proud of their hard work,” she said. “And for the underclassmen, I reminded them that they get to come back next year, and they will be even stronger and better.”

When BSU made the call to move fully to remote/online learning, Jessica had to move back to her East Longmeadow home.

Isolated far from campus is not exactly how she pictured her senior year in college would end.

“It’s definitely different…some of it is going well, some of it is a little overwhelming. I’m trying to keep up with it all,” she said.

Despite everything, she remains optimistic and is happy to know at some point there will be at least one ritual to participate in, the one where she collects her degree in exercise science.

She credits Bridgewater for making the decision to postpone commencement ceremonies instead of canceling.

“To not have an official ceremony would have been bad,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being with my friends, the ones I’ve had since freshman year, to be able to finish together, to walk across that stage.”

The BSU class of 2020 has been impressive in its ability to adapt to all COVID-19 has taken away. Always a leader, Jessica offers up this bit of wisdom to her fellow classmates.

“We will get through it, this isn’t the end…there will be more successes in the future,” she said. “Stay positive and remind yourself it will get better, even if online classes are hard. Our professors still want us to be successful and, in the end, get the diploma.”


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