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Valley College students return to campus worry-free and excited to get back to work

Positive vibes unfurl amid students returning to in-person classes after nearly a year and a half online.

By Annette M. Lesure, Staff Writer

José Callejas, Valley College second-year student, starts in-person classes for the first time. (Photo by Annette M. Lesure/The Valley Star

Following safety protocols by wearing masks and social distancing, morale at Valley is different but elevated as students regain the emotional support of being on campus.

Pandemic-induced mental health issues were a reality for most students that were distance learning, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The quarantine aftermath left students with an urge to interact, learn, socialize and experience new classes. This desire outweighed the fear and anxiety of returning to school for three Valley College students.

José Callejas, 40, had never taken an in-person class at Valley until this semester. After leaving the Marine Corps and postponing college after high school, he said the pandemic gave him the time to reflect on returning to school.

After spending over a year online, Callejas said he felt confident that he would do well attending in person. However, Callejas said that he does not doubt the possibility of campus reclosing due to the daily numbers of COVID-19-related deaths.

Callejas, who lost his father to COVID-19 in 2020, said that he is vaccinated, complies with wearing his mask and is not at all concerned about being on campus.

“I would definitely say that COVID-19 is not an easy death, it was tough to watch and I miss my dad,” Callejas said. “As a community, we have to look out for everyone. You can’t be selfish.”

Kevin Molina on day one of his first-ever in-person class at Valley College. (Photo by Annette M. Lesure/The Valley Star)

Kevin Molina, 20, had only been at Valley a few weeks prior to the start of the pandemic. Molina said his excitement overshadowed any concerns about returning to campus.

“I first had to learn to study online and was finally ready to take classes in person,” Molina said. “I had my first class today and it went smoothly. I hope for good results with future COVID-19 numbers, so that students may remain on campus and not have to return home.”

Mallory Hesen, 18, a first-year performing arts student at Valley said that she had no concerns about attending classes on campus. Hesen said she prefers the motivation of being in-person, due to the learning distractions that come with managing ADHD at home.

Hesen said that she feels safe because she and her friends got the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it became available and takes precautions wearing a mask.

“There’s a big difference between practicing and having an audience in front of you,” Hesen said about performing in front of an audience again. “It puts a lot of energy in you when you see an audience cheering for you when you’re doing a performance. Both you and the audience feed off of each other.”

As students join forces and assemble into place, Valley takes its first step toward returning to normalcy.

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