As the semester comes to a close, December graduates find themselves reflecting on their time at Grove City College and planning for the future.
To celebrate their graduation, under normal circumstances, the McNulty’s would host the seniors at their home with dinner and a personal send-off. However, because of COVID, the school rerouted the seniors to the Carnegie Alumni Center where President McNulty handed out gifts and delivered a speech.
“It was nice,” said senior Gretta Kriner, “he encouraged us that God is strengthening us during this time and that we can do anything.”
Kriner, an entrepreneurship major, is one of the seniors who has decided to graduate early for financial reasons. “The feeling still hasn’t set in,” Kriner said, “It’s weird knowing I won’t see my friends next semester.”
On the other hand, others were ready to move on. “It feels good to be a December grad,” senior Rachel Brodine said, “because my plan was always to graduate in the fall.” Brodine echoes the sentiment that most college graduates have, they plan to graduate at a certain time. However, not all of these seniors had that plan.
Senior Brisco O’Donnell had no intention to graduate early, but due to COVID, decided it was best. “I was on track to graduate in the spring, but when everything shut down and I didn’t have anything to do, I decided to take a few classes,” he said. Having taken four summer classes during quarantine and 20 credits his last semester, O’Donnell graduated early. “I feel pretty accomplished and excited to graduate,” he said, “At the beginning, graduation feels so far away, but after you graduate, your fears from the beginning have subsided and it feels really good.”
Similarly, Senior Laura Nelms transferred in with more credits being accepted than she anticipated, giving her only a year and a half at Grove. Nelms, along with other graduates has expressed that she is particularly grateful to graduate early due to the restrictions caused by COVID. “I was so thankful to be in person this semester,” she said, “but it’s such a weird time to be at school and I’m glad I don’t have to do it again in the spring.”
“College the way we left it last spring is different than what it is now,” Kriner said, “so I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that tension anymore.”
Although these students no longer need to handle the COVID restrictions on campus, the world is still experiencing this global pandemic which has ramifications on their future plans.
“It’s difficult planning what you’re doing after college,” Kriner says, “because you just don’t know what is going to happen with COVID.” Currently Kriner plans to travel to Scotland and work with an Iranian refugee ministry aiding local startups from February to August. Following her return home, she hopes to enter the Pittsburgh Fellow’s Program and begin her career.
Brodine’s post-graduation plans are also affected by the pandemic. “The plan was to go into marketing and PR for the performing arts in New York City because that is my background,” she said, “but the performing arts are shut down right now and New York City is crazy, so that’s on hold.”
However, some students are actually able to move directly into their careers. Nelms has earned a full-time position in the operations department of PNC and starts her new job in January. O’Donnell will also begin his position in the business development center of Wright Automotive group in Wexford as soon as Dec. 14.
Though life may lead these graduates in varying directions, they still all walk away from the same Grove City College, taking their own experiences and memories with them.
“I had so many ups and downs here,” Brodine said, “but the people really made it worth it. The students, professors and community were so strong and welcoming that as hard as four years of college gets, it was a great overall experience.”
“It’s weird really,” Kriner jokes, “I never understood Stockholm syndrome until college, the whole time you’re there you wish it was over and then it is over and all you want to do is go back. The truth is, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”