By Wylie Post, Contributing Writer.
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students’ mental health tremendously. September is National Suicide Awareness month. UMF has created new resources for students to access for mental health concerns as well as having several professors/admin that are always available to talk.
The mental health crisis in college students has skyrocketed since the pandemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in June 2020, over 40 percent of adults over the age of 18 reported they were struggling with mental health or substance abuse. The suicide attempt rate amongst teen girls has increased by almost 50 percent due to the pandemic, according to researchers from the CDC.
The question is why? Why are the rates so high?
Well, ever since the start of the pandemic, almost all college students have been stripped of using any social skills and experienced a sense of loneliness nobody has ever experienced before. Zoom became the new way of learning, and students had mixed feelings about it. Some are not so happy about remote learning while others found it nice to be alone and not in a physical classroom.
“I feel like everyone spent a lot more time alone than ever before and without the social aspect of it, it definitely made it worse,” UMF sophomore Sidney Belanger said while talking about remote and virtual learning.
Healthcare workers are feeling the same way. “The pandemic in itself has placed stressors on relationship building and it has created an environment for young adults to have very minimal contact,” Lisa Avery, R.N, BSN, practice in-home healthcare said. “Isolation has impacted their sense of self-value and importance, which separates them from having the true college experience.”
Many college students, especially those who just started last year, are experiencing difficulties finding locations on campus and meeting new people because of all the socialization they missed due to COVID protocols.
“They are missing out on opportunities in traditional college life because of social isolation, physical distancing, and masking,” Avery said. “The mask itself causes a separation from human expression, not to say that masking is bad, but human expression and emotions are vital to growing.”
However, UMF has allowed students access to multiple resources to help anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health struggles. SilverCloud is a new system that allows students to learn new coping mechanisms, social skill-building tools, and different self-guided programs for anxiety, depression, etc. The UMF mental health counselors are also a great resource when looking for more personalized treatment/help. Any professor you are comfortable with speaking and opening up to may also be happy to help.
When discussing resources for mental health for college students, there are multiple ways to go about it. Whether that is SilverCloud, licensed counselors, professors, or even a kind friend, these are all appropriate and healthy resources. Some students prefer different types of therapy.
“I listen to podcasts, some about mental growth. They help me have a better perspective on situations and myself,” Belanger said.
“Students need to identify a safe person they can express their feelings to. They need to identify what their safe environment is,” Avery said. “There are healthcare professionals and there are many options online for support groups, therapy, and counseling.”
No matter what you are going through, there are always people who are willing to listen and to help you in any way. With the pandemic slowly starting to fade out, even though it may not feel like it, students are still struggling. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, feel free to talk to someone and find ways that help you the best. The National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255 and the Maine Statewide Crisis Hotline is 711.
By Paige Lusczyk, Contributing Writer.
An on-campus role typically reserved for upperclassmen has been offered to first-semester freshmen this year as the University of Maine at Farmington faces a shortage of student employees. Four freshmen joined the Community Assistant training earlier this semester, with only a campus tour and Summer Experience under their belts.
Typically a full CA staff would need 36 positions. When COVID-19 struck campuses nationwide in March 2020, many UMF residents had already applied and accepted CA positions.
Director of Student Life and current Scott Hall Professional Staff, Brian Ufford, explained that when Dakin Hall closed to become the allocated quarantine building, many applicants were brought into the other halls as extra help instead of firing a large group. That is the reason the third floor of Scott Hall North had three CAs for the fall 2020 semester when the number historically has been two.
When the spring 2021 semester started, many former CAs decided not to return. When asked, Ufford replied that the CA shortage is “a product of COVID more than anything.”
Ufford said the job was “not nearly as rewarding” due to COVID-19 restrictions and less on-campus resident interaction. As of right now, Scott Hall is short five CAs that will hopefully be filled before the fall 2021 semester ends. A few residents have already applied including more freshmen.
Hannah Levy is currently a CA in Mallet Hall and feels “very confident in [her] ability to be a CA.” She, like the other three current freshmen CAs, was approached during Summer Experience.
“Brian [Ufford] had mentioned in a big group that they were looking for CAs and that this was the first time that they were allowing freshmen first semester to apply,” Levy wrote in an email.
Levy has had a bit of experience already because she was an RA in high school and loved it “because [she] was able to be a part of people’s lives and hopefully make an impact on someone.”
Although Levy admitted to feeling nervous and intimidated at the beginning of the training week, she still exclaimed, “I am excited to take what I have learned from my high school and CA training and incorporate it into my hall.”
Hunter Kemp, who is currently a CA in Scott Hall, shares similar thoughts. Kemp also admitted a nervous feeling about the position. Fortunately, his confidence has continued to grow with more experience. He mentioned that in the beginning he “was nervous about becoming a resource figure on campus, mostly because [he] didn’t know the campus yet.” Kemp added that everyone has been helpful.
Both Kemp and Levy said they believe that they’ll be able to connect to first-year students on a more personal level than the upperclassmen CAs since they would be going through the same experiences other first-year students go through; newly found independence, real college classes, self-care, and time and financial management.
Ufford said he has full confidence in the freshman CAs, explaining that in his opinion all high school graduates have the skill sets for many jobs similar to the CA position. Coming into the job they just lack the “familiarity with campus resources, but [Ufford] thinks [UMF staff] did a good job [during training].”
As the Fall 2021 semester goes on, Professional Staff plan on interviewing and hiring potential candidates. As predicted by Ufford, the new applicants will start by being placed in Scott Hall and will most likely go through a mentorship process, on top of regular training, where they will be able to continue learning with returning CAs.
By Annie Newman, Staff Writer.
With the Dining Hall returning to “normal,” one new addition combines the accommodating ways of COVID-19 with UMF’s drive for eco-friendliness: reusable to-go containers.
They allow students to take home a meal or any leftovers from the Dining Hall with a $5 deposit that the student gets back at the end of the year. For those who wish to socially distance themselves, it provides a meal without needing to be in the crowded dining hall.
“You fill up whatever you want in here with food, you bring us back the container, rinse it out, and we’ll give you another one,” manager for Sodexo at UMF Adam Vigue said. “We wash all the containers so we make sure it’s safe, so it’s gone through the Board of Health.”
As of Sept. 7, Vigue estimated that the dining hall had given out between 20 to 25 of them.
One of the bigger benefits that the containers promote is the drastic reduction of trash. Dex LaFrance, a sophomore at UMF, remembers last year when this was not the case.
“The plastic packets with the napkin and the plastic utensils, those were all over campus last year,” LaFrance said.
“We’re going through way less trash packaging wise,” Vigue said Sept. 13. “Last year we had a dumpster that we needed to bring in just to keep up with all the trash we had. We no longer need that.”
As a campus that prides itself on sustainability, the disappearance of styrofoam and plastic-packaged meals can be a welcoming sight in the dining hall. With the reusable containers, sustainability on the tail-end of a pandemic is on the rise.
By Sophia Turgeon, Contributing Writer.
The Maine Department of Education announced this summer that they are eliminating the Praxis for aspiring teachers.
The Praxis is a series of tests created to fully equip college students for a career in teaching. The Praxis tests consist of multiple tiers of testing in certain subjects. Students were required to get certain scores on each test in order to advance into their practicum semester. On June 16 Governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law that resulted in Praxis exams being eliminated as a requirement for teachers.
Paige Polley, a current junior at the University of Maine at Farmington who took Praxis I is relieved that there is no more testing.
“As a person who doesn’t test well, Praxis did create a lot of stress for me that I feel like was unnecessary because it doesn’t reflect my intelligence and my ability to teach. However, with that being said, I did take my Praxis I at a time, which was $270 and I failed two of them, so I had to retest. And right after my retesting with passing results, I found out we didn’t need to take them anymore. I was upset and annoyed but now I don’t have to worry about Praxis II and wasting more money,” Polley said.
Money is oftentimes a concern for college students who have to spend hundreds of dollars on these tests.
Emma Williams, also a junior at UMF has a different way of thinking about Praxis exams being eliminated. Williams completed Praxis I and passed on her first attempt. She also had completed two portions of the Praxis II exams before the exam requirements were removed. With these tests being removed, students are worrying that they may not be as equipped for educating as some other teachers may be.
“I like it but it also concerns me. I’m happy I don’t have that pressure anymore, but worry when thinking about the future and how it will impact me, how I teach, and what I teach. How will I be compared to others who took them,” Williams said.
Williams also has taken both of her practicums and feels as though the Praxis exams served more as a refresher for general knowledge than a key element to being a good teacher.
“I feel as though the classes I was taking in college during my practicums were more important and impactful while in the classroom rather than the Praxis exams,” Williams confessed.
Individuals that are in the teaching community have been told how important these exams are to become certified educators. Now, without these exams being mandatory, students may feel some anxieties about how they will be successful teachers without the confidence of passing.
The Associate Professor of Secondary and Middle Education here at UMF, Clarissa Thompason, believes that these tests, along with standardized tests as a whole, are not the proper way to gauge whether or not a student would eventually become a good teacher.
“[…] I don’t think they [Praxis exams] really mark how bright you are, how motivated you are, or how well you’re gonna do in college. It discriminates against English language learners, it discriminates against kids from less privileged backgrounds, it discriminates against kids from poorer schools. It becomes a gateway here and kids who might be fantastic teachers can’t get past that and spend tons of money on it. So, they measure something, but it’s really small,” Thompson said.
Currently, licenced future Maine educators are required to get fingerprinted, earn at least a bachelor’s degree in education, and be accredited by a university.
By: Jessica Gervais, Contributing Writer
FARMINGTON – The University of Maine at Farmington recently welcomed Julia Bouwsma as the new professor of creative writing; Bouwsma also had the honor of being named Maine’s Poet Laureate earlier this summer.
Bouwsma has been writing poetry since she was in the third grade.
“I tell people I either wanted to be a poet or a pirate…I really liked pirates,” Bouwsma said.
Penelope Lawrence, a family friend and professor at Yale who came to her elementary school and volunteered to teach a class, was a huge influence who started her off on her writing career. Lawrence would take ‘adult poems’ as opposed to children’s poems and teach the kids about them, the students then memorized poems and got prompts they had to write about, according to Bouwsma.
It would seem that Bouwsma has always held a wild and free-running imagination right from the very early beginning.
“Poetry was sort of my first love with writing and it still is,” she said.
Because Bouwsma was only just recently elected as Maine’s Poet Laureate she said she is listening and learning every single day to find out more of what the title means, however she has plenty of ideas of how to utilize the title on her own.
To her being Maine’s Poet Laureate means more opportunity to know fellow Maine poets and work with them to expand Maine’s poet community. Bouwsma said she’s in the “throwing mashed potatoes at the ceiling to see what sticks” stage of her journey as a poet laureate. She expressed that she has many project ideas and just isn’t yet ready to share them. Although she did share that throughout her five-year term she plans to find other poets to collaborate with.
“I always think more minds are better than just mine.”
She explained that Maine is a wide state with very many different broad communities, there are plenty of chances to grow the poetry community. Teaching poetry is really important to her and she hopes to help grow connections between poets and the public, private, and home-school systems to further expand these connections.