Opinion: Helping seniors navigate the COVID-19 crisis


Pursuing postsecondary education is a path with inherent obstacles and barriers. The COVID-19 crisis has created many unexpected twists in the road. Bridges is walking side by side with our clients as they navigate the uncertainties.

Here are some of the ways Bridges is responding to this situation and supporting the community:

• Continued work with graduating seniors. We've come this far together; we are not going to peter out now. Seniors are grappling with not knowing if they will be learning remotely from home or a dorm room, if they are looking at abbreviated semesters or block schedules, a gap semester or year. The possibilities are unending and it can be frustrating to not have enough information to ground decision-making. We are guiding students as they communicate with their prospective schools, gather information and make important enrollment decisions. We are helping students reach the finish line by assisting with the submission of required financial aid forms and reviewing their financial aid award offers.

• Navigating financial aid need changes. Many families' financial circumstances have changed abruptly. We are helping students contact their schools to learn about special-circumstance appeals processes to adjust financial aid packages if applicable.

• Individualized counseling sessions via teleconferencing with new and existing clients. We continue to support students through such key tasks as: identifying schools that might be a good fit; completing applications; writing essays; developing resumes; applying for financial aid and local, regional and national scholarships; and comparing financial aid awards. Bridges is working hard to remain informed about new deadlines and requirements that will impact the next admissions cycle for the class of 2021.

• Nontraditional student counseling. Now more than ever, we will serve as a resource for nontraditional aged students who hope to enroll in continued training or degree programs as a strategy to regain employment as a result of COVID-19.

• Helping with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). As of April 10, only 40 percent of graduating high school seniors in New Mexico have completed the FAFSA form for the 2020-2021 school year. Bridges can help students submit the FAFSA application.

• Technology assistance for students and families. Bridges is providing students with technology support for pertinent deadlines, scholarship applications, FAFSAs, and virtual campus tours, interviews and orientations.

• Community collaboration. Bridges continues to collaborate with other organizations in support of students to identify and fill any gaps resulting from these circumstances.

• Honoring and celebrating the class of 2020. Like many of you, we are deeply saddened to not be able to gather and celebrate our graduates. If you would like to share in a celebratory shoutout honoring the class of 2020, Bridges is gathering messages to be shared on local radio stations and social media channels during the first week of June.

Three ways to get your message to us: email your message to info@bridgesproject.org; call (575) 425-1737 and leave a brief message; or go to bridgesproject.org and type your message. Show the class of 2020 that as a community we support them, we honor them, and we are holding them in our hearts.

Bridges has served our community for over two decades. Our philosophy and success lie in the intimate nature of our work. We have been so grateful to maintain connections with clients through technology, but we are looking forward to seeing your shining faces once we are able to reopen our office. We will do so responsibly with safety in mind. Until then, know that we are available to help you access your postsecondary goals. If you'd like to make an appointment, please call (575) 758-5074 or email info@bridgesproject.org . Our services are free.

This will be our last article of the school year. Look for our next installment in the Back to School issue in August. Happy summer to all.

Joleen Montoya and Anne Levine are college counselors at Bridges Project for Education.

Bridges' mission is to expand access to college and vocational training for people of all ages, with an emphasis on students who are the first generation in their families to seek higher education.


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