Looking back , looking forward a year after COVID

Columbia is worth the wait for this CLHS grad

by Marianne Gasaway

One year ago Lydia Futrell was standing before the 2020 Clear Lake High School graduating class joking about the “worst senior year ever,” but she was optimistic all of that was about to change.   “I believe that we are going to go out and make the future that we envisioned a reality,” she declared.

The excitement was palatable.  At least for a little while. 

“Five days before I was going to leave for school everything changed,” explained Lydia.  “I ended up completing my freshman year of college on-line, primarily from my bedroom.”

That’s a far cry from the reality she had envisioned. 

The Governor’s Scholar Award winner, who finished at the top of her class, had been accepted at a prestigious Ivy League school.  She was looking forward to challenging herself studying earth and environmental engineering at Columbia University while still finding time to explore New York City.  In her mind it would be the perfect blend of academia by day with occasional Broadway lights by night.

Lydia had never actually been to Columbia— or New York City for that matter, but that was the dream.  She was impressed by the school when introduced at a college fair held in Des Moines and decided to see if she would be selected.

“I had been accepted into a program and they were paying to fly me out in April 2020.  Everything got cancelled when New York’s COVID numbers kept rising.”

Unfortunately, history repeated itself last fall. 

Steve and Alice Futrell had rented a motorhome to transport their daughter to school.  That way they could quarantine in New York, which was mandatory before stepping foot on the Columbia campus.  They had all but pulled out of the drive when the school cancelled all in-person classes for Fall 2020.  So when the school year began, Lydia was sitting in front of her computer in Clear Lake, Iowa.  Her only view of the campus came courtesy of a Google Street View search.  She was attending classes on Zoom and working on group projects into the wee hours of the morning because her partner was in Beijing, China.

“It could have been better,” said Lydia about her freshman year.  “I’m

To read more of this article, please login or sign up for our E-Edition

Comments are closed.