Words of Advice from our New Ventures Valedictorian

As remote learning continues in New York State education, students have fortunately found it easier to adjust to the switch between in-person and electronic classroom instruction. However, we recognize that there are still parents and students struggling with what has become the norm. To help with this, we reached out to former graduates of Integration Charter Schools for advice addressed to current students on managing high school from a distance. Now freshmen in college, each of these students have been recognized for their outstanding achievements as head of their class when graduating from our schools. They include Lavelle Prep valedictorian and salutatorian Ariton Shaini (St. John’s University) and Alessandra Vinci (Fashion Institute of Technology) as well as New Ventures valedictorian Lola Colon (College of Staten Island).

Lavelle Prep High School Salutatorian

1. Overall, how has the pandemic affected your learning experience?

Lola: The pandemic has affected my learning experience by not allowing me to actually be inside a classroom, I would say that when you’re in school vs your online it’s a whole different experience. I was fortunate enough to have some classes in person and some online. 

Ariton: The pandemic has affected my learning experience by not allowing me to actually be inside a classroom, I would say that when you’re in school vs your online it’s a whole different experience. I was fortunate enough to have some classes in person and some online.  

Alessandra: The pandemic has affected my learning experience by not getting the full effect of college life especially as a fashion student. It’s not as much of a hands-on experience.

2. What have you found most challenging about distance learning?

Lola: The most challenging thing about distance learning is not being able to be in a classroom and have that extra support.

Ariton: The most challenging thing about distance learning is the technical difficulties that come with it.

Alessandra: The most challenging part of distance learning is not being able to fully learn. Being online the curriculum is completely different than it would be in person. I’m also missing out on human interaction, so it is especially hard to do group projects.

3. What is your best advice to students who are struggling while remote?

Lola: My best advice to students who are struggling while remote is to not be afraid to reach out and ask questions, schedule a private zoom call, and even reach out through email. Our teachers do not want to see us fail, especially at this time, and they will provide as much help as they possibly can.

Ariton: For the students struggling with remote learning, I recommend setting goals. This is because sometimes when you’re not managing what you have to do for the day or week, the work can be too much. 

Alessandra: My best advice to students who are struggling while remote is to never give up. Remote learning can be challenging sometimes, but there are always ways to make it easier. Contact the professor by email or get your peers’ contact information and ask them for help and clarification.

4. In what ways have you learned to manage your time while distance learning? How have you dealt with stress or distractions while working from home?

Lola: I am still struggling with managing time while distance learning. I try to have everything that needs to be done written out and hung up somewhere that I will always be able to see to prevent me from missing any of my assignments. I have dealt with stress by making sure I have time, even if it’s an hour or two, set aside to unwind and journal my thoughts and emotions.

Ariton: I always have been good with managing time, though I would say stress and distractions come with learning at home. Sometimes you could be experiencing technical difficulties and it’s annoying. Also sometimes people in the background are loud, and I’m trying to listen to my professor or I’m adding to the class discussion, and I’m listening to them instead of the professor, or maybe the class can hear them when I’m unmuted and talking.

Alessandra: I’ve learned to manage my time while distant learning by designating certain days for school work. I’ve dealt with stress and distractions by keeping an organized workspace and only staying in that area during my remote classes.

5. Have you maintained a routine throughout the week? What is it?

Lola: My routine is to wake up at least an hour before my classes to eat and clean up my desk area to have a fresh start. Then I begin my assignments that need to be completed for the day. I always make sure to take small 10-15 minute breaks in between assignments to avoid any frustration or stress. Once I completed my work for the day, I step away from my computer and go to my kitchen to eat dinner. After dinner, I clean up and give myself an hour of relaxing before bed.

Ariton: My routine during the week is to go to school in person or online depending on my schedule, and after I complete the class, if I have a short assignment will complete it right after. I typically leave longer assignments later on in the day or for the night. If I have to study for an exam, I’ll usually study during the night.

Alessandra: I have maintained a routine throughout the week. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I have class this semester, so I usually wake up around 7:30 for my 8:10 classes, and then I eat breakfast after and head to my next class at 12:10. I also do the rest of my schoolwork throughout the week.

6. Has your style of studying changed since the beginning of remote learning? Do you have any tips for online test-taking, projects, or assignments?

Lola: My style of studying has not changed much since high school. My tip for online test-taking, projects, or assignments is to make sure you have enough time. Do not procrastinate because it’s only going to stress you out. It may seem simple but you don’t realize until the last minute that you may have procrastinated way too much.

Ariton: I would say the way I study hasn’t changed, and my tips for online test-taking, projects, or assignments would be setting goals and time management. If you have a test the next day and you studied the day before, try to review what you studied before the test. For assignments, if you know it will take a while, set goals of what you’re going to complete when, and manage your time correctly. (Ex: You have to do a bunch of slides due Thursday, try to do half of it on Monday, make time to complete it on Tuesday, and review it on Wednesday before deciding to submit it in.)

Alessandra: My style of studying has not changed much since online schooling. The main tip that I have is to stay very organized. Have a plan on hand with all due dates and also color-code your notes for easy studying.

7. What kind of advice can you give to students who miss being in the classroom? How have you been able to balance relationships with your teachers and classmates while online?

Lola: The advice that I can give to students who miss being in the classroom is to set up their own makeshift classroom. It may not be the actual thing, but it will feel much better than doing your schoolwork in your bed. I have been able to balance relationships with my teachers but not so much with my classmates. It’s been difficult to make connections with people just online and not being able to speak to them face to face.

Ariton: To students who miss being in the classroom and the whole in-person experience, I would say not to worry. Sooner or later there is hope that the pandemic will end, as they have developed vacancies for covid-19 and all we can do is hope for the best.

Alessandra: My advice to students who miss being in the classroom is to make connections with their peers. Get each other’s contact information and keep in touch. Everyone is going through the same situation so it helps to be able to connect and make some friends that you will have when class is in person.

Though we hope to return to normalcy as soon as possible, you may see better results by integrating these healthy work habits into your or your child’s school routine. Thank you to Lola, Ariton, and Alessandra for your words of advice. Best of luck to all!