HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — For college students spring 2020 will likely never conjure memories of warm days on the quad, or spring break or graduation parties.
At Alabama A&M University and colleges across the country, spring 2020 signaled the end of college life as we knew it, at least for a while.
Across North Alabama, college students’ bright futures were suddenly interrupted.
Demetrius Hurry, a native of Foley, who is poised to graduate from Alabama A&M this spring, was one of thousands caught in the middle. He spoke to News 19’s Brian Lawson about what’s it’s been like, as part of our series, “College In The Time of COVID-19.”
It was an exceptionally challenging time for so many. And, area college students, like Demetrius Hurry, with such bright futures, suddenly found that future — on hold.
“My senior year, I’m actually happy that it’s my senior year now, it’s just that it just bittersweet that it just came by so fast,” Hurry told News 19.
It’s been fast and unpredictable.
On Friday, March 13, 2020, as COVID-19 alarms began to sound, Alabama A&M students were given a week to leave campus and prepare for electronic learning for the foreseeable future.
“It was very shocking,” Hurry said. “I was actually really sad because we were in the middle of spring week, which is basically kind of like homecoming in spring.”
College life was fun. Demetrius Hurry was a student journalist, an athlete, then everything froze.
Even the eventual return to campus wasn’t the same. Hurry said the restrictions were strictly enforced and kept people safe, but it was a hard time.
“It was very like mentally drained on me with me to go through this whole pandemic during school time and then it kind of affects me during my classwork,” he said. “But I actually kind of handled myself by basically doing like some mental therapy to keep myself motivated, to keep myself going through this process.”
Staying motivated was vital. There were tests — everywhere, isolation, electronic learning. He had to be COVID tested three times a week for the track team.
“I had to quarantine at least about three times, it was because of my roommate,” Hurry said. But for the time being with us being quarantined, they would have to set up zoom …,” the electronic learning environment was an adjustment and a challenge.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to walk his path as a student journalist – alone. Semaj Robinson, Alabama A&M’s communications media program director, played a key role.
“Mr. Semaj Robinson. I remember when I came here for the first time into this building as a sophomore,” Hurry said. “Trying out for the news anchor position. I tried out, and after we were done, he told me I was not ready. He told me I’m going be on your case every second. And as the years go on, he’d been on me ever since. And it comes at a time my senior year tried out for the news anchor position. I made it through it was he was too proud.”
Through struggles and loneliness, Hurry said he’s emerged more confident, more open with people.
“Freshman sophomore year, we didn’t have COVID. So we can do whatever we want during the time,” he recalled. “But once COVID hit, it’s like, oh, ‘It’s time to get serious’ … Once you get close to graduating, you’ve got to mature up, because you got to go out in the real world to talk to people in a higher level.”
And, he’s ready for whatever comes next.
“I’m really hopeful for the future at this point. Because you never know if we have another pandemic, I’ll be prepared,” he said.
A recent sign-off by Demetrius on WJAB, Alabama A&M’s TV station, provided an apt summary of what he and his fellow students have faced.
“As always it’s important to remember, especially during these trying times, Bulldogs are resilient … we’ll get through this together to get back to normal,” Hurry told the audience.
News 19’s Kelley Smith will continue our series, “College In The Time of Covid 19” Wednesday. She spoke to a U.S. Army reservist who enrolled at the University of Alabama in Huntsville just as COVID-19 hit.