The new normal – Day 40

April 25, 2020


Photo courtesy of Umoja Program Coordinator Jamila Stewart.

Bailee Lewis, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: “The new normal” is a continuing series that looks into how members of the Los Medanos College community are coping with a shelter-in-place order amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Umoja Program Coordinator Jamila Stewart, is one of the many LMC staff members adjusting to the changes in her personal life while making sure Umoja students’ success is still a number one priority. 

I would love to say that it was a seamless transition, but I found it difficult to react and establish control of a situation that was, and continues to be, a life altering event,” said Stewart. “It’s been hard figuring out how to keep students engaged during a crisis. I don’t think I’ve been as successful as I want to be, and I’m still trying to figure out what strategy is the most effective.” 

With the campus being closed for over a month now, Stewart is still adjusting to working from home while trying to keep her routine as normal as possible. 

“Initially I struggled with setting up a proper workstation because I didn’t have an office in my home. I had to buy a desktop computer and bring items from my office to make it all work. I tried to keep my routine, I think it was important for me to maintain as much normalcy as possible,” said Stewart. “I still operate like I did before the shelter-in-place, but instead of leaving my house for work, I leave one room and head to another. I put the office in an area that doesn’t have many distractions and I work like I did before, but now everything feels like an emergency.” 

Stewart makes sure Umoja students are aware of the resources they offer to help students out as much as possible. 

“Sometimes I add to their stress by sending messages and announcements, but I hope the Umoja Scholars understand that the intent is to keep them informed and to keep the lines of communication and support open,” Stewart said. “We have created a Virtual Village through Canvas that is staffed by myself, the student ambassadors, and the Umoja Counselor, Ms. Faith Watkins. During Business Hours students can always enter the Virtual Village and speak to someone. We have tutoring available and we use Canvas as a way to house important information.” 

Aside from making sure students stay on their A-game, Stewart has been keeping herself occupied by continuing old hobbies.

“Coincidentally, I bought a bunch of seeds prior to the onset of the pandemic because I always liked the idea of growing food,” said Stewart. “I’ve been spending my time sprouting seeds, and spending way too much money on gardening supplies at Home Depot.” 

With all the stress this pandemic is bringing to this country, Stewart still remains to stay focused on helping students graduate and pass their classes. 

“Despite my frustrations, I am committed to trying to support our students, and make an effort to reach out to them. I just want the students to make it through this successfully. I want us all to make it out of this successfully.”