College & Workforce Readiness

Layoffs, COVID, Spotty Internet: A Fla. Student Persists in College

By Alex Harwin — October 18, 2021 2 min read
Magdalina Estiverne poses for a portrait at her home in Orlando, Fla., on October 2, 2020. Estiverne graduated from high school in the spring of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The last thing Magdalena Estiverne expected when her parents finally got their hotel housekeeping jobs back this summer after being laid off for a year was that she and her family would get COVID.

Education Week profiled Estiverne in fall 2020, months after she graduated from high school in Orlando, Fla. At the time, she was attending community college, while her family struggled to recover from their layoffs and keep a roof over their heads. Then COVID-19 infected her and her mother, father, and one of her younger brothers.

“It was really scary—it was horrible; I don’t want to ever go through that again,” she said of her own bout with COVID.

See Also

Conceptual illustration of young adults in limbo
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision/Getty

“I started throwing up. I just kept spinning; my lungs were all blocked. And I felt so dizzy. I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” said Estiverne.

It’s an experience she shared with many other students in families, especially those who had grown up with poverty. When the EdWeek Research Center surveyed recent low income, high school graduates in the late summer of 2021, 18 percent reported having changed their post-high school plans because they contracted COVID-19. That fate befell far fewer graduates from higher-income households at 5 percent.

Estiverne has severe asthma, which requires her to use a nebulizer. That influenced her choice the previous year to attend Valencia Community College virtually on her Asus computer with unreliable internet, to avoid exposure to the coronavirus rather than attend college in-person.

She also abandoned her plans to actively look for work since most of the jobs she could get are in the service industry, which meant more potential exposure.

“Most jobs that are available for teens and college students are usually jobs where you have to work with customer service, working at Starbucks or Walmart or something like that,” said Estiverne. “And it has to deal with interacting with other people. And I was just, like, terrified about that.”

Aside from studying, Estiverne helps care for her two younger brothers and helps her parents who are not fluent in English; she was the one who called the doctor when her mom started to show symptoms of COVID-19. She’s also very much stuck at home since she still doesn’t have her driver’s license.

Additionally, as Haitian immigrants living in Florida, her family has been saddened about the civil unrest back in Haiti.

Over the last year, the economic stress that weighed on her family has continued.

They weren’t alone. The EdWeek Research Center’s surveys found that 14 percent of the class of 2021 and 18 percent of 2020 graduates had a parent who was laid off or required to take a pay cut during the pandemic.

Estiverne’s parents lost their housekeeping jobs in July 2020 at Rosen Hotels and had to apply for food stamps, an experience matched by 11 percent of the class of 2020 and expanded to 15 percent for 2021 graduates.

After recovering from COVID-19, Estiverne said she feels guilty, “lazy,” and that she could be doing more. She struggled to take five short, intensive monthlong classes last summer semester. Still, she passed them all.

She said she took the full load to help her learn time management “and to get used to the stress of life ‘cause when I— if I—get a realistic job, it’s going to be like that.”

This semester, though, she’s taking three longer-term, slower-paced classes, including statistics, Roman and Greek mythology, and psychology. Psychology has been more than helpful; she enjoys journaling to reflect and, as she puts it, “get the stress out.”

Coverage of the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need is supported in part by a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, at Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the October 27, 2021 edition of Education Week as Layoffs, COVID, Spotty Internet: A Fla. Student Persists in College


Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Modernizing Principal Support: The Road to More Connected and Effective Leaders
When principals are better equipped to lead, support, and maintain high levels of teaching and learning, outcomes for students are improved.
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says 12th Graders Took Harder Courses and Got Higher GPAs, But Test Scores Fell. What Gives?
A federal study finds that improvements in high school students' course-taking and GPAs did not lead to higher NAEP scores.
2 min read
Image of data.
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion 5 Ways Rural School Leaders Can Create Workforce Opportunities for Students
The key to offering high-quality, work-based learning opportunities to students in rural areas is community building.
Charles V. Khoury
5 min read
Screen Shot 2022 01 26 at 7.08.02 AM
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says The COVID Academic Slide Could Be Worse Than Expected
Across grades, subjects, and schools, lost learning is adding up for students, new studies find.
4 min read
Image of a line moving from point A in a disrupted path.
Serhii Brovko/iStock/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Spotlight Spotlight on Inspiring Innovation Through STEM Education
This Spotlight will empower you on ways to include more students of color, locate gifted students in unexpected places, and more.