Some students found a safe haven in a remote school. Now they have to go back.


At first, it took a long time to reply to her email.

Then the hatred of social media began. She noticed that people were “walking on eggshells” around her and finally stopped receiving email responses from professors and peers altogether.

When Skyyusuf appeared as non-binary and transgender in November 2019, everything changed towards the end of her first semester at UNC Charlotte.

And a few months later, the world changed.

For marginalized students like Yusuf, distance learning during a coronavirus pandemic was like a double-edged sword. Many black and brown students have less access to learning resources and are disproportionately academically behind their white classmates, while some LGBTQ + students are in the classroom or school. You are losing a “safe place”.

However, for others, distance learning has resulted in unexpected amnesty due to discomfort and “others” during face-to-face lessons.Instead, they found their environment Feel safe Learn at — their home.

Sky Yusuf is studying in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday, March 29, 2021.

Sky Yusuf is studying in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday, March 29, 2021.

19-year-old Yusuf didn’t know if he was relieved or worried when he received the message that the UNCC class sent to his students last spring was far away for the time being. The following year, she attended all classes online and saved her from unpleasant face-to-face interactions with professors and colleagues.

But now she is preparing for an inevitable return.

Many kindergarten to high school students have already returned to the classroom. UNC Charlotte will return some classes face-to-face and will return fully in August. As access to the COVID-19 vaccine increases, students across the country are preparing to return to the classroom within the next few months.

Yusuf feels anxiety is growing..

“At any time, I was always worried that what I said could put me in a position where I felt unsafe to come to class,” she said. “Now those fears have been transferred.”

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Go extra miles

She said microaggression was the norm during the four years Madimos spent at Myers Park High School.

A majority of Caucasian school students came to her in class and asked insensitive questions about her hair.

Moss is interracial, and at the age of 17, she has long been aware of her natural style of hair.

“I never got a braid or anything because I didn’t want to be seen as a particular method at school,” she said. Most of her friends are white.

On rare occasions she came to class with natural hair, but a white classmate asked every morning if she had curled her hair. They will touch her dark ringlet without asking.

High school CMS students like Madimos, who have distance education all year round, have the option of returning to campus after spring break.

High school CMS students like Madimos, who have distance education all year round, have the option of returning to campus after spring break.

She virtually learned for the final year of high school, and she said it ended up wondering to reduce her anxiety.

“I always felt a bit out of place,” she said. “I definitely feel that my mental health is improving.”

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Jaylen Adams attends Olympic High School, a school with many black and brown students. But she still feels out of place as someone who identifies her as both black and Puerto Rican.

“People look for opportunities to make someone feel different from themselves,” she said. “It gives me a different impression because I’m mixed … and in that respect I’d better have a remote.”

According to her, distance learning has no communication barriers and no undue restrictions on how she speaks. Just type it in.

Adams said he hasn’t felt the need to “do” since he started learning remotely.

Jaylen Adams (right) talks to her mother, Carmen, on Monday, March 29, 2021 during an online study class in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jaylen Adams (right) talks to her mother, Carmen, on Monday, March 29, 2021 during an online study class in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The performance is familiar to Kirsten Colmenares. She first noticed that she was different from her white companion at Randolph Middle School in southern Charlotte.

“It was the first time I actually encountered racism and I felt like I had to make extra efforts in everything I did,” she said. “I was the only Latina in the white group.”

16-year-old Colmenares began straightening his hair and actively dressed and tried to talk like a companion, but it was still difficult to connect with them, and as a result, he was far from Latino students.

That’s why she prefers distance learning. She avoids the experience of last year when a teacher asked all the color students about their encounter with a racist. When Colmenares was prompted to share, all students turned around and stared.

Colmenares said she didn’t see her much since she started learning from home. After all, she can turn off the zoom camera.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board has decided to allow all students the option to return to the classroom from April 12th to 4th a week. Neither Adams nor Colmenares are among the returning students. Moss has graduated.

During the pandemic, Moss tried different hairstyles at home. This helped her feel more comfortable with blackness, she said.

Moss still doesn’t know where he wants to go to college, but he plans to wear natural hair around the campus in the fall.

“Now I’m comfortable going to school like this,” she gestured to her neat braid. “Over time, I realized how ridiculous it was and hid that part of myself. For me, distance learning was a blessing — I could find myself more.”

To perform

Leo Street, a freshman at Davidson Community College, never knew the university completely directly.

Non-binary and transgender streets moved from homeschooling to a hybrid learning model at Davidson last year. This gave the street extra time to adjust, but also increased anxiety about what would happen in the classroom. It’s completely open.

“My family is full of nervous and weird people. Only one of our brothers is cisgender and straight,” they said. “That’s why the university has hit my mental health a lot. I feel like I almost have to do a performance.”

Street said he felt he had to pretend to be cisgender rather than transgender in order to be accepted by others.Streets use sexually neutral pronouns — they and they — but sometimes Wrong gender..

“It’s emotionally tiring,” they said. “It adds an entire layer of stress in addition to the already stressful lessons — always thinking about what I look like and what others think of me.”

Yusuf is familiar with the spiritual sacrifice.

She began her college presentations as a masculine queer person and criminal justice major. However, after she came out, she wasn’t very comfortable in her major class and was mostly dominated by white cisgender men. They passively asked her questions in class, and college faculty asked ignorant questions about her religion, Islam.

“In some cases, I’m really tired of having to be the one who has to correct the professor,” Yusuf said. “In fact, that means this. Hijab is not oppressive. That’s it.”

She said she always felt she had to protect herself.

According to a statement provided to Charlotte Observer by Communications Director Buffie Stephens, UNCC’s Office of Identity, Equity and Engagement provides training for faculty and staff on LGBTQ + terminology and experience. The statement also states that students in need should seek help from university resources.

“I don’t think the campus culture of the student’s body is catching up as much as the school is trying to include queer students,” Yusuf said. “The university will make more efforts to make the support of queer students visible so that we can be as proud of being students as we are LGBTQ +. is needed.”

She chose not to re-register with UNCC in favor of attending UNC Asheville. There, Yusuf believes her presence is more acceptable. She will study sociology.

“The only reason I got stuck was virtual learning,” she said. “It’s not the environment I feel safe back.

“I don’t want to get tired of checking my existence every 30 seconds.”

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