A Former Nurse and Current Student’s Perspective Amid Campus Closure
by Daniel Bloomfield
While much of Portland’s population was self-quarantining amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosemary Edwards, a senior citizen and Portland Community College student, headed downtown to the Old Towne Clinic (OTC) to try and volunteer.
As a retired registered nurse (RN), Edwards felt it was her responsibility to offer her skills and knowledge to take some of the burden off of the volunteers who run the clinic—“I’m worried about the healthcare workers.”
When she arrived at the clinic, she found that it had been acting as a day-shelter and providing care to the homeless population one at a time. With senior citizens among the most at risk, Edwards—who also has a chronic lung condition—reassessed the situation and resolved to protect herself from contamination— “It’s probably not where I should be.”
The next day, Edwards sat in the sun studying by the Cascade Student Union building after getting supplies from the student food pantry. She had originally left the house that day with the intention of returning her library book and found that the library was closed. All emails sent to students and the statement posted on the school’s website stated that the campuses would not close until Friday, March 20, leaving some students concerned about accruing late penalties.
Edwards recently decided to make the most of her retirement and began taking classes at PCC, intending to enrich her life with courses focused on social justice. She was encouraged by college staff to continue her education and is now on track to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a focus on Community Outreach, and plans to transfer to PSU in the fall. Edwards has had first-hand experience with local organizations that exist to assist those in need, and found them unable to help her take care of her son while he struggled with mental illness—“I believe that today my son wouldn’t be as sick as he is if he was able to get the services he needed.” She would like to see sweeping reforms in existing programs, and hopes that the local social services organizations will band together to help the sick and homeless.
Since enrolling she has been utilizing the support systems that some of the programs at PCC offers. She cites the Women’s Resource Center’s (now defunct) Project Independence and the TRIO office as two of the most helpful. “They really help you get through it,” she said.
Spring term will still begin March 30th but classes will all transition online for the time being. Edwards, who first attended college in a time before classes were offered online, greatly prefers learning in person: “I like to be here, so I miss it.”