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SCC Closes Gaps for University Students During COVID-19 Pandemic


Students did not know what to expect when universities welcomed them on campuses for the Fall 2021 semester during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The timing was especially precarious for students like Leah Hayes of Ararat and Weslee Tucker of Pilot Mountain who were just beginning studies in the university setting.

Tuition and housing fees had been paid, and parents and students hoped for the best. Hayes of Ararat moved into her apartment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Tucker transitioned to campus life at NC State University from his home in Pilot Mountain.

The two friends graduated from East Surry High School in May 2020 having taken advantage of the Career & College Promise dual enrollment program to rack up transferable college credits to get ahead on their bachelor’s degrees.

Hayes was in classes for only two weeks at UNC before driving her three college roommates to get tested for COVID-19 on the night before she moved home. One roommate tested positive, and two were negative. Hayes started experiencing symptoms herself later that evening and tested positive. She packed up her bags and class materials and moved to her family’s basement to quarantine and take classes virtually.

“I guess it was inevitable. We had a COVID breakout in our dorm,” Hayes recalled. “I had a choice to move out then and get my money back or stay and then be forced to leave and then lose money.”

Unfortunately, this was not the way she hoped her first semester as a UNC Tar Heel would go. She knew going to university was going to be challenging during the pandemic, but she didn’t expect the level of hardship she would face. She had gotten her college acceptance letter on January 24 and had emailed her response within an hour after receiving it. She said UNC had strict mask orders and would fine students if caught without a mask. Students even had to mask if they went on a run in 80-degree weather, but with the social aspect of the university setting, COVID outbreaks happened and then the students were sent home.

This spring, Hayes was back at Surry Community College, a place where she felt comfortable because she had attended on-campus classes at SCC when she was in high school, completing 30 hours of college credits. This semester Hayes has taken two online classes and two in-person classes, including biology and public speaking at SCC.

“I was relieved to get the biology requirement out of the way,” she said. “At UNC, those classes are huge with 400 or so students, and I felt like I would do better in the smaller setting at Surry. I also completed my foreign language requirement at Surry.”

In May, Hayes will return to Chapel Hill since she will have completed all her general education requirements. Having taken full advantage of her hometown connections and local community, she is working now as a junior project manager at her family’s business Hayco Construction in Pilot Mountain, an internship that will also count as college credit. Hayes has refused to let the pandemic cause a setback; she plans to apply to the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and major in Business Administration.

“It’s smart for students to start at Surry Community College,” she said. “You can finish your general education requirements. Students should take advantage of this while they are in high school. You get tuition-free college classes, and you can still participate in sports.”

Like Hayes, Weslee Tucker was sure of his plans, always wanting to go to NC State. When he received his Fall 2020 acceptance letter, he agreed to go. Unfortunately, out of his six classes, one was offered in person, only for the first two weeks. When he checked the Spring 2021 schedule at NC State, he discovered all his classes were online, so he decided to attend Surry Community College when he saw that he could take in-person classes. He enrolled in Calculus III, Physics II, and Differential Equations at SCC.

“I just like being in person better than online. You can ask questions in class and see the class examples being worked. I can understand the material better in a classroom setting,” Tucker said. “It’s hard to make friends in online classes. I now have a group of friends that I have met in classes at Surry, and we help each other.”

Tucker will return to NC State in Fall 2021 because he will have taken all the general education requirements for the bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. He also took advantage of the Career & College Promise dual enrollment program and had taken Calculus I and Calculus II during his junior and senior year of high school. He took chemistry the summer before his senior year.

“I definitely recommend Surry Community College for university students especially if they are unsure of what they want to major in. It’s a good foundation into all majors,” Tucker said. “Surry Community College provides more teacher feedback due to the smaller class sizes. It’s also more affordable.”

After he graduates from NC State, Tucker hopes to work in the Winston-Salem area as a mechanical engineer.

Registration for summer and fall classes at SCC will begin on April 12, for current students and April 19, for new students. If you need help with college application, class registration or financial aid, contact Student Services at (336) 386-3264 or

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