As a first-generation college student, Jennifer Monje worked hard not only to get into school, but she’s working hard to stay and be a role model for her younger sister.
So, when her college called for an immediate all-student quarantine this week, she said was disappointed and hurt – not by the school’s actions, but by her peers.
Monje, 18, had made the four-hour drive with all of her belongings from New York City to her freshman dorm room at Gettysburg College, a liberal arts school in Gettysburg Pennsylvania, in August.
She was excited to start college, especially after losing her high school senior year and graduation to the pandemic.
“Coming to college was supposed to be my chance to be more independent, be more free, make my own decisions,” Monje said. “And then, bam – quarantine came down and it all just changed.”
On August 17, when classes began, she said, classrooms were spread out, making it almost impossible to get to know other students.
Two weeks later, the school posted a message to students saying faculty had begun “to see a trend of positive (coronavirus) cases on campus that, according to the results we had, were connected to certain affinity groups or social gatherings.”
As of Sunday evening, 25 of the 348 test results the school received were positive, according to its online statement.
CNN reached out to Gettysburg College on Friday but has not heard back.
“Though we expected there to be positive cases in this batch of tests, due to the number of positive test results received so far, the number of test results that have yet to be returned, and the presence of a small number of cases that could be outside the existing clusters, we are increasing our alert level to High,” the school statement said.
In response to the raised health alert, the college moved to an “all-student quarantine” effective 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to the statement, expected to end at the end of the week.
This means students can’t leave their dorm rooms unless they have to pick up food from campus dining halls, use the restroom, speak with a guidance counselor or go to a scheduled Covid-19 testing appointment. Additionally, all classes and labs are being taught remotely.
“We’re seeing each other through screens,” Monje said. “This is not the first year I was expecting and we’re not getting the ‘college experience’ as we hoped.
“It feels like we’re trapped. It feels like we just came here to be trapped all over again.”
Failure to comply with the rules would result in students being asked to leave campus and return home, according to the school’s statement.
The school has extended the quarantine to the Labor Day weekend with updated guidance on Monday, Monje said.
Gettysburg College said most of the cases relate to the “previously identified clustered incidents.”
Monje said if she could talk to the students who didn’t practice social distancing guidelines, she’d ask them to not be selfish moving forward.
“Think of the other students who came from abroad, hours away, or studied so hard to come to college to become somebody in life,” she said. “And now it’s like those students are taking that opportunity away from them. Trying to understand that will be hard, but if we all worked together to understand that… it shouldn’t be that hard.”