UNCW graduate says college experience was built on resilience

UNCW graduate says college experience was built on resilience
UNCW Campus (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - For the UNCW class of 2020, it hasn’t exactly been the most ideal college experience.

They’ve been in school through Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Dorian and now COVID-19 has taken away their chance to walk across the stage and receive their diploma.

Rachel Kowadlo in a member of the 2020 graduating class and the reality of the lost experience took some time to set in.

“I’m not going to lie, yesterday would have been one of the walking ceremonies for me and the business schools," said Kowadlo. "I think that was the one day where it really hit me, throughout the pandemic and while I’ve been quarantining, I guess I haven’t thought about the implications of not walking across the stage, but now it’s like okay, it’s a bit of a bummer.”

To make up for the missed graduation tradition, faculty and staff took to social media for a Seahawk Salute to congratulate the seniors. They posted videos of them making noise and made posts of appreciation.

“It’s just the best sendoff and I think it really shows UNCW’s true colors," said Kowadlo. “It could be so easy for them to say we’ll have a virtual graduation, good luck on your future endeavors. They’ve taken so much time and effort.”

It’s not just a pandemic that’s made a wild four year ride, there have also been two hurricanes that closed the school down and forced them to evacuate.

Looking back on freshman year, Kowadlo says her run at UNCW was anything but expected, but the time has helped shape her into who she is now.

“Every single semester of my collegiate career I had something happened where the school shut down or we had to figure out different things with academics," said Kowadlo. "But I think it’s a blessing to be in such a nurturing environment where two hurricanes and a pandemic have occurred because I know what tools I need and I know what steps I need to take to be successful.”

There’s one word Kowadlo uses to describe her now alma mater that she says defines her college experience, resilience.

Kowadlo has accepted a position with NHRMC and said she is looking forward to being close to the school and helping out as an alumni any way she can.

Even though seniors weren’t able to walk the stage this weekend... that doesn’t mean they won’t have the chance to do so. UNCW says they’re aiming for August when seniors can come back and walk across the stage to create a lasting memory.

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