Student Researches Schools' Responses

Jul 13, 2020

Senior Anthony Watkins investigates the obstacles and challenges local schools faced this spring during COVID-19.

anthony watkins

 Anthony Watkins

If the COVID-19 pandemic surges this fall, Cal U senior Anthony Watkins has information that could help the region’s private and public K-12 schools manage. 

A senior majoring in sociology with a concentration in social deviance, Watkins is doing an internship through the Bentleyville, Pa., location of Merakey, a developmental, behavioral health, and education non-profit provider. 

Watkins is a behavioral technician and works with autistic students in the classroom to keep them on task academically. 

During his recent internship, Watkins gathered data from local educators and administrators as they finished the 2019-2020 academic year online. The project-based based learning approach investigates an issue and analyzes findings from both theoretical and realistic social approaches. 

For example, Watkins examined an obstacle for some districts: Students’ access to technology and the internet from their homes. 

“Technology is not directly available in many of their homes,” he said. “Where we live, a lot of families fall on or under the poverty line, so this really opened my horizon in looking at what schools did to hurdle that obstacle and be able to provide quality education through a tough time in history,” he said.

Teachers may need additional support, as well. 

“Teachers may need more training to help them be more proficient in online tools like Google Classroom or other virtual meeting tools like Zoom in case of another shutdown.” 

Watkins hopes his research can be a resource as districts make plans for the 2020-2021 school year. 

“The project is for my high school (Brownsville) as well as other schools in the area so they can prepare in case an issue like this comes up in the future,” Watkins said. “I hope that my research and final document will be a good source for directors and superintendents to read and learn what other schools did. 

“All of us went through unchartered waters during the shutdown. Through my interviews, the one quote that pretty much summed up what leaders went through was: ‘We needed to build a plane that was already flying.’” 

An online student from Chestnut Ridge, Pa., Watkins called Cal U’s Internship Center a great source of help, as were internship advisers Dr. Elizabeth Larsen and Dr. Emily Sweitzer, professors in the Department of Humanities.  

Watkins, who expects to graduate in August 2020, wants to pursue a master’s degree in education at Cal U.

Sweitzer said Watkins will continue to make a positive impact. 

"Anthony is such a creative, yet realistic, student who takes any information that he learns and truly puts forth effort to apply it to everyday aspects of society,” she said. “He has been that way from the day that I met him in my office — always looking for a means to apply his knowledge.   

“He is the ideal student to do this internship.”