Claflin Students Focus on Academics, Virtual Learning and Career Goals Despite COVID-19 Disruption

Oct 09, 2020

Most of the nation’s colleges and universities have begun classes for the 2020 fall semester with an extensive use of hybrid and virtual learning and teaching platforms, due to the COVID-19. Despite myriad disruptions, classes at Claflin started in August and nearly 400 freshmen, transfers, and returning students checked into the University’s residence halls in September.

Argrow and Bell
Freshmen Nyasia Argrow, a biology major from Orangeburg, S.C.; Justice Bell, a Charlotte, N.C. native majoring in biochemistry; and Noah Thomas, an African-American Studies major from Moncks Corner, S.C., are among the outstanding scholars in the Class of 2024 who represent Claflin’s next generation of globally-engaged visionary leaders. All three received prestigious scholarships and are members of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. Additionally, Argrow and Bell are Presidential Scholars, the highest university scholarship awarded to an incoming freshman.

Argrow enrolled at Claflin to keep her family’s legacy intact. “I have a special relationship with Claflin because I represent the third generation of family members who attended the University,” said Argrow, a graduate of Berkeley High School. The students were awarded scholarships from the James E. Clyburn Scholarship & Research Foundation in July 2020. “My late grandmother, Helen Argrow, my aunt Rhondilyn Waller, and my sister, Naja Argrow, all graduated from Claflin. I believe that enrolling at Claflin helps to keep me connected with my grandmother who died two years ago. I am continuing a family legacy so Claflin is very dear to my heart.”

Argrow’s relationship and familiarity with the campus also includes her participation in the Claflin University-Prisma Health MedEx Academy, a program that provides students greater insight into careers in the health care industry.

“I was not certain where I wanted to work in health care prior to my experiences in the MedEx Academy,” Argrow said. “The program helped me realize that nursing is my passion. Claflin has a RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree, however it does not offer a four-year bachelor’s in nursing program. I chose to major in biology because it will provide me a foundation for multiple career options in health care in addition to nursing.”

Argrow was recruited by several other colleges and universities, but she had long ago decided to continue her education at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges/University).

“HBCUs are schools where African Americans can feel at home, find comfort, experience academic, personal, and spiritual development, and learn the importance of giving back to their communities,” Argrow said. “These institutions were founded as the only options for African Americans who wanted to expand their opportunities with a higher education degree. I wanted to choose a college or university whose history and purpose was created for students like me.”

Argrow graduated valedictorian of her senior class in 2020 at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School with a 4.0 GPA (Grade Point Average). Her other accomplishments include: Palmetto Fellows Scholar, National Honor Society, National Technical School Honor Society, National Society for High School Scholars, Phi Theta Kappa Technical Honor Society, and Orangeburg Wilkinson High School Principal’s List.

Bell toured the campuses of several other colleges and universities before making her decision about Claflin.

“I visited Claflin and its campus was much more attractive than the other schools,” Bell said. “But I did not make up my mind until I met President (Dwaun) Warmack at the CIAA Basketball Tournament.”

President Warmack and several other University administrators traveled to Charlotte, N.C. in February 2020 to participate in the annual College Fair during the tournament.

“I also met with Dr. Monica Greene, director of the ACT Honors College,” said Bell who had distinguished herself in academics and athletics before graduating from David W. Butler High School in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District. She was a member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, National Society of Black Engineers, and a standout track and field athlete.

“Dr. Warmack offered me a Presidential Scholarship and Dr. Greene said I would also be admitted to the ACT Honors College,” Bell said. “I really decided to attend Claflin after I researched Dr. Warmack and found out he had attended Harvard and I discovered how many honors college graduates were attending medical schools and Ivy League institutions.”

Bell said she later participated in an ACT Honors College presentation where an alumnus who is presently enrolled at Harvard talked about his Claflin experiences.

“I plan to attend medical school and they confirmed that Claflin prepares students to achieve our academic and career goals,” Bell said.

Much like Argrow, Thomas also wanted to attend an HBCU. His decision to attend Claflin was largely influenced by a close family friend – Dr. Keturah E. Gadson – an administrator/educator with the Berkeley County School District. Gadson was also a student in the ACT Honors College prior to graduating from Claflin in 2007.

“Dr. Gadson and my mother are close friends and she has encouraged me to attend Claflin since I started high school,” Thomas said. “She always speaks very highly of the university. She has fond memories of her days as a Claflinite and a student in the ACT Honors College. Dr. Gadson really inspired me to attend Claflin.”

noah thomas studying photo copy

Thomas is one of 49 Rudolph Canzater Scholars who enrolled at Claflin this year. The students were awarded scholarships from the James E. Clyburn Scholarship & Research Foundation in July 2020. His academic accomplishments earned him induction into the National Honor Society. He earned dual credits before entering Claflin at Trident Technical College in Moncks Corner, S.C. Thomas has demonstrated leadership ambitions as a president of HOSA-Future Health Professionals, and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. He also was a member of the National Beta Club, the nation's largest independent, non-profit, educational youth organization that promotes the ideals of academic achievement, character, service, and leadership among elementary and secondary school students. His plan after earning a degree in African American Studies at Claflin is to work as an advocate for improving health care in minority communities as a health services manager.

“My focus will be diversity and inclusion,” Thomas said. “There are widespread disparities in health care in African American communities. Broadening my knowledge of the African diaspora will increase my understanding and my ability to mitigate illnesses and diseases that affect people of African descent.”

Thomas decided to begin his matriculation at Claflin remotely from his home in Moncks Corner. Argrow and Bell are attending classes remotely, as well, but they reside on campus.

“I have not experienced any major problems while living off campus and taking classes from home,” Thomas said. “Other than low bandwidth on a few occasions, I have not experienced many setbacks with the virtual platform.”

Thomas said that virtual classes and not living on campus made it difficult to build relationships with his instructors. “But they have been very helpful and accessible during their virtual office hours,” Thomas said.

Argrow enjoys the independence of living on Claflin’s picturesque and historic campus.

“Living on my own for the first time is challenging and a big adjustment, but it allows me the opportunity to create my own legacy at Claflin,” Argrow said. “I am not having any problems with my of classes and I usually get a response from my professors within 24 hours when I ask questions outside of their instructional time.”

Bell agreed that the delivery of virtual instruction has been seamless. She is also pleased that students are following Claflin’s COVID guidance and protocols.

“Even in our study groups, students are staying safe by wearing masks and social distancing,” Bell said. “I think we are doing very well and adhering to the University’s policies.


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