By Victoria Zambello 
Contributing Writer

A few months ago, before the pandemic changed our living circumstances, I was chatting with my roommates. With legs sprawled along our miniature common room couch and procrastination at its liveliest, one of my closests friends tossed out a comment from left field, forcing me into an unthinkable realm.  

“I don’t see the purpose of bringing a child into the world that would only enhance climate change when there are so many children in the system that need to be loved today,” she said. 

With widened eyes, this woman explained why she was potentially not having kids. With the recent birth of my baby niece (Olivia Marie Zambello!) I could not wrap my head around this concept. I guess I missed the incredibly disturbing and terminating statistics written across every environmental studies headline. 

So, I sat down at my desk and I did what any classic American college student would do – I googled ‘BirthStrike’ on my computer. With articles from CNN, The NewYork Times and The Guardian, #BirthStrike is trending across the web. 

My friend is far from alone in her thinking. 

What is Birthstrike? 

At the end of 2018, Blythe Pepino, a 33-year-old millenial from Southwold, England, took a serious notice of the environmental tragedies that have happened and will happen in the future. Pepino formed the BirthStrike movement to refuse to have kids 

 #BIRTHSTRIKE trends across the movement’s tumbler page in large and bold text. 

Under the hashtag the movement’s mission statement reads: “BirthStrike demands for a system change.” With over 330 members, those who have taken the BirthStrike pledge say they are creating awareness and emphasizing the importance of the ecological crisis. They do so, by humanizing the crisis with the human species’ desire and right to give birth. 

By 2050, it is predicted there will be 9.2 billion people on Earth, generating a global gross domestic product (GDP) four times that of today. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which has 37 country members, including the United States and the UK, predicts the GDP will require 80 percent more energy calling upon immense amounts of gas, coal, and oil. 

By 2050, there will also be potentially 3.6 million deaths per year as a result of air pollution and contaminated water, while 40 percent of the global population will live in “water-stressed areas” (Holloway, 2012). 

“Life, as we know it in the Holocene [global ecological system], is in great, immediate danger,” notes the BirthStrike website. “We stand in solidarity with the environmental justice movement, the academic and scientific community who demand fast acting and transformative system change towards an equality based, sustainable, caring and non-violent future for humans and all life on earth,” the website reads. 

“I am a healthy, privileged, young Osage (American Indian) woman,” wrote 32-year-old Birthstriker, Alex Ponca Stock on the BirthStrike blog. “Unfortunately, those dreams of having children no longer have any magic in them for me. All the love I feel in those visions is quickly swept up in an indescribable fear. That fear is that I might bear a child whose life will be to witness the burning of the world and all its animals, including us,” Stock wrote. 

I was curious about Birthstrike and just how serious they are, so I reached out to founder Blythe Pepino in London who agreed to be interviewed through video. She told me she formed this movement with the help of “very intelligent friends,” and worked intentionally to make sure all people were included regardless of race, infertility, sex, gender, religion, ethnicity, etc. With a stern and thoughtful tone in her voice, she made it clear that BirthStrike is not a judgment group. 

Seated beside her black and white hand key piano with her hair tied back, Pepino spoke about the foundations of BirthStrike. “I think the general public has a skewed idea of what we’re trying to do. People don’t really want to take it on board because it’s like oh f*** has humanity really come to the point where our species is stopping having children the same way that squirrels would stop having offspring?” 

Some people have chosen to follow this strike as a way of representing their concern for the planet and others are following the strike out of concern for their future children. 

Still, the message is misperceived, Pepino said. “People think we are trying to solve the climate crisis by having less children. We’re just having less children and saying this is a message that we need to solve the climate crisis,” Pepino said.  

Why BirthStrike? 

“Why would I want to have a kid when all this is happening?” said Brett Matzke, ‘22, an environmental studies major at St. Michael’s College. “That would kind of be selfish. Women have to start thinking about that with the state of the environment.”

“What are the ethics of me having a kid?” she continued. “One, with the population it is not okay for me to go ahead and have eight kids for the sake of the human population. Two, for the sake of my future kid why would I want to put my kid in the position of a destroying environment?” Matzke said. 

With an Engineering degree from Cornell University, 37-year-old, Jesse Devinney said he made the decision to not have kids because of the lack of action and policy change from the government and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

“We need to take extraordinary and drastic steps to combat this. And certainly, in my perspective, it feels slightly irresponsible or at least from a risk management standpoint, there is some hesitation on my personal part on bringing a child into this world,” Devinney said from his New York City apartment. 

According to maps from a New York Times report “What Could Disappear,” within 100-300 years Boston, Mass. will be 35 percent completely submerged under water. Based on elevation data from the U.S geological survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, the sea level map for Boston is captioned: “Logan Airport starts to disappear. Boston Harbor begins to encroach on downtown; the Charles River floods southern Cambridge.”

But when I shared these statistics with my family members who live in Boston, they responded,. “The engineers will figure it out.”. 

“That would have been true 20 years ago,” Devinney said. “Not to say that they can’t and I hope that they do and I hope that it’s magic. I’m just a little hesitant to take that risk to have kids under that assumption.” 

Carbon footprint (how much carbon an entity produces), is mostly based on how a given footprint decides to consume energy, what food it consumes, soil management, and the way it disposes wastes, explained Riley Allen, at the Vermont State Energy Station.“The size of the population will be an important factor, but the footprint can be managed with sensible changes in the way that we live and manage our ecological footprint at a personal and societal level,” Allen said. 

In other words, population ‘control’ may not be the answer to our dying planet, but there may be other solutions related to kids and birth. 

“But if I’m an environmental activist and I have all these strong values, should I be the one to have kids so that I can educate them because we need more people in the world, like me who care about it and are making real life changes in a way that affects the environment?” Matzke said. 

“If we are right [about the ecological crisis], we’re still going to need very very smart people to adjust and work and try to fix this thing. Convincing too many people to do this [BirthStrike] is also a little bit risky because we’re going to need extraordinary people doing extraordinary work,” Devinney said. 

The Pope speaks up

Even the Vatican is addressing the ecological crisis, urging humans to be transformative and a part of the answer. “We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it,” Pope Francis wrote in the 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato SI’, “recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behaviour patterns, and the ways it grasps reality,” Pope Francis wrote.

The Pope would disagree with the concept of BirthStrike, said Saint Michael’s College Religious Studies Professor Ray Patterson. We are beings within nature and procreation is a part of human nature, therefore BirthStrike would not be the proper response to the ecological crisis, he noted.  Rather people should be a part of the solution or what the pope labels a ‘call for change.’

“The Pope speaks a lot about the Utilitarian mindset – the final product, so if BirthStrike is just a sort of symbol, then you are assuming that your child is going to negatively impact the Earth. Anything with the right mindset can be positive and transformative,” Patterson said.

Improving Women’s Education & Rights 

Rather than following the BirthStrike trend, The Population Media Center, located in South Burlington, VT offers a way to build a sustainable planet by using humans as the solution. 

Strategy for climate change should be centered around enhancing the lives and education of women and girls, said Missie Thurston, director of marketing & communications. This begins with providing both women and men the education to understand that women have a right to participate in decisions about how many children to have. By educating women about reproductive rights, this could reduce the number of children they are having and help the environment with overpopulation. 

“Obviously, if you have two kids it usually takes women out of the work force and out of these rewards and prosperous careers which is fine if they want to do that but so many people are doing it because so many options have been taken away from them,” Thurston said.  

With a lack of opportunity, Thurston suggests that women are more likely to have more children as a result of overarching issues within education and health, particularly with girls and women. 

The trend of Birthstrike is one that is shared across the globe on a variety of levels, even though Pepino thought it was going to be a mostly Western Trend. “I thought it’s a fairly privileged stance to take because I am looking at it like, my child deserves a very certain standard of living that I’ve had. And I think a lot of global south countries [developing countries] like people dealing with disasters and all kinds of violent bull s*** and that’s just kind of part of their life. So I was surprised that the environmental factor is having an effect even in global south countries where people are already oppressed and distressed. I thought it would maybe only appeal to snowflakes like me.” 

However, some people have decided to follow this trend more quietly:  

“It’s difficult or sad that people are making choices because of their fears around the health of the planet and the health of our society too, but I certainly respect that decision,” Thurston said. “It is very very wise and I am also one of those people. I have one child, I think if the world were different, I may choose to have two.” 

The First Year Anniversary 

In order to commemorate the first year anniversary of the BirthStrikers decision to not give birth, there will be a graphic design art piece planned to be released in 2020 for every single person who signed up for this strike. Pepino hopes that this will “hammer home” their message and the emotions of the ecological crisis.  

My close friend whose comments inspired my research voiced her concerns about having kids, worries for her future children and the type of life they may have. Maybe the men and women who decided to go on BirthStrike will allow my friend’s children a healthier life or maybe this strike won’t even make a dent in the demand for systemic ecological change. 

How Do We Move Forward? 

Empowered by the BirthStrikers decision to take matters into their own control, I am also saddened and frustrated with my own lack of personal knowledge about the current and potential state of our environment. 

Being knowledgeable about the world is what I believe is my personal and social responsibility. Every single person has a responsibility to understand the world’s social, political, economic, and environmental state, moving forward as a society will continue to be an incomprehensible struggle. 

So, I wish for all to find the motivation and the heart to listen. I hope for our professors, coaches, parents to be the leaders that my generation needs by preparing us with the concrete facts of the state of not only our environment, but also our government systems.

By Marlon Hyde

Contributing Writer

Back in early March, as I went to classes in Morocco, and wandered through the streets of Rabat, watching the impact of Covid-19 on Europe and international travel made me fear. After spending six weeks in Morocco’s capital, Trump’s speech on March 11 announcing the closure of America’s border to most of Europe fueled my anxiety. My original flight scheduled for May 9 with a connection in France, a country with spiking cases, looked unwise.

Three days later, when SIT announced the closure of the program and asked students to leave Morocco, I was suffering from food poisoning. A wave of anxiety combined with my upset stomach ended a night out with friends abruptly.

The next day, Morocco announced it would soon end all air travel. I had to search for a new flight home because on my original ticket the only route offered was through France. The high volume of people flooding airlines’ websites made them slow and useless. 

When I did find flights they were all scheduled for March 27 which was too far away. I needed to fly back to the US before more borders closed and I was stranded in Morocco. After half an hour of waiting on hold I reserved a flight the next day  on Qatar Airways and was advised to go to the airport immediately. I frantically packed my bags, tossing clothes into suitcases. 

I arrived at Casablanca airport and was informed that the flight was overbooked. The clerk said I could purchase on the spot a ticket on the same flight the next day, possibly the last day air travel was permitted. I called to ensure that SIT would reimburse me. Less than an hour after purchasing my new ticket, the Morocccan government announced the closing of borders which included a suspension on international travel.

Marlon Hyde rides on the back of a camel during his time studying abroad in Morocco.

I started feeling stuck in a place I had adored. Covid-19 travel restrictions left me like many other trapped travelers wondering if I would ever get home. I made it back to my room and hoped for the best. 

I woke up Monday morning expecting my flight to be cancelled. It was weird seeing the flight status as “scheduled” instead of “On Time.” 

I called a Careem and set the destination to Casablanca airport. Still packed from my failed escape I rushed out of the house to meet my taxi driver. We loaded up the car and took off for Casablanca. I ran to the check-in desk. “Is the flight still departing?” I asked as I handed the clerk my passport and ticket. He nodded as he pointed me in the direction of security and immigration. Awaked by a newfound sense of hope, I sprinted to security. 

I made it through immigration and ran to the gate like I was on the Amazing Race. At the gate a sea of people patiently waited, many of them in masks. My mask did not have a filter, but I put it on so that I did not touch my face. 

There were pockets of people wearing masks, some wearing gloves and masks, and very few wearing neither. I could see the range of how people view coronavirus. Some were not worried at all and travelled as they normally do. Others like myself had some form of protective gear to reduce the chance of getting infected. 

When the gate opened, I got in line and as I moved forward I felt a bittersweet sense of relief. Although I was happy to go home in the midst of threatening travel restrictions, I could not help but wish I was not going home. I’d looked forward to my study abroad experience since high school and for it to end in such a chaotic way hurt. 

Yet 36 hours later I landed in Georgia. Returning home felt surreal. Seeing my mother made me smile despite how painfully exhausted I was. After entering the garage, I changed clothes, wiped down my bags with Lysol and left them there until my quarantine was over. It hurt not being able to hold my nieces and nephew for two weeks. When I arrive they’re usually jumping all over me excited. This time their excitement was replaced with an uncomfortable and confused glare. 

Plopping down on my bed, nothing felt real. But being home allowed me time to process my last few weeks. Currently I am doing an internship as a part of my study abroad coursework. Although this is nothing like what I expected, I’m thankful to be safe and at home surrounded by family during these dark times.

By Sarah Knickerbocker

Staff Writer

January 14, 2020 marks the first day I heard about the coronavirus. It was the second day of classes during my spring semester at Saint Michael’s College. My professor asked, “What’s happening in the news?” All 17 timid students looked down as to not make eye contact for fear of being the first person called on. Thankfully Nate broke the silence with a story about the running Democratic nominees for the upcoming election. My friend Minqi leaned over to me and asked if I had heard about the coronavirus? I hadn’t, so I encouraged her to raise her hand to share the news. She told us about how there had been four coronavirus related deaths in Wuhan, China and that it was spreading across the country fast. At the time, I had no idea that this virus would soon take away my classes, my job, my friends, and most importantly, my family.

February 11, 2020 the virus started to infiltrate the United States. My class continued to report on the amount of people infected and all the cases in the world. The numbers continued to rise exponentially every time our class met. It seemed like every news article had the word “coronavirus” in the headlines. We started to get anxious and worried about if this disease would come to Saint Michael’s. What would that mean for us as college students? There’s no way we would shut down, right?

March 28, 2020 marks my eleventh day in self-quarantine. To pass time, I would doodle in Illustrator, cook or bake something, go for a walk around the block, FaceTime friends, and paint with my little sister–all the activities I would normally not have time to do. The coronavirus had completely cleared my schedule. My scheduled volleyball tournaments; cancelled. My shifts at all four of my part-time jobs; cancelled. And the rest of the spring semester? You guessed it; cancelled. But don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be safe in my home with my family. I just never could have imagined the ginormous impact a minuscule virus could have on the human race.

Photo By Sarah Knickerbocker

This is a picture from 2011 of my family celebrating my grandpa’s 80th birthday. 
My great Uncle Dave is smiling in the top left and I am on the top right.

Sunday, March 29, 2020 my great Uncle Dave passed away. After days of being in critical condition, he lost his life to the coronavirus. When I remember his life, I think about the smoky summer barbecues in his backyard on the cusp of Lake Champlain. I think about all my high school softball games when I looked up and saw him waving to me from the bleachers. And I think about all the years celebrating my grandpa’s birthday together. 

April 28, 2020 marks almost two months in self-quarantine. As I read Uncle Dave’s obituary, I am reminded about the fragility of life. I want to make my years on this earth meaningful whether I have 90 years here or 40. I want to follow in my uncle’s courageous footsteps and show nothing but love to those around me. I am sad that it took such a tragedy for me to come to this realization, but I am grateful that my Uncle Dave taught me this.  

Before, the coronavirus death toll seemed like a distant number to me. Now, my heart hurts at the fact that every single day more and more people are losing their loved ones to this dreadful disease. Please be safe, responsible, and thoughtful to stop the spread of this deadly virus together. It is important to remember this is only temporary and the best is yet to come.

By Emma Clark

Contributing Writer

    6:35 a.m.: my dog wants to start his day. I don’t. I unplug my phone, roll over and scroll through the notifications that have appeared on my screen since the last time I checked it at 2:15 a.m. I read texts from my best friend, continuing our conversation from last night about how much we miss our home, the fun we used to have and each other.

           6:42 a.m.: I open snapchats from friends I haven’t had a real conversation with in weeks, pictures of their faces with no words, I respond with the same thing. Is this friendship? 

           6:44 a.m.: I cautiously click on a Snapchat message from the guy that somehow is still talking to me even though we won’t be in the same city for at least six more months. I’ve never been good at finding the good ones, but he tells me he wants to date me after this is all over. Yeah, right, like you really want to know the real me. I respond to his 2:00 a.m. thoughts anyway, charming.

           6:50 a.m.: I’m lonely.

           6:51 a.m.: I check my daily horoscope app, “Why do you set people up to disappoint you?” You’re right, why do I do that? “You’re not a bad person for wanting to be free. Try to remember that everyone’s self-worth moves over peaks and down into… blah, yeah I know, self-worth, self-worth. It also says “power in self and love.”  Good one. I turn over, pet my dog, and try to fall back asleep until hopefully 8:00 a.m.

            I know I’m lucky. During this Covid19 pandemic, I haven’t been sick, I haven’t lost any of my immediate family or friends and I have a job, a remote form of education, a warm home and food when I want it, not just when I need it. Our whole world is struggling as this virus that humans cannot control seems to be taking over and changing everything we used to know about ourselves and our world.

           What I did lose was my life as I knew it and my college senior spring. A few weeks ago, as I read the email from my college president that we wouldn’t be returning to campus I felt my life collapse before my phone screen. I looked at my mom and she knew exactly what I had just read and immediately apologized because she knows how important this time of happiness was for me. I texted “I love you” to my three best friends. Absolutely crushed.

           Since I now live with my parents and my brother in the middle of nowhere Connecticut I am reminded daily about how lucky I am. Whether it’s after I complain about how much I need a change to my mom, complaining about going to work in the cold to my dad or it’s those Snapchat friends telling me things could be so much worse, I always end up hearing in one form or another: “You’re lucky”. Yes, I know.

          But you need to stop telling me.

          Hearing those words just make me feel guilty for feeling real feelings. We are all in a crisis, some of us struggling more with mental health than ever before. I read articles about grief and reflection, and how it is okay to be going through the phases of grief because of losing the routines of our lives. Anxiety and depression are affecting more people throughout the country. But this pain we are feeling is normal, and I know it will get better as things get better.

            But if I’m so lucky then why haven’t I slept in days? Why haven’t I been able to complete a simple school assignment in under two hours? Why haven’t I gone two days without having a mental breakdown? Why can I only answer with “alright” when my boss asks me how I am? Why can’t my class graduate the year we are supposed to? Why am I avoiding every Facetime call from everyone I used to be close with? Why did I push another guy out of my life? Why is my horoscope always so negative yet so accurate; and why am I so lonely?

             Telling me I’m lucky means that I can’t live the reality of my life, the life that has been twisted upside down for so many people around the world, filled with anxiety and sadness. But to get through it I must live in it, feel all phases of that grief, and find the meaning when I am ready to do so. Stop telling me I’m lucky when I know I am, I’ll get there, just give me time.

         1:30 p.m.: My dog jumps onto my bed, finds a comfy spot, and puts his head on my shoulder. He knows.

By Laura Hardin

Staff Writer

I always look forward to the holidays to catch up with family. Whenever we get together my sister, Ava, always has center stage due to her line of work. We hear of the day to day stories of a rehabilitation specialist working for Community Connections in Washington D.C. Some of the most memorable include a story of a client eating a lightbulb and a former addict mending the relationship with her estranged children. 

I am proud to call her my sister because I know how much she helps and cares for the people she works with. With social isolation practiced all over the world, I thought about those who do not have the privilege of having a roof over their heads. Remembering that the people my sister works with are high risk, I asked how her job is different due to the pandemic and how some of her homeless clients were coping. 

L: What did your job look like before the pandemic? 

A: I have 10 cases I work with regularly. They are high risk populations that have a mental health diagnosis –for example a lot of my clients have schizophrenia. The people I work with are involved in high risk behaviors like substance abuse, homelessness or poverty. 

I support them by keeping their lives on track. I provide my clients with medication management, setting up job interviews, getting to doctor appointments, making sure they have enough food, keep in touch with their families, really anything you think of I probably help with that too. 

L: How does your job look different during this time? 

A: It has been very difficult and crazy. It is difficult because I am not allowed to see them. I usually take clients to their appointments and now we aren’t allowed to do home visits unless absolutely necessary. However, that is a big part of my job, making sure that their house is safe and well maintained. Now the only thing we can do is assist over the phone and deliver food. 

Ava Hardin, sister to Laura Hardin, wears a mask on her way to work as an essential worker.

L: Why is your role so important to your cases? 

A: My role is even more important now; people who are the most vulnerable to the disease have nothing to do and boredom can lead to bad things. Because we are not able to check up on them, a lot more people are apt to use illegal drugs, and they do not feel like they need their medication, so they do not take it. 

L: Why would someone you work with be having a hard time during this pandemic? 

A: They don’t have the support systems that everyday people have. Unless I see them, they are usually by themselves. 

L: What does this time look like for someone who is homeless? 

A: There are two types of homelessness, shelter and street homelessness. The people on the street cannot get off these streets. A few of them do not even understand what is going on because they are not educated on the topic. Now they just sit in the streets and are vectors for the disease. 

For shelters, they are normally open from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. but now they are keeping them open all day. Out of this rises a problem because you cannot be a new person in a shelter right now. Meaning people are not leaving to allow newcomers to have a shelter for the night. These folks are just so vulnerable. 

L: What can the average person do even though we are stuck at home? 

A: Donate, donate, DONATE! Donate food to your local food banks, donate to organizations and donate old clothes from cleaning out closets. Also, stay home! Some people do not have the privilege to stay off the streets, so we need to stay home to keep them safe. 

If you would like to donate, click this link here:

By Janvier Nsengiyumva

Opinion Editor

 I am a relatively relaxed fellow in life, taking time to read and write poetry and listen to music between my studies. But this pandemic has me on edge, like it does a lot of my friends. So I decided to try something new. I asked myself, could meditation do what everyone says it can? 

What can you turn to when you’re anxious, depressed and bored with lack of motivation?  It’s difficult to be in the moment when your mind is in a state of panic, absorbed by worries and grief. So I wanted to think about the silver lining. We are in a position to turn inward and reflect on ourselves. I have never done meditation and yoga. I asked my friend Erin Nickerson, a yoga instructor who has experience practicing meditation,  to virtually walk me through the steps. Erin and I met on Facetime and discussed how to deal with anxiety. She told me how doing meditation has liberated her from stress in the past. 

Photo ByJanvier Nsengiyumva

 In talking to her I learned that practicing routines like breathing and consciously moving allows emotions to move. “Whatever those emotions are, being in your body and moving and practicing yoga allows those emotions to flow through the body,” Nickerson said. “There are so many tools like breath work [that] can really relax that nervous system and bring you down to the present moment. It can really be nurturing for the nervous system.” 

Our first session was about 10 minutes. While talking on Zoom, Nickerson asked me to find a comfortable place to sit. I chose to sit against a wall. She had me close my eyes and relax. We began by practicing muscle breathing. Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. I was stressed out and anxious from all the external emotions. Simultaneously, there was a sense of uneasiness, my heart was racing as a result of the anxiety of being alone on campus and lack of moving. Thus, emotionally, I needed to breathe and release the tensions I carried. We practiced holding breath and letting it out. Also we did alternate nostril breathing where you use your thumb to close your right nostril, inhale through your left nostril. I did feel the effect of these forms of meditation; they lowered my anxiety and decreased my heart rate. 

What made this first experience more helpful was practicing with somebody who not only guides you but becomes a human presence that relieves your loneliness and anxiety. 

Photo ByJanvier Nsengiyumva

Our second session was about 15 minutes and we did breath awareness and body movement. Erin guided me to observe the rhythm of my breathing like slowly watching my breath and focusing on how my chest and belly felt, and allowing myself to feel grounded. Being in the moment means not thinking about negative experiences and getting out of your mind.

 We continued with yoga which we started with standing arms swings. To do this I had to relax my arms while swinging side to side. Another yoga stretch was repeatedly taking my arms to the side and sweeping them up while inhaling and exhaling as my arms slowly glided back down to my sides. After we finished, I could feel my body relaxed, there was no tension or nervousness, and my mind was clear because all the thoughts and fear were reduced. I think focusing my attention on my arms while breathing stopped the cycle of self-rumination which is one of my problems.

     Thinking about doing meditation alone? Follow these four tips.

Use resources. There are many ways to find resources on how to meditate alone. For example, these resources can be found on youtube. Bergeon wellness center can also offer these resources, there are online yoga classes for students until July 1.  

Seek guidance. If you’re new to meditation it would be helpful to have some kind of guidance.  “Having guidance and a network of support would be very beneficial especially during these times,” said Nickerson, who herself offers monthly memberships. (

Commit to sit. For people who want to practice completely alone, commitment is important. “Even one to five minutes a day of setting time to sit by yourself is helpful”, Nickerson said. Finding a comfortable area in which to sit is especially beneficial. 

“Bring items that are meaningful to you to place in this one designated area,” Nickerson said.  “Come to this area everyday even if it’s just one minute, and sit, closing eyes and just check in with yourself. It’s a practice of self-inquiry, checking in with yourself physically. How do you feel? Do you have tensions in the body? Are your thoughts running like crazy? Am I sad today? Am I really tired today? Do I feel awesome today? Just a quick scan for a minute even.”

Experiment.  Journaling, singing, and dancing are all forms of meditation, Nickerson said, describing them as a flow state where you connect with the present moment in your body. 

By Leanne Hamilton

Executive Editor reporting from Pittsfield, Mass.

Emma Merritt, 23, walks into her daily shift at the emergency department at the Berkshire Medical Complex in Pittsfield, Mass. Monitors beep as patients fill every room, while still more people wait to be seen. More and more patients around Merritt’s age, older and even younger, are finding themselves in the hospital. They struggle to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator. Even though attempts to keep COVID positive patients in air tight rooms have been made, the growing numbers of positive patients have left nurses like Merritt no choice but to use regular rooms to house these sick patients. 

“In recent weeks, it’s been incredibly stressful. Supplies are low and there are new travelers [travel nurses for travel assignments that were hired as extra staff during the COVID crisis] in the hospital that aren’t used to the way we do things here. This new disease and these new faces make us feel like strangers in our own department,” said Merritt, a registered nurse.

 While we all stay at home safe from potential exposure to COVID19, our nurses and doctors risk exposure everyday walking through those hospital doors. They work around the clock on the frontlines of this pandemic to care for not only those of us that have contracted COVID19, but the everyday patients that need to be in the hospital for other illnesses. 

“Working in the hospital during this pandemic has been nerve wracking and scary. We all leave our families everyday knowing there is a chance regardless of how much PPE [personal protective equipment] we have on, that we could contract the virus and ultimately bring it home to our families” said Caroline Whitman, a Unit Assistant in the ED at Berkshire Medical Complex, as well as my cousin. “Thankfully now my hospital has begun providing us with hospital scrubs so my coworkers and I can change out of them and into our normal clothes before leaving work. Besides making sure all my things from work were cleaned, I have been disinfecting at least four4 times a week around my house.” 

“We still have regular people come in, such as overdoses, trauma, and psych consultations, on top of a virus that we really know nothing about,” Merritt said through a phone interview.  When these nurses come in for a shift, they risk exposing themselves to COVID positive patients, but they also risk the chance of exposing other patients to the virus. 

To minimize the risk, the staff take extra precautions. “We are required to always have a mask and goggles on at all times. Going into a patient’s room suspected of COVID19, we need to use n95 masks. Wash your hands, not to touch anything, wear different gloves, just always be conscious of your surroundings,” said Merritt. Because there are too few masks, they need to reuse them rather than change masks between patients. “We get one at the beginning of a shift and need to have that one for the entire shift.” Not only do these nurses and doctors have to worry about exposing themselves and other patients, but their families they go home to at the end of a long shift. 

“Another thing that keeps me going even when I’m tired or scared is remembering that my patients I help treat are also scared”

Caroline Whitman, ED Unit Assistant at Berkshire Medical Complex

When she treats patients, COVID positive or otherwise, Whitman said she follows every possible safety protocol to keep patients safe. “To be quite honest I don’t necessarily think about it. At this point in the pandemic we treat everyone as if they have the virus,” said Whitman. “We don’t allow ourselves to possibly expose another patient; washing hands and changing scrubs when needed, making sure possible COVID rooms are deep cleaned and UV ray treated.”

Being on the frontlines doesn’t allow much time to worry about oneself when taking care of others. Each nurse and doctor knows they can contract the virus, but try to keep fear at bay.

“I definitely have my concerns and worry being on the frontlines. But I always try to remind myself that not only can I catch it at work, but I could also catch it out in the community,” said Whitman. “Another thing that keeps me going even when I’m tired or scared is remembering that my patients I help treat are also scared, especially now that most hospitals aren’t allowing visitors. They need us even more. I try my best to be a backup family member to my patients and treat them like I would my own.” 

Emma Merritt says the fear of the virus didn’t really hit her until more and more patients came into the ED. “I’m seeing people my age come in with it and I think ‘Oh my god’. I live with my parents so I could expose them to it. Thankfully we are able to take care of our scrubs at work and not have to worry about bringing them home.” 

As for the actual count of COVID positive patients, there isn’t an exact number. “We never know if a person is truly COVID positive until about 5-7 days after we have tested them. The doctors and nurses at our hospital and within the Emergency Department are pretty good at determining if someone is going to test positive,” Whitman said. “I have been in direct contact with about 10, and those are the ones that I have been screened for. I’m sure there are more to come.”

Currently there is no known vaccine or cure for COVID19, however, many are working hard to develop a vaccine, or at least a solid treatment to combat the virus. Jenna Hamilton, also my cousin and a staff member in the manufacturing department at Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing in Lee, Mass., is doing just that. “We have the most physical contact with the product and are responsible for filling vials, syringes, and cartridges (depending on what the client wants). We receive product from the client and formulate it into a liquid form using pre-sterilized utensils and materials” said Hamilton. This product can come in powdered form, but cannot be explained further as Hamilton is under contract and cannot breach specific information. 

When COVID19 made its debut in the U.S., those at Berkshire Sterile were eager to join the fight against the virus. “Work has certainly been very busy ever since COVID-19 has affected the world. “When clients came forward with plans to aid people who are affected (or could be) with Coronavirus, the president of our company decided to start doing the COVID-19 fills on the weekends (when we are normally closed). Staff from several different departments have been working longer or extra hours because of it, but are happy to help and are excited to be a part of these developments.”

While departments are working on developments, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no miracle cure, Hamilton said. “Some people envision that we have a miracle COVID-19 vaccine (only in a perfect world). I always try to explain to people that it’s important to know what Coronavirus targets in the body,” Hamilton explained, noting that the lungs are particularly vulnerable to this virus. “Pharmaceutical companies are developing products to help strengthen those parts of the body to combat this virus. These products are mainly to boost the immune system and/or support lung health.

“I’m very lucky to work in a clean room during this time, it’s probably one of the safest places to be!” Hamilton said, explaining that the environment for developing these products requires sterile environments that are cleaned daily. “There are several barriers before getting into the clean room and they are constantly being cleaned across shifts,”  Hamilton said. “Staff have full gowning too, of course. We have been using social distancing and not letting rooms get too crowded. A lot more people who are able to work from home are doing so. We also keep Lysol and hand sanitizer on deck!”

While we grow tired of the same four walls, our nurses and doctors work around the clock on the frontlines to help us see a day outside of quarantine. Manufacturers such as Jenna Hamilton may be more behind the scenes, but they are tirelessly working on breakthrough treatments, so that COVID19 can no longer be such a threat. 

They have a few words of advice for those that don’t think this virus is something to take seriously. “It’s frustrating because the reason that we are short on masks and having to have all these extra travelers is because these young people won’t stay away from each other,” said Merritt. “It can be up to two weeks from when you get exposed and when you start showing symptoms. We could expose 20-50 people and not even know! Just because you feel healthy doesn’t mean there isn’t something inside you.” 

Caroline Whitman pleads for people to just stay home. She understands it’s no fun being stuck inside, but the more we limit the chance of the virus spreading, the sooner we can end quarantine and she can see fewer patients in the hospital. 

“STAY HOME! Regardless of if you are asymptomatic you could be a carrier of the virus. Those around you who may have compromised immune systems will not be okay,” said Whitman. “My coworkers and I go to work every day to help fight this virus so that you and your family are safe. Stay home for us!”

By Sarah Knickerbocker

Staff Writer

Social distancing and self-quarantining in a global pandemic can be a lonely and anxious time for students. Without  the ability to have face-to-face counseling during this time, students are instead getting teletherapy via phone or video. Teletherapy is nothing to be scared or worried about, said personal counselor Sarah Klionsky. “I ask students each time we talk how they like this tele-counseling and most really like it,” Klionsky said. “It is counseling without having to leave your room!” 

Teletherapy allows students to have more choice in how long they meet with counselors and whether they prefer phone or video calls depending on their comfort level. “I am just so glad that I’ve been able to keep one part of my SMC routine going while being home,” said Alexandra Knight ‘22.

“We can be with students to support them through this time of physical distancing, whether they are on campus or off campus with their families,” Klionsky said. “We get to meet students’ pets and support animals. We can meet for 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes or for a 45-minute session. We can do meditation and relaxation exercises over phone or video.” But there are limitations to the format, Klionsky said. “We can’t get you tea or water, give you access to our office, have the box of fidget toys, or offer tissues.” The tele-health platform is called Doxy-me and it is easy to use HIPAA compliant telehealth.

“Students need to have something in this time to smile about, laugh about, and to find the joy in even while being quarantined in your own house,” said psychology professor, Melissa McDuffie, who wants to remind students about the importance of structure, routine, and having a sense of humor. She expressed the importance of reaching out to Bergeron and using their resources if you’re struggling during this difficult time. There are several helpful links and information on mindfulness, yoga, relaxation, scholarly articles, and more on Bergeron’s resources web page.

“We will be here for you, regardless of what is happening with COVID-19 and we will work with each of you individually to help you continue services with us, connect with us now, or to help you to connect to local providers,” Klionsky said.

Bergeron Wellness Center offers several virtual classes including Radical Relaxation, Yoga for all Levels, and Mental Skills Training: Managing Stress, said Director of Counseling Kathy Butts. The details for these classes are on Bergeron’s Instagram page and it is super easy to join by clicking the Zoom link on the page’s bio.

“Bergeron Counseling has created an Instagram account to stay connected with our students, colleagues, and friends,” said counseling intern Tessa Boltz. “We offer tips, tools, and inspiration for meditation and stress management, as well as spread the word about SMC sponsored events like weekly yoga and mental skills training. We at @bergeroncounseling already have 123 followers, join us!”

Feeling challenged by anxiety or loneliness or other aspects of your mental health? Set-up an appointment by calling Bergeron Wellness at the office at 802-654-2234, even if it’s your first-time contacting Bergeron. The Center has also posted resources on their website and Instagram page @bergeroncounseling.

  By Ben Soulard

Contributing Writer

On Wednesday, April 15, The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) announced that it would be terminating its Developmental Academy, its main tool for scouting and growing youth talent across the country for more than a decade. The USSF cited the financial consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as the reason for dissolving the academy; it could have cost upwards of $12 million to fund the program during 2021. 

The termination of the academy may not entirely be a bad thing for the future of US Soccer. The idea behind the program made sense–replicate the template that the top leagues in Europe use for their youth competitions. However, the idea did not generate the results that may have been expected. Executives felt that the level of competition was not as high as it should have been and that more international games needed to be played in order to test the talent against stronger teams. The quality of competition may not have been at its peak because teams affiliated with the MLS –– America’s premier soccer league –– were being favored to be placed in the top tier of the academy’s system. Even after winning against MLS teams and proving to be formidable opponents, non-MLS clubs were placed in the lower tiers of the system. This prompted many non-MLS teams to leave the DA and join other youth leagues.

The DA had a rule that players in the academy could not play for their high school teams. Eric Wynalda, a former US national team player, said that the academy games felt “manufactured” and that they lacked the emotion that high school games had. In any sport, no matter how many scenarios you practice, no matter how many times, you can’t recreate the pressure and atmosphere of a real game. If the academy matches felt more like scrimmages and exhibitions than high-stakes games it is no surprise that the USSF was not seeing the results it wanted from the DA. 

Regardless of the flaws of the academy, this can be a crucial turning point for the USSF if handled correctly. Nobody has the answers for how to optimize the youth development system of US soccer but a huge nationwide league like the DA is evidently not the solution. No matter what route the USSF decides to take in terms of its youth system, what matters is that it invests in its young players.

The Women’s National team has enjoyed great success recently, winning the last two World Cups. Even after manager Jill Ellis stepped down, the team does not look to be slowing down anytime soon and will aim to win its third consecutive title in 2023. The Women’s team has experienced a golden generation, but young stars like Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, and Tierna Davidson seem ready to continue the rich legacy that their predecessors will leave behind. 

The real concern is the Men’s National team who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, an embarrassing blow for US soccer. However, the team is brimming with young talent, with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKinnie, Tyler Adams, Sergino Dest, and Josh Sargent showing promise. The Men’s team has started building a squad that is focused on youth, similar to what other national teams such as England have been doing. But if the United States believes that a young team can secure their spot in the 2022 World Cup, then they have to put effort into the development of young players. 

With the strength of other teams around the world, nobody should expect the team to challenge for the World Cup title just yet. The foundations for a good team are there, but it still needs a few more pieces to compete against the very best. If the Federation can create a functioning developmental network, the team could foster an identity, something that it seems to never really have had. The United States does not have a signature style of play, at least not a consistent one. Creating a rich American soccer culture and a viable youth system now could mean unprecedented success in the future.

Ben Soulard ‘23 is a sociology major from Essex, Mass. who enjoys watching and playing soccer. 

By Kit Geary

Staff Writer

March 7, 2020, one of the most hated days in NCAA history, marks the day that spring sport athletes all over the country were informed that an entire season was being ripped away from them. College seniors were left to mourn the loss of their beloved college careers and coaches were left questioning how to go about doing their jobs. After processing the fact that I, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, am being deprived of my favorite aspect of St. Mike’s, I wondered how my first year coach, along with other spring sport coaches, are going to do their jobs. How were they going to prepare athletes for upcoming seasons? How are they keeping their teams connected and in touch? How are they going to recruit? 

Since leaving the St. Michael’s campus on March 13 my lacrosse coach has hosted weekly zoom meetings and kept us all conversing through Groupme. We were given workouts to do and films to watch. Were other teams doing the same?

To answer my question I set out to talk with the other spring sports. “‘The entire staff interacts with the athletes throughout the week,” said softball coach Nicolas Goodreau, who wants to ensure that his athletes are doing well physically and mentally. “We have weekly Zooms with our mindset coach, our strength and conditioning coach, and myself,” Goodreau said. During this time Goodreau finds himself “upping the social media campaign” through posting workout videos designed by the strength and conditioning coach for athletes, families, and fans to follow.

Men’s lacrosse coach, Alexander Smith, also Zooms throughout the week to keep in touch with his team. Smith has a Canvas page set up to provide some structure to his coaching. There his athletes review film and post wall ball challenges. “We make an effort to communicate through our Canvas page and have our athletes meet as a whole team, as well as smaller groups, to keep in touch with each other during this time.”

A major responsibility of coaches is to recruit student athletes. Saint Michael’s heavily relies on the coaches of the college’s 21 sports teams to help fill their classes. How are coaches supposed to fill the class of 2025 if they are unable to go out, watch games and tournaments, and recruit from high schools?

My women’s lacrosse coach Quinn Rose said she finds herself referencing old game footage during this time. “Whether there will be summer recruiting tournaments is up in the air, all I have right now to pull from is game footage,” says Rose. 

The St. Michael’s Women’s Lacrosse team gather for a team photo on the field.

Coach Smith said he finds himself running into the same issues. “Not only can I not recruit on a larger national scale as I would like to, but even recruiting athletes locally is now a challenge I didn’t think I would have to face,” Smith said. Both Smith and Goodreau are hopeful they will be able to host fall prospect days in order to view some of the class of 2025’s talent. 

While these coaches have a future of college athletes to look forward to, senior student athletes only have past seasons to reflect upon. “Having your senior season cancelled hits hard. Iit’s something you look forward to your whole college career,” said Julia Sevigny ‘20, an outfielder for the softball team. Sevigny is devastated by the loss of her season but cannot wait to see the places her team goes in the upcoming years.

“This season was something I dreamed of when I was young and what I looked forward to all of my four years, and it vanished,” said Katrina Pietz ‘20, midfielder for the lacrosse team. 

For both athletes it’s the time cut short with their teammates that hurt the most the most. “My teammates and coaches are people I have formed incredible relationships with, but I know that will live on forever, no matter where we end up,” Pietz said.