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Division of Campus and Community Engagement

Division of Campus and Community Engagement

Navigating the ‘New Normal’

Architecture Senior Itzel Macedo reflects on her college-going journey during the pandemic
Itzel Macedo

In normal times, senior year is filled with memories of football games, prom night and college tours. However, for Itzel Macedo, her last year at Weiss High School in Pflugerville, Texas, was anything but normal. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all those milestone events were canceled or held virtually.

Applying for college proved to be especially challenging, but she navigated the process with help from school counselors and her Youth Engagement Center (YEC) advisers.

“My senior year was very unconventional because I was basically at home the whole time and doing everything on my computer,” says Macedo, who was part of the YEC’s first student cohort at the newly opened school.“Thankfully, people in AVID and YEC were able to help me with the things I was struggling with, like searching for scholarships and financial aid.” 

While filling out a financial aid form on her home computer, Macedo found herself feeling overwhelmed and lost. She’s especially grateful for the help she received from YEC-Austin Director Jeff Jones, who guided her through it all every step of the way.

“I remember looking at all these numbers and not knowing what to do,” Macedo says.“Mr.Jones was kind enough to meet with me over Zoom and walk me through the process. It was a huge relief.” 

Looking back at her time in the YEC, Macedo recalls many fond memories of events and campus tours that inspired her to keep pushing onward.

“I think the greatest benefit of the YEC is having this community—and having the opportunity to visit college campuses,” Macedo says.“One of my favorite memories was visiting UT for a speaker event. It was exciting to see the campus and to hear these speakers motivating us all to go to college.” 

Now, Macedo is a senior in the School of Architecture with a bright future in interior design. She hopes her story will inspire more high school students to become the first in their families to earn a college degree.

“Not everyone has parents who can show them exactly what to do, so just know you’re not alone,” Macedo says.“My advice is to keep pushing through, no matter how discouraged you’re feeling, because college is possible if you set your mind to it.”