If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught Hughandra Newbold, it’s that “all good things must come to an end”. Newbold, 27, who is pursuing a doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) program, was “spoiled”, for lack of a better term, accustomed to her parents footing the bills for her tuition from private elementary through high school, undergraduate studies, graduate school and as she undertook her doctorate studies. But that all came to a screeching halt with the coronavirus.
She was completing the first year of her DPT program at Clarkson University when she felt the struggle of the pandemic in a big way.
“In April 2020, my parents sat me down and told me that they do not know where my summer semester 2020 school fees would be coming from,” she said. “Having to hear my parents say to me for the first time in my educational career ‘Andra, you know we have your back and always will – but the way things are right now, we will not be able to fully fund you for your upcoming semester.’ At first, I thought they were just saying that for the time being – and COVID would go away to get things back up and running again to normal. Little did I know, here we are still facing COVID-19’s effects and it was very real,” she said.
“My parents were my saving grace and backbone when it came to funding my school fees. I now realize fully the saying ‘all good things must come to an end.’”
The type of program in which she is enrolled, Newbold said, takes a toll and is not set up as a regular undergraduate semester. If she had to miss a semester, she would have to wait a year to pick the class back up because her school only does once yearly intakes into the program, every August. This was something that did not sit well with Newbold, and that would have been a major setback.
She did not want to sit out.
Newbold said she was unable to apply for financial aid or many of the United States (US) scholarships. In searching for other avenues for assistance in completing her doctoral degree, she applied to several home-based scholarships, but she said those dried up as well, including the Ministry of Education, which did not grant any scholarships this year due to budgetary constraints because of COVID-19.
With a $20,180 tuition for her fall 2020 semester, and understanding her financial constraints, Newbold had to get creative to pay the bill. She turned to crowdfunding.
“For the first time in my life, I had to hold on to faith, put aside my pride and ask for help,” she wrote on GoFundMe.
“As much as I hated the thought of having to ask the public for help with my educational funding, I knew it was my only choice,” she told The Nassau Guardian. “I went with my gut and decided to take a leap of faith. This was something that I prayed on and said that God has brought me this far through all of my challenges and he would definitely not leave me now.”
Newbold raised $3,720 of her $15,000 goal through crowdfunding; others chose to send her monetary donations via other platforms due to their personal comfort, such as bank transfers, Cash App, Venmo and Zelle.
She thanked everyone that donated, which she said allowed her to pay off her fall 2020 semester remaining balance.
“After launching the GoFundMe [account], it was a great feeling to see that I not only obtained help from my friends and family but, my classmates and other people who I did not know were willing to assist me in such a difficult time. I was ever so grateful because to see the generosity of everyone during a whole pandemic willing to help someone else, was heartwarming,” she said.
“I still needed more, and in speaking with my roommate at the time, she told me to contact my department chair who is very understanding and could possibly help me with my struggle. In corresponding with my department chair, she took my case to the dean of students and advocated for help for me in any way possible.”
Newbold’s school stepped up to assist where they could, giving her the option to pay $5,045 a month.
“They were generous enough to provide me with 15 percent off tuition each semester, along with deducting the 15 percent from the prior semesters’ tuitions to drop my school fee rate from $20,000 at the time. From the amount that was raised and my parents putting up the remainder, I was able to pay the $10,000 that my school fee was cut down to. This was a testimony in itself and God’s grace. I did not have to worry about the school constantly sending me emails and wondering when I would be kicked out of classes anymore.”
Newbold is scheduled to complete her doctorate degree in May 2022 and has plans to work as an outpatient physical therapist. She would like to specialize and said she is still figuring that out.
“I plan to complete this program any way possible and I know that God is not finished with me yet.”
Newbold completed the semester with a 4.00 grade point average (GPA) and a 3.565 GPA in her DPT program.
Newbold chose to pursue studies to become a doctor of physical therapy after getting the opportunity to shadow a physical therapist in 2011, who assisted her mom during her recovery.
“This experience changed my life and gave me a new outlook of how I can help people recover from major surgery or accidents. It was intriguing then and even more exciting now to see how the DPT assessed, evaluated, and treated patients in the facilities. I intend to acquire those skills while creating a safe environment that caters to evolving patients mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
Having gone through what she has, Newbold’s advice to her peers is to always continue to push for their dreams.
“I would not tell you that my journey was easy because it was far from it. But I could tell you that many nights, I’ve prayed and cried to God for the blessings and where I am at now in my life. So, continue to excel and strive for greatness, even if you have to go out of your comfort zone.”
Newbold has been an honor roll student throughout her academic life. She said anything lower is unacceptable, not only to herself, but her parents.
“Education means a lot to me and this is why I persevere until I can obtain my doctorate, which is my ultimate academic goal. The knowledge I am gaining through pursuing my education – no one can take away,” she said.