Matthew Virginia studies the mental health of students in the COVID reality


Matthew Ormsby

Senior Matthew Virginia is surveying students throughout the state to find out how COVID changes are affecting their mental health.

The changes caused by COVID-19 impact just about every part of the lives of people around the world, but BSM Senior Matthew Virginia and RED Capstone student is interested in how they are affecting mental health locally. He hopes that the information gathered from his survey will inspire change in how we go about distance learning.

Virginia went into his RED Capstone class with the idea to do a research project. “For my RED Capstone project I’m doing a research project on how the mental well-being of students has been affected by the new schooling model, with the option to go to school in a cohort and meet every other day or to attend school fully online through Zoom,” Virginia said.

Virginia originally came up with the idea back in January, when he was going through the process of planning his RED Capstone project and AP Research. “I was future planning for AP Research and RED Capstone because I knew that I was going to take those courses […] In Biomed 2 we had just done a mental health presentation, and that really interested me so I figured I should do something along those lines for AP Research and RED Capstone,” Virginia said.

Virginia was inspired to undertake this task after seeing how the measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 impacted his friends. “When COVID-19 first started to become a real problem and we all got moved online I noticed how my friends were affected differently by it, and I wanted to see how that really played out across the entire school and how other people were affected by it,” Virginia said.

He is hopeful that the results of his survey will help compel change in the school, and allow it to take a closer look at how this is affecting its students. His ultimate goal is to improve the condition of students and workers and to promote change. “So, at first I want to see if people are in fact overly stressed, and if they are that will be a basis to look for change and make things easier for students that attend the school. When you notice that your students are stressed, hopefully, I mean, I really hope so, there will be some incentive to change and to make things easier for students. To help the general student base out was my main motivation, find a different way to approach school in this circumstance,” Virginia said.

Though the project has so far been going fairly smoothly, Virginia did encounter some obstacles early on. “I had a slow start, I won’t lie; I was having problems juggling my classes and then this on the side as well, and I wasn’t using my work time super efficiently. I would allot some time to this, but I wouldn’t get much done. On top of that, the wording and the crafting of the survey was pretty challenging because I had to make sure I wasn’t asking the same question over and over again,” Virginia said.

To help the general student base out was my main motivation, find a different way to approach school in this circumstance.”

— Matthew Virginia

National surveys already exist and cover these issues, but Virginia wanted to focus on the local area. Not only is he sending out this survey to students at BSM, he is sending it out to schools across the state as well. “So, right now we have [BSM} and we have reached out to Cretin-Durham hall; I also want to try and get Maple Grove senior high and then maybe a few other big schools from across the area,” Virginia said.

He is trying to reach out to workplaces along with schools, although it has proven a slower and more difficult process. “For workplaces, they have so many other complications, and finding the right people to send it to in the first place is challenging,” Virginia said.

Virginia has sent out the survey to BSM students as of December 17. “I actually just sent out a survey to grades 9-12 at [BSM] through Dr. Pohlen, and it’s just a quick ten-minute survey that is just ten questions, it’s on a scale of zero to four with zero being never to four being very often. It just asks the common questions that can determine if a person is stressed or not,” Virginia said.