COVID-19 Disrupted Many Aspects of Life. The Education of Injured Workers’ Children Shouldn’t Be One of Them

By: | February 25, 2022

Roberto Ceniceros is a retired senior editor of Risk & Insurance® and the former chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. Read more of his columns and features.

It’s been a couple of risk-filled years for young people seeking a college education.

The new risks COVID-19 heaps on their already challenging journey defy typical considerations when deciding whether seeking a degree trumps employment without a college education.

There are too many unknowns when a virus morphs and derails education plans faster than you can complete a semester. New unknowns include whether universities can continue offering in-person instruction without disruption, whether dorms and other shared housing are safe, and the potential of missing classes due to illness.

Omicron also increases the challenges for launching a nonprofit organization providing college scholarships for the children of workers’ compensation claimants who died or suffered serious injuries at work.

We are Kids’ Chance of Idaho, a state affiliate of Kids’ Chance of America. We recognize that entire families, including school-aged children, suffer when workplace injuries cause death or disability.

The financial and emotional support children lose can derail family dreams of attending college while state workers’ comp systems can fall short in mitigating those losses. We try to help.

Kids’ Chance of Idaho is one of the more recent state groups formed in association with the national Kids’ Chance organization. Our board members are Idaho workers’ comp industry professionals who launched our statewide entity shortly before COVID-19 emerged.

In our short existence we have postponed fundraisers that require crowd gatherings. The disruptions COVID-19 forces on high schools and colleges also increase the challenges for connecting with students who qualify for our scholarships.

One strategy for reaching those students, for example, requires communicating with school counselors who might inform students about our scholarships. That strategy has new challenges with COVID-19 causing temporary school closures, forcing school staff absences, and shifting in-person learning to online instruction.

Fund raising and connecting with scholarship-eligible students are the core work we knew we faced when we launched Kids’ Chance of Idaho. It’s the same for Kids’ Chance organizations that formed before us in other states.

Despite our new, unforeseen challenges, however, my fellow board members have led our organization in successfully pivoting to continue our mission. If you are reading this you likely know pivoting to meet the day’s new challenges is a practice business people often excel at. It’s rewarding to see that skill applied for a great cause.

We have awarded multiple scholarships since COVID-19 began and leaned on other forms of fund raising, shifting in ways that will help us once the pandemic lifts. We are optimistic about our potential to help more students on their important journey.

Unfortunately for students, enrollment data shows the pandemic is scrambling their all-too important college attendance plans.

As of October 2021, nationwide undergraduate college enrollment declined 7.8% from 2019, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Other research shows some students are foregoing college because of COVID-19, while others who normally would not attend college are choosing to do so because of the pandemic.

The statistics show students — like workers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations — face greater uncertainty under the weight of COVID-19.

The new challenges and risks students face make it even more important that we continue our work of supporting them when we can. An inability to obtain a higher education impacts their long-term potential for career and financial prosperity. It also stands to impact the prosperity of our nation’s businesses and institutions.

We are grateful that insurers, claims-paying companies and others provide generous donations for Kids’ Chance organizations nationwide. But we also need help finding students eligible for our scholarships.

Please keep Kids’ Chance in mind. If you learn of families who have suffered a grave workplace loss and have school-aged children know you can refer them to us so we can assist with their education goals.

Let your business partners and colleagues know about us too so we can all help give the children of injured workers the chance to pursue their educational dreams. &

Kids’ Chance of America can be contacted at 401-405-4028 or email [email protected]. Kids’ Chance of Idaho can be contacted at [email protected]

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