Catching Up With Citizen-Scholar Winners

By Emily Compton

Despite starting college a year apart, Natalie Dutton and Gracie Claypool have yet to experience a full semester of “normal” college.

Natalie Dutton

Natalie attends her socially distanced graduation from Portola High School. Photo provided by Natalie Dutton

Natalie, Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative’s (PSREC’s) 2020 Citizen-Scholarwinner, attends Sonoma State University. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly changed what her college experience has looked like, Natalie is making the best of the situation

Natalie—who at this time is a women’s and gender studies major— hopes to be a museum curator, but isn’t limiting her options.

In January, virtual classes started back up for Natalie. Most of her classes are general education, but she is taking a fun “age of the dinosaurs” course to complete one of her science requirements.

Although she hasn’t been able to participate in traditional extracurricular activities, Natalie has participated in Zoom meetings where students watch movies together or join in on poetry nights.

Though Natalie is doing virtual learning, she is able to live on campus in an apartment, typically reserved for upperclassmen, with a roommate. Dining halls are closed, so Natalie does her own grocery shopping and cooking.

Outside of completing work for her classes and attending lectures virtually, there aren’t many options for activities. Natalie says her main outdoor activities are walking around campus and going to the grocery store. Due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, the only things open on campus are the mailroom and the student health clinic, everything else has been moved to an online platform including the library.

During her time at Portola High School, she studied abroad in Spain and hopes to do it again during her time at Sonoma State.

Gracie Claypool

Gracie, PSREC’s 2019 Citizen-Scholar winner, did not start college at Sonoma State in the middle of the pandemic, but she had her fair share of interruptions to her typical college experience.

Gracie shows off her Sonoma State T-Shirt. Photo provided by Gracie Claypool

During the 2019 fires in the Sonoma area, Gracie had to evacuate her dorm and spent more than two weeks away from campus. During that time, Public Safety Power Shutoffs disconnected the power to Sonoma State for one week, forcing her off-campus yet again.

Due to the pandemic, Gracie returned home to Susanville to work as a certified nursing assistant and complete her coursework virtually.

Gracie’s favorite course thus far has been nutrition, gaining a deeper understanding of the large role nutrition plays in our overall health and well-being.

She says one of the most difficult things about being a student in the time of COVID-19 has been the inability to participate in labs for her courses. A science major, Gracie says having that in-person lab time is important.

Gracie is a pre-nursing student and will finish up her prerequisite coursework this spring. She is applying to nursing schools, and hopes to continue her education at Sonoma State’s nursing program. Gracie doesn’t want to stop there. Her dream job is nurse anesthetist, so she will pursue her CRNA.

Outside of coursework, Gracie is involved with organizations such as the student nursing club and Join Us Making Progress (JUMP). Before the pandemic, she volunteered at a local homeless shelter making lunches through JUMP.

Applications for the 2021 Citizen Scholar Scholarships are available online on our Scholarships page or by calling the PSREC Member Services Department at (530) 832-4261 or (800) 555-2207.