Brookhaven student discusses schooling during pandemic

Blake Strickland, Contributing Writer

Dallas College Brookhaven Campus student Michael Pina’s journey to a career in aviation was abruptly grounded due to pandemic turbulence. Pina sat down with Blake Strickland, contributing writer, to discuss the challenges he has overcome and the tactics that helped him succeed. 


Q:  What are your goals for college? What are some of the steps you’ve taken to ensure your success while in school?  

A:  For sure to get a degree, an associate degree in science, so I can pursue aviation and logistics much higher. I tried to stay more consistent in classes, so I don’t take prolonged breaks in [between] semesters anymore. 


Q:  What career are you pursuing in aviation?  

A:  I’d love to become a pilot someday, either commercially or private, and fly around the world. If that’s not possible I’d still love to be some type of airline mechanic or Air Traffic Control member.  


Q:  Where did you get your interest in aviation growing up? 

A:  Watching military history documentaries growing up and making metal die-cast models that I still have. And watching movies like “Top Gun” and “Independence Day.”  


Q:  How have you been paying for your classes?

A:  It’s all out of pocket.  


Q:  How do you make your money to pay for classes?  

A:  I’m self employed, mainly landscaping with a buddy of mine. 


Q:  What encouraged you to become self employed? Have you worked for a company before?  

A:  Yes, I actually used to work at UPS in management as a part-time supervisor. The hours were crazy. They would make me work way more hours than I was supposed to in a week. I was getting off late which led to me waking up late and missing school or not going at all. Eventually my grades fell and I had to change something.  


Q:  Did this start as a job prior to the pandemic or was this something you did as a result of the pandemic?  

A:  [The job as a landscaper started] as a result of the pandemic, definitely.  


Q:  What were some of the most difficult parts of being self employed during the pandemic and going to school?  

A:  The work isn’t scheduled. It’s very “Hey I need you now,” or “I need you in the next two days.” I’ve got to manage my time a little different. I couldn’t 100% focus on school. I have to make sure I handle my work responsibilities first. 


Q:  Did that create a conflict with your school schedule? Was it pretty consistent or did it change up too? 

A:  It changed as well. It was just hard to stay consistent overall. A lot of “on my heels” type work, barely getting it done or turning it in late.  


Q:  Do you think of your self-employment as a strength or weakness in relation to your school?  

A:  I mean it’s helped me pay for school. Overall I’d say it hurt more than benefited. I still talk to people and maintain connections through my communication skills, but in trying to have a set schedule, I think it’s done more harm than good. 


Q:  How would you describe that transition from in-person classes to online? How did it affect your schooling and homelife? 

A:  At first it seemed like a good idea. Okay, everyone’s gonna be at home. It’s gonna be nice, maybe a little change. Maybe a few days into it, boom, we ran into issues. The internet wasn’t able to keep up with the workload. I had my family that was also at home so they were using the internet. Stuff wouldn’t load. We were trying to connect with the teacher to see if we can’t move due dates back, or schedule tests on different days. 

When everything switched to online classes a slim hope arose that there would be a tuition reimbursement of some sort during Spring 2020 semester. I did pay for in-person classes, after all. However, my professors did a top tier job at changing the courses to assist students. In the end, I was satisfied.  


Q:  Do you prefer online or on-campus classes? 

A:  I prefer the classroom, mostly because I’m a little old school. I like writing down notes. I need to go to a place where I’m not home so I can focus, if I’m home in my room my Xbox is right there.  

However when the only choice was online I had to adjust and get better at something I wasn’t particularly good at. In the end it helped me significantly. I’m more confident in doing online classes now this semester. 


Q:  Yeah, I think that’s a difficulty for a lot of people. Are there any ways you’ve found to ignore your console?

A:  I just try to be responsible. Sometimes I just go to the kitchen table. 


Q:  What are some things you will do for fun to reward yourself after a good day of work or school?

A:  Play some games like Call of Duty, War Thunder, which is a flying simulator game, or go for a run outside, maybe exercise in some way.  


Q:  I know you mentioned you actually started working more, but did the pandemic affect your class load?

A:  Yeah, because once I saw that everything was going to be online, online isn’t my strong suit. The only reason why it worked with us is because we were already in class, and most of our work was online. So we had the help of the teacher, and she knew us – had put a name to the face so she could help us more. With everything being online, I took significantly less workload in school just to adjust to the pandemic. 


Q:  Did you take a break from classes during the pandemic?

A:  I was nervous about how schools were going to handle the transition of classes going forward so I decided to take a break for the Fall 2020 semester, but I don’t really think that was a good idea because now I feel like I’ve set myself a little further back since classes are still primarily online. 


Q:  Are there any ways you’re going to try to help yourself get back into the online learning after taking a break? 

A:  Yeah, stop sleeping late and have a good daily schedule where I’m always awake and doing stuff. Even if it’s just taking the dogs out at 8 a.m., at least it gets my brain going to prepare for class. 


Q:  Going forward with your school, are you looking forward to graduating soon? 

A:  I’m going to power through it. I have enough time so I’m just going to power through and transfer in the summer.


Q:  Is the same thing going to apply for your workload or are you going to focus on school during this?

A:  That’s still up for debate. I’m thinking about going back to working for a company. Because once I switch to university I’m going to have to pay more and hopefully financial aid can help me there too.