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Learning remotely has its perks for first-year Promise scholar, student-athlete

TT1October 1, 2020

After making the halls of Cranston High School West her home away from home for more than three years – whether mingling with friends or darting in and out of classrooms – Talia Thibodeau eventually faced the same reality as every other high school student in Rhode Island affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pivot from in-person to remote learning was difficult for some, but the highly-motivated Thibodeau thrived thanks to her own method of self-accountability and effective time management, adhering to the philosophy that the more she stacks on her plate, the more efficiently she operates.  

Now in her first year at the Community College of Rhode Island as a Rhode Island Promise scholar studying Communications, Thibodeau is adjusting swimmingly to life as a college student, continuing to excel academically amidst the pandemic. If and when COVID-19 guidelines allow for the continuation of college athletics, Thibodeau plans to play for CCRI’s women’s basketball team, picking up where she left off at Cranston West as a varsity captain and Academic All-State selection in her final season.

“It’s an exciting time for me,” Thibodeau said. “I love learning, and I love everything CCRI has to offer.”

Upon transitioning to remote learning in mid-March, Thibodeau found it more effective for her than in-person learning, mainly because it forced her to minimize distractions and prioritize her extracurricular activities outside of the virtual classroom.

Her ability to adapt to remote learning, coupled with her lingering concerns over the spread of COVID-19, heavily influenced her decision to eschew attending a four-year college – and living on campus – and instead enroll at CCRI as a Rhode Island Promise Scholar.

“Remote learning was an eye-opener for me,” Thibodeau said. “When it first hit, it was probably a little bit of a shock to the system, but I soon became comfortable with the idea of having to be at my desk and on my computer at a certain time.”

As a high school senior, Thibodeau worked several jobs (including one at Roger Williams Park Zoo), captained the Falcons to the Division I playoffs as the team’s lone upperclassman, and spent countless hours each week volunteering for the Cranston Youth Girls Basketball Association (CYGBA) – everything from working the concession stands to coaching and officiating games. She even helped motivate her younger brother, who, at the time, was a sophomore at West struggling with remote learning.

The CYGBA recently rewarded Thibodeau for her efforts, naming her the first-ever recipient of its Nancy Duffy Memorial Scholarship, an annual $500 award given to a local student who makes a significant impact on the league.

“I push myself. I’m very independent,” she said. “When it comes to school work, I always feel like I’ve got it covered, and that gives me the opportunity outside of the classroom to take on other activities.

“The routine is important to me. I know how to manage my time. I know how to complete all of my work and stay motivated. Having to do this toward the end of my senior year really helped make the transition to CCRI much easier.

“I love all of my professors here, and they make it incredibly easy to access your courses and the materials. I know where everything is. It’s been a great experience.”

Thibodeau staggered her schedule for the fall to include most of her classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, giving her longer study days in addition to more time during the week to assist with the CYGBA once play resumes. The league, which launched five years ago as an alternative for girls in Cranston interested in playing organized basketball, helped Thibodeau develop her skillset during a time in which her only option was to join co-ed teams with limited playing time.

Taking on additional tasks through the years, such as counseling younger players and coaching the CYGBA’s 3-on-3 division, taught her the value of time management and accountability, both of which have carried her throughout her academic career. The characteristics that make her a fundamentally-sound player on the court, she says, also keep her ahead of the curve in the classroom.

COVID-19 guidelines have changed the current landscape of college athletics. For now, Thibodeau’s interactions with her soon-to-be teammates and coaches have been relegated to occasional Zoom meetings, and with restrictions on in-person practicing, building camaraderie is a work in progress. If and when the season begins this winter, she says she will be “prepared and get ready to go out whenever I can” – all in a day’s work for the highly-motivated Thibodeau, who continues to adjust to everything 2020 has to offer.

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