Katelin Downing is pursuing an Associate in Science in Digital Media Technology degree at Polk State College, where she now has the company of her aunt and grandmother in their Intro to Digital Media class. Aunt Meesha Downing-Townsend and grandmother Sheryl Downing were inspired to enroll after impacts of the pandemic caused their family’s ministries to transition from in-person to online church services.
They look forward to their Tuesday afternoon class together on the Lakeland Campus, where Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are being closely followed per Polk State’s Return to Campus Plan. Members of the tight-knit Downing family haven’t been spending as much time together as they did prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency to help ensure everyone’s health and safety.
“With the pandemic, I haven’t gotten to see them as much, so it’s nice getting to see them every Tuesday,” Katelin Downing said. “Before, I was stuck at home all day. It’s nice to get out and do something that I enjoy – learning about digital media.”
The Intro to Digital Media course is taking place in a hybrid format, which blends online learning with time in the classroom. For the first half of the Spring 2021 Semester, they are coming to class for in-person lessons before the course transitions online.
“Being a student in the pandemic has been great. Polk State is affordable, local, and very resourceful. Polk State has provided many resources to help students.”
Digital Media student
“Being a student in the pandemic has been great,” said Meesha Downing-Townsend, who came to Polk State as a dual enrollment student in the 1990s and went on to earn a doctorate degree from Nova Southeastern University. She serves as Assistant Principal of Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School. “It’s no time like now, whether you are in the pandemic or outside the pandemic, to get your education. Polk State is affordable, local, and very resourceful. Polk State has provided many resources to help students.”
Sheryl Downing is a lifelong learner, too.
“There is always going to be obstacles in life,” Sheryl Downing added. “Take a chance and it will pay off – I guarantee it.”
She holds a master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University and retired from a more-than-40-year career as a claims specialist with State Farm. Now she wants to create websites.
“Since I had time on my hands, I decided it was a great time for me to take this class. It’s even greater because I can take it with my daughter and my granddaughter. All three of us have different interests when it comes to what we’re taking away from this class, so we can all bounce [ideas] off each other,” she said. “One good thing about it is since I have them here, if there is anything that I miss, I know they got me and can help.”
She also has the support of Professor of Digital Media Gregory Johnson, program specialists, teaching lab assistants, and her peers.
Sheryl Downing’s web-building skills will come in handy for the family’s ministries. Her husband and her son are pastors who are navigating changes to delivery much like the College. Instead of large in-person worship gatherings, churches have transitioned to remote services that allow individuals to participate at home through a variety of online platforms.
“It’s been a learning curve for me to get our church and my brother’s church up and running on the different platforms. This Digital Media class will help me home in on my skills,” Meesha Townsend-Downing said. “We thought it was best for us to come together to gain more knowledge.”
They have enjoyed learning about binary code, photography, and camera equipment in the class so far.
“It’s a good environment. I was a little scared coming back because the pandemic is still going on, but everyone is following the rules and being safe.
Digital Media student
“It has been great, and I consider being in the classroom safe. We are social distancing and wearing our masks, but I like that I have my instructor that I can walk up to and ask questions,” Sheryl Downing said.
Her granddaughter echoed this sentiment.
“It’s a good environment. I was a little scared coming back because the pandemic is still going on, but everyone is following the rules and being safe,” Katelin Downing said.
She is one of four grandchildren in her family attending Polk State.
Like her grandmother, Katelin Downing also aspires to one day work in web design.
“Digital media has always fascinated me, and I help my dad with digital media at the church,” she said. “I want to keep doing that but get more professional with it.”