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Summer interrupted: How one Dawsonville student is facing changes due to COVID-19
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Raleigh Payne, a freshman at UGA, has been left with questions about what to do with his life for the next few months, now that COVID-19 has closed and canceled so many things. - photo by Jacob Smith

Plans change. 

If you didn’t know that before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, you definitely have a better understanding of what it means now. 

Over the last three months, so many life-changing adjustments have been made to plans, schedules and everyday activities, just so people can live as healthy and normal of a life as possible. 

For people like Raleigh Payne, a Freshman at the University of Georgia and a graduate of Dawson County High School, that adjustment has meant putting big life opportunities on hold, maybe forever. 

According to Payne, during his first year at UGA he joined the school’s Whitewater Rafting Club and was scheduled to be a Whitewater Rafting Guide for Noah’s Ark this summer in Buena Vista, Colo. during the coming summer months.

“I’ve always been known as a risk-taker,” Payne said. “I try to find adrenaline to chase rather than consuming my life with drugs or something else to give me a rush.” 

However, all that came crashing down when Payne received word that he, along with 75% of Noah’s Ark summer hires, were being terminated due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Not only did Payne have his first year of college cut short, but the plans he had been working on since October vanished in seconds, leaving him unsure of what to do with his life this summer.

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Raleigh Payne, a freshman at UGA, poses for photos at a park in Lumpkin County. - photo by Jacob Smith

“Finding out what the summer was going to look like became the most challenging thing,” Payne said. “I could stay in Dawsonville and get a job or I could try to find another adventure to chase.” 

Many young adults will now have to figure out what their next step should be and how to approach their summer as the COVID-19 pandemic continues through the next several months.

Even though his plans have been cut short, Payne said that he’s been taking his time to make the most responsible decision for both he and his mom, who lives in Dawsonville. 

“I’m proud of Raleigh for displaying maturity in his decision making.” Jame Payne, Raleigh’s mother, said. 

After considering a few options, Raleigh decided to do exactly what he didn’t want to do; go back to school for the summer. 

“Considering the changes many of us have had to navigate this year, I appreciate him thinking through his options that would best serve him in his pursuit of a college degree,” Jame Payne said. 

Raleigh had fallen behind a few credits in his first semester and taking two summer classes would put him back on a four-year track to graduate with a Communications degree. 

“For me, summer is meant to make money,” Payne said. “It’s the most free time you have so it’s hard for me not to justify being able to use my work ethic to solidify my bank account, but going back to school is the smartest thing for me to do.” 

Payne is celebrating his few weeks off of no classwork and then he will travel back to Athens where he will remain for the summer. When he’s not working on his schoolwork, Payne said that he will try to find a job that he can work a few hours a week. He and a friend are also working on refurbishing a Van for Payne to live in this upcoming school year. 

Nonetheless, Payne said he would much rather be leading whitewater rafting this summer in Colorado. 

“I’m gonna miss the experience, but hopefully I’ll be able to still go on some trips this summer too,” Payne said. “It would have been a fun way to test my knowledge, but things happen. Gotta learn to roll with the punches.”