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Sheltering in Place Brings this Tech Freshman Back to Brownwood

Austin Haynes poses with his livestock for a senior picture.
photo courtesy of Austin Haynes.
Austin Haynes poses with his livestock for a senior picture.

A little over a year ago, Austin Haynes was gearing up for the event he had spent his entire high school career working towards: The Houston Livestock show and rodeo. He explains that high schoolers invest thousands of dollars and countless hours raising livestock that could wind up literally being their “cash cow.” When the event was cancelled because of the pandemic, that’s when Haynes knew things were getting pretty serious.

“I think that for somebody who is on the outside looking in, that might not seem like a big deal right now,” Haynes says. “But that is millions of dollars of livestock that kids poured their entire high school careers into.” Since graduating, he’s maintained close friendships with students who are now seniors. “They’ve called me in tears because a steer or a heifer that they had spent years and years preparing, who knows how much money they poured into their livestock project, they got cancelled due to this epidemic.”

Haynes is a freshman at Texas Tech University studying agricultural economics. Like pretty much every other student across the United States—possibly the world—he’s had to adjust to a virtual classroom. In fact, he recently took his first major exam online, and he says it was an interesting experience.

He explains what the testing entailed. “We used a site called Proctorio, which uses your camera and your microphone to proctor you and you have to show the room.” He passed the test, but if given the choice between taking it in his bedroom or classroom, he would definitely opt to take tests in class. “But I guess sometimes you have to roll with the punches,” he says.

Haynes counts himself as lucky to be a red raider right now. He has friends from other universities, whose experiences haven’t been as smooth as his. He says that once Tech made the announcement that classes would be conducted online, they sent out an email offering to set students up with computers, cameras, microphones and even hot spots to make sure they could continue their education.

“I think I can have some university pride in this moment because I think tech is handling it very professionally and very, very, very well,” Haynes says.

Towards the end of spring break, when Tech announced all classes would shift online, Haynes was still planning to spend the remainder of the semester in his dorm. Afterall, he’s got a girlfriend and a good group of friends in Lubbock. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye and leave for summer just yet. But those plans didn’t pan out.

In the middle of spring break, Hanyes received an email from the university. “[They] said we don’t want you in the dorms, come get your stuff.” He traveled back to Lubbock with his parents and teamed up with his girlfriend and her family to tackle the move. The university gave them one-hour slots to complete the move. He says they got it done in 30 minutes. “That was kind of sad but I guess it’s part of life,” Haynes says.

For now, Haynes is back in Brownwood tending to the family’s livestock in between homework assignments. He says it helps him clear his mind. And Next year, when COVID-19 is a thing of the past, they’ll be ready for Houston.

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