2020 Idaho Delegate Beckett Bodell: Biking, Volunteering and Creative Cartography have kept this Pre-Med Candidate Going During the Pandemic

We continue our Blog series about the 2020 delegates who were unable to attend Washington Week due to the pandemic this year. Two outstanding student leaders are selected to serve as USSYP delegates from each state in the nation, as well as the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity.  Learning of the breadth and beauty of our country as delegates share home state stories and photos is one of the profound gifts of the program. 

Beckett Bodell on graduation day.

USSYP:   What has been happening in your life since the announcement of the pandemic?

After the decision to end in-person classes in March, my school, Meridian Technical Charter High School (MTCHS), quickly adapted to online learning. As MTCHS is a technology-focused public school, I was able to continue my last semester of secondary education without too many technical issues or delays. The size of my school also allowed us to continue with Zoom meetings and online assignments in an efficient manner; MTCHS only has 200 total students, and I have a total of only 37 students in my graduating class!

The manageable size of my senior class, along with the dedication of the MTCHS staff, led to us holding a small, outdoor graduation in late June. In the months between transitioning to online learning and my high school graduation, I spent a portion of my time finishing my Associate of Science degree, which I completed this spring with guidance from my amazing Boise State and MTCHS advisors.

In addition to my virtual education, I spent the last months of spring and the majority of my summer reading, staying in touch with friends, and spending time with my family before the start of college. The Boise area has a wide array of biking paths, and I enjoyed exercising via bike rides as they conform to social distancing guidelines. This summer may not have been my most exciting, but it definitely has been memorable!

USSYP:  Did you have an opportunity to partake in the Washington Week Online sessions, and if so, which speakers and events were most impactful for you?

I participated in almost all of the Washington Week Online events, and I found the insights of Mr. Brian Kamoie, the Distinguished Chair of Leadership at the United States Naval Academy and Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) most intriguing. I plan on going into healthcare in the future and learning about the duties of healthcare leaders and the challenges they are facing during this global pandemic was fascinating.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins speaks to USSYP delegates at Washington Week Online   © Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin

USSYP:  Technology has made it possible for you to know and be engaged with your fellow 2020 delegates.  Have you formed friendships or special connections?

Despite not being able to meet in person, I have kept in contact with Oregon delegate Haiden Wiggins. It has been fun to become friends with somebody in a neighboring state. Learning about life in rural Oregon from her has given me a new perspective into the COVID crisis and the world at large.

USSYP:  Has the pandemic had any positive effects in your life? Have you taken up a new hobby or read any books during this unusual excess of time that you can share or recommend? What do you feel you have learned from this experience so far?

Yes! Even though we are limited in where we can go and what we can do, our imaginations are far from restricted. I have had more time to return to my hobbies of writing and cartography. I’ve been drawing maps since middle school and enjoy both reading maps and creating my own! I find it relaxing to be able to create my own places or replicate existing maps in my own style. Some of my favorite maps are pieces from the Age of Exploration, where the majority of North America was undiscovered and mysterious. It’s very interesting to examine those maps and see how many of the iconic locations and regions we recognize today were completely unknown to the people of the past. I personally prefer to draw fictional maps, usually in the medieval/fantasy genre, but I have also done maps to represent real-life locations. My most recent project was a map of my high school, which I gave to my father for his classroom before I left for college.

I recently read I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story, an autobiography by Anthony Daniels, the actor who plays C-3PO in the Star Wars movies. It was quite an interesting read and really describes how some of the magic in movies is brought to life!

This experience has so far shown me people’s ability to adapt and continue on with their lives even though we are dealing with a threat to our communities and the globe. While we might see examples on the news of individuals choosing not to follow precautions, the vast majority seem to be willing and even supportive of guidelines and practices that will help all of us remain safe and healthy as we return to our schools and careers in the most reasonable way possible.

The hardest part of these unusual times for me had been knowing some of my favorite summer activities were no longer possible or safe to attend. It is even more difficult when one’s peers fail to see the importance of staying home or wearing a mask when out in public. I’ve learned to move past this by focusing on what I can personally do to protect my community from more COVID infections.

USSYP: Have there been any instances where your natural inclinations toward leadership and service have shone through?

While there have not been ample leadership opportunities available during this pandemic, I was glad to help plan our school’s graduation event and was also able to carry on some of my duties as a SkillsUSA and NHS officer, albeit in a more limited capacity.

Beckett at his Boise State graduation

USSYP:  Have you had the opportunity to work with any outside groups, nonprofits or other organizations to effect positive change during this time?

Fortunately, I was able to spend the majority of my summer continuing to work at Code Ninjas Meridian, where I helped teach elementary and middle school students how to code their own video games. We took safety precautions to keep kids safe while they are in their sessions, and I was thankful for the opportunity to teach and inspire the students to create fun games in a time where we can all use a little more brightness and creativity in our lives.

USSYP:  Please tell us about your plans for college this fall. Has the experience of the pandemic changed any of your original thoughts for your future?

I recently moved to Pocatello, Idaho and I’ve had an exciting fall semester at Idaho State (ISU) so far! I have a mix of online and in-person classes and have been able to enjoy a somewhat normal schedule this semester while still following proper safety guidelines. ISU has not been able to host many in-person events, but as a member of the University Honors Program, our mentor groups and advisors have coordinated a few personal activities for us to enjoy both in-person and online. We were also encouraged to walk through the Swanson Arch into campus to symbolically “begin” our college journey, and in a couple of years I’ll hopefully be walking out with a degree!

I’ve already made a lot of new friends and connections here at ISU, and even though this semester has been strange, there have still been plenty of positives to appreciate.

I am majoring in Medical Lab Science, one of several options for students looking for a Pre-Med education. After graduating, I plan on attending medical school and completing a residency to become an anesthesiologist. I may specialize further into pediatrics as I love working with children and know it would be fulfilling to help them feel better during a scary point in time.

The pandemic has not necessarily changed the path I want to follow in life; in fact, it has reinforced the importance of healthcare professionals in my mind and it has made me all the more determined to reach my goal. I have wanted to become a doctor all my life, and I am looking forward to using my knowledge from school, experience from the USSYP, and beyond to one day help those in need!

Beckett at the Swanson Arch, on the Idaho State University Campus