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These immunocompromised college students felt isolated when the fall semester began. So they did something about it

September 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

At first, Cameron Lynch thought she would need prepared questions for the group to discuss in their first Zoom call.

But Lynch quickly realized that the group of immunocompromised college students didn't need questions to guide them.

Her reality means she can't hang out with other college students who she said she sees on her social media feed "flood to the beaches to drink their White Claws. " Instead, it means she sits alone in her bed "afraid that no one cares. "

As US colleges and universities return -- either in-person, online only or both in what's called the "hybrid model" -- immunocompromised students are struggling to figure out how to navigate school during a pandemic.

"I think one thing that the media and schools don't seem to understand is how these policies are impacting the mental health of their students," Lynch told CNN.

Aside from worrying about getting infected, many of these immunocompromised students said they feel anxious about people -- specifically their peers -- disobeying health and safety guidelines.

While most students will likely recover, health experts have expressed concern that young people would spread the virus to the more vulnerable in their communities.

"With the pandemic, we don't have same sense of immortality as other people," Lynch said.

"We always say, 'Can you explain what that is please?' when people say what their disability is," Lynch said.

Price, a junior at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, said it's been comforting to connect with people who understand how she's been feeling.

Kaitlin Ahern, a 20-year-old student at Lafayette College, saw Lynch's social media post circulating online and reached out, eventually joining the group.

"A lot of students in the group text us, like 'Today was a terrible day, I'm so frustrated,'" Lynch said.

"'I'm not rude, I'm just immunocompromised' was a direct quote of what I wanted to say to every person I socially distanced myself from," she said.

Colón-Alfonso said her school has been very "accommodating," and she feels safe returning to in-person learning.

Eventually, Lynch said, she and Price want to create a national organization for disabled students, with branches at universities and colleges.

"My goal is getting people to even acknowledge that there are young disabled people," Lynch said.

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