Crossover, Norman

Student organization refuses to concede to COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevails, student organizations refuse to concede. While no longer able to meet on the OU-Norman campus,  student ministry organization Crossover now meets at Victory Family Church where students come together in their faith.

Last semester, Crossover alternated meeting locations between the student union and Catlett Music Center on campus. But when classes went online, Crossover adapted as well. 

“Brent, Caroline, and the whole Crossover team did well during the spring semester,” said Crossover volunteer and OU senior Jadyn Griffith. “He [Brent] did weekly sermons as if we had Crossover and posted them live and did a podcast and things like that.”

Brent Russell / Photo by Jessie Klinger

Due to COVID-19 restrictions by the university, the student organization now meets off-campus at the church to accommodate social-distancing guidelines. Crossover is working to comply with Norman’s current guidelines, although average meetings surpass 50 attendees. Masks are also encouraged, not required. 

“It does not personally bother me,” said Brandon Holler, Crossover volunteer and OU senior, concerning the majority of attendees not wearing masks. “I have already had the coronavirus, so my concern for other people wearing masks is quite low.” 

Griffith also indicated the lack of masks does not bother her much.

“. . . for me I don’t really think about it because I know I have been doing what I am supposed to be doing,” Griffith said.

The change of locations and the three-week delay to starting weekly meetings has not prevented Crossover from drawing its large audiences, according to Holler. 

“Crossover hasn’t changed a whole lot; our location has changed… it’s really just a place where people can come and still feel so welcomed and so open to just be exactly who they need to be right at that point,” Griffith said.

Stephen Thorne / Photo by Jessie Klinger

Anxiety, depression, and suicide risk have increased among college students as a result of the pandemic. When students feel lost, Crossover can provide an escape for students dealing with mental health issues while establishing a supportive community for everyone in attendance. 

 “I think they’re trying to make accommodations, they’re trying to keep it as some sense of normal, which a lot of people our age appreciate because nothing else is normal,“ Griffith said. “It takes all the energy some people have just to show up and to walk in there, and I think Crossover does a great job at recognizing that.“

This graph is based on data research collected by The Healthy Minds Network and the American College Health Association. Fall 2019 includes 38,679 students on 58 campuses. March-May 2020 includes 8,366 students on 16 campuses.

According to a study by The Healthy Minds Network and the American College Health Association, students reported that their decline in mental health negatively impacted their academic performance due to the pandemic. 

“The pandemic, in general, has affected everyone’s mental health, [students are] missing a huge social component,” said Lauren Cadle, a staff member for Student Mobilization, another student ministry on campus.  “We’re able to combat that by providing them with opportunities to safely  interact and grow and get a great college experience.” 

The nationwide quarantine created feelings of isolation for many but resulted in a public conversation about mental health issues that were potentially neglected pre-pandemic. According to the CDC, anxiety disorder symptoms were three times more prevalent in June 2020 than in 2019. 

“I think just statistically the increase in domestic violence, suicide, depression, anxiety, and all those things have skyrocketed since February. It’s alarming, and it’s something that really does need to be talked about from a student perspective,” Griffith said. “It’s one thing that COVID-19 and quarantine have done good for the world, we’re now talking about depression and anxiety, and it’s impacted students more than most people would like to admit.”

Crossover and other campus student ministries have become places for open conversations about student’s mental health and issues they face during the pandemic. 

“I think something that’s been cool to see is that students are more available mentally and thinking about things more seriously. A global pandemic is something that a lot of us never saw coming, and it’s caused people to think a little more deeply,” Cadle said. “And when you work for a ministry, there’s a huge spiritual component for wanting to help students grow in their faith and seeing how more open people are to a spiritual conversation and just trying out different things that maybe they wouldn’t have. It’s just cool how God is using that to help students still feel connected and loved and noticed and not just totally lonely and isolated.” 

During an interview, Griffith and Holler spoke about what the organization means to them and their experience throughout the semester. 

Crossover will continue at Victory Family Church for spring 2021, Tuesdays at 9 p.m..

More information about COVID-19 and guidelines is available at the Oklahoma State Department of Health and CDC websites.