Once upon a time, kids aspired to go to college so they could spread their wings, assert their independence and expand their horizons in an academic setting that facilitated the cultivation of character, intellect and skills.

But in 2021, the price of admission for many colleges includes forfeiture of both bodily autonomy and critical thinking as COVID-19 vaccine mandates stand between students and the educations they worked hard to access.

For many students, a sense of panic is setting in as deadlines for submitting proof of COVID vaccinations approach. Some were holding out hope new evidence of potential harm to young people would convince administrators that mandates were a bad idea.

But the steady stream of tragic injuries among our youth have failed to persuade colleges to change course.

Other students have discovered that schools that claim to honor religious exemptions have created systems of segregation that will both expose their vaccination status and isolate them from normal campus life.

As of this writing, more than 580 of America’s 5,300 colleges and universities have announced students must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes in the fall.

“It’s been the biggest thing on my mind,” admits Meredith, who has a background in law and is the mother of two college students, “but I’ve been waiting and hoping for a change in policy.”

Her younger daughter, who will be a freshman at a Catholic university in the fall, is undergoing tests for an autoimmune disorder and has other medical conditions that may put her at greater risk for a serious adverse reaction.

Meredith has heard about the obstacles people are facing as they try to obtain medical and religious exemptions. A number of Catholic colleges are currently facing pushback due to their refusal to grant religious exemptions to students who are unwilling to get coronavirus vaccines that incorporate the use of aborted fetal cell lines, including WI 38, a female, and MRC-5, a male.

Meredith’s older daughter, having recently recovered from COVID, reluctantly complied with her college’s vaccine mandate to avoid “exceedingly punitive” measures upon return to school and, fortunately, seemed okay after three or four days of intense COVID-like symptoms following her Johnson & Johnson shot.

FDA will announce new warning on J&J’s COVID vaccine saying shot has been linked to Guillain–Barré syndrome, a “serious but rare” autoimmune disorder.

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“Each child has a different set of risk factors, but these shots are one-size-fits-all,” Meredith said. “In this age group, where the evidence suggests that the greater risk of harm lies with the vaccinations, I see a violation of medical ethics.”

Like many parents, Meredith has serious reservations about fast-tracked, liability-free injections introduced to the human population for the first time (and only under Emergency Use Authorization) only 7 months ago.

Already there is a sea of red flags that now include thousands of “breakthrough” COVID infections and warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about elevated risks of Guillain–Barré syndrome (Johnson & Johnson) and myocarditis (Moderna and Pfizer).

To date there have been nearly 500,000 reports of adverse events following COVID vaccinations, including nearly 11,000 deaths, reported to the government-run Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Yet the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other regulatory authorities have doubled down on this experimental technology insisting that benefits still outweigh the risks, despite the fact that the fatality risk for COVID among college-aged students is <0.1% and the vast majority of young people recover from these infections without incident.

If the science is settled, it has settled on using young people as human shields against a disease that really doesn’t impact them, allowing them to be the collateral damage of this pandemic.

“I’m frustrated because there really is no choice,” Meredith said. “The thought of telling my daughter ‘you can’t go to college’… I can’t do that. College is a right of initiation into adulthood. But the potential consequences for a young person with underlying medical conditions … it’s an impossible situation.”

It’s a true conundrum for critical thinkers who seek a college education: Are colleges asking students to adopt institutionalized thinking to gain entry?

As someone who has lived in communist China and viscerally understands the fundamental nature of our Constitutional rights and freedoms, Meredith is alarmed by what she’s witnessing.

“When we give up our free thought to the CDC, the FDA and the rest of the bureaucracy and are forced to ignore the available evidence, our own reason and logic, it just leads to a sense of helplessness,” Meredith said. “When we stop believing we’re free people, we stop being free people.”

Indeed.

Students who grew up learning they could do anything they set their minds to if they just applied themselves are now discovering that college admission means submission.

Thousands of young people who have already had COVID are now being asked to override their own natural immunity and ignore the science that suggests that previous infection may very well put them at increased risk of a serious adverse vaccine event.

Others who simply object to the shots for a variety of other reasons find themselves forced to lay low in order to avoid being ostracized.

This is not the independence any of these kids imagined. These aren’t the educations they imagined either.

But perhaps there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. Meredith and others are now informed and engaged. Parents and students alike are summoning their courage and beginning to speak out — gathering in living rooms, at board of education meetings and at protests throughout the country.

Lockdowns and school closings have not stopped them from learning what they need to know to protect themselves and their loved ones — and they are strategizing new ways to take both healthcare and education back.

It turns out innovation and big thinking can happen anywhere as long as people are free to think.

Stay tuned.

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