Protectors of the Pack
More than 220 students have volunteered to assist with NC State’s robust COVID-19 testing and surveillance program this spring. Meet some of our volunteers who have stepped up to Protect the Pack.
COVID-19 has presented many challenges for NC State and its students. But with challenge comes opportunity to be part of the solution.
The university made big plans for the return to campus this spring. The plan included testing all students who live on-campus as part of move-in and testing all employees who returned to work on campus. This undertaking would only work if there was a strong group of volunteers dedicated to supporting this effort. Luckily, many of NC State’s students were waiting for a call to action like this.
Over winter break, Ray Easterlin, pre-professional advisor in the Career Development Center, reached out to students in the pre-health program asking for volunteers. The response was swift and strong. Allison Borter (human biology ’22) was one of the first students to answer the call and has been volunteering since the start of spring return to campus testing.
“Since last March, volunteer opportunities for pre-health students, for the most part, have been canceled or postponed,” Borter said. “We all felt a little stagnant. Being pre-health students during a pandemic, we really wanted to help. Getting to help with COVID testing has allowed us to get caught up on our clinical hours and help with a front-line health issue.”
Borter plans to go into the medical field herself and feels she has grown from the experience.
“One thing I feel like I have really taken away from this experience is how important every single level of healthcare is, from the doctors and nurses working in hospitals to regular people working at testing sites,” Borter said. “Every little improvement we make at a testing site makes it that much more likely that people will come to get tested, which means more and more people are able to know if they need to isolate, which helps stop the spread and ultimately saves lives. All of the people that put so much time and effort into these testing sites have really helped make a huge difference and I have loved getting to work with them!”
Isaac Oyediran (human biology ’21) also stepped up to help out of a desire to get hands-on experience and be part of something bigger than himself.
“As a senior, this definitely wasn’t how I imagined my senior year going, but I’m glad that NC state has made efforts to allow students to be safe on campus,” Oyediran said. “This past year has been a difficult time for everyone, and we are looking forward to a new normal. I think the school’s effort to test students regularly has been great to ensure the safety of the NC State community.”
Since that initial call for help from pre-health students, more than 220 students, including several student organizations, have stepped up to volunteer as well. Camden Carmichael (microbiology ’22), the president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, has been volunteering along with several of his fellow fraternity members and others from Fraternity and Sorority Life.
“Coming into the spring semester, I recognized that widespread testing was going to be key in keeping students on campus and in facilitating early diagnosis and treatment,” Carmichael said. “I also recognized that volunteers were going to be an integral part of this effort to ensure that testing was accessible and efficient. One thing that has made widespread testing so successful at NC State is that students know their peers will be there at every step in the process to guide them and answer any questions. NC State has combined both high-quality science with a personable experience, which is essential to any public health effort.”
Carmichael and Sigma Phi Epsilon have also taken steps to promote safety within their organization.
“Sigma Phi Epsilon has stepped up to help keep the Pack safe during COVID-19,” he said. “Most of our efforts revolve around our housing facility where masks are required at all times when not in bedrooms, and we have changed our dining service to allow for social distancing and safe food handling. In addition, our leadership has made a distinct effort to educate brothers about how to access testing and when they may become eligible to receive their vaccine.”
Christian Cormas (human biology ’21), one of Carmichael’s fraternity brothers, has also been highly involved in NC State’s testing efforts. He was inspired to volunteer after his own first experience getting tested on campus.
“Coming back to NC State I was informed that mandatory testing was being implemented on Greek life members. When walking into the testing facility, I was nervous that I would encounter people in hazmat suits yearning to shove a Q-tip up my nose and kick me out the door, but what I encountered was the opposite. I was greeted warmly by my peers, some of which I previously had classes with, and they gave me instruction on how to take the COVID-19 test. This experience made the process much less daunting and helped me feel more comfortable. After this, I felt the need to contribute and be a smiling face on the other side of the plexiglass to help others, like myself, ease their anxiety.
“When faced with uncertainty, it is imperative that we help each other,” Cormas continued. “In my opinion, nowadays people are not asking a very simple, but significant, question: ‘How are you?’ But the other issue is that individuals faced with this question are often not responding truthfully. Because of the pandemic, it seems as though mental health and wellbeing have become a lock whose key has been lost in the ambiguity. Interpersonal relationships seem to have lost their backbone of truthfully telling someone how you feel. Because of this observation, I chose to extend a hand and try to have a positive impact on those around me.”
Like his peers, Cormas simply wants to make a difference on campus.
“This experience has shown me that you don’t need to save someone’s life to make a difference. Things like making a joke while handing someone their test or lightening the load on NC State employees are impactful. Society as a whole should strive to uplift others, especially during times like these. My experience as a volunteer has been extremely rewarding and I appreciate having the opportunity to meet new people and potentially make someone’s day.”
Ashley Allen (animal science ’21), a Delta Gamma member, has also been regularly volunteering this spring.
“Initially, like many others, I signed up to volunteer as a way to give back to a community that has done so much for me over the last four years,” she said. “However, the thing that has kept me coming back twice a week for the duration of the semester is the daily connections I make with my fellow students, staff and faculty. I absolutely love getting to see new and familiar faces in my Wolfpack community, while simultaneously doing my part to help flatten NC State’s COVID-19 curve. Being able to watch everyone in the Fraternity and Sorority Life community come together to do their part was so special to witness. I’m also incredibly proud of the volunteerism and safety precautions taken by my own chapter, Delta Gamma.”
As of March 2021, NC State has:
- Conducted more than 11,000 COVID-19 tests per week
- Recruited more than 220 student volunteers
- Started administering COVID-19 vaccines in Talley Student Union