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UGA students serve the community during COVID-19

(UGA file photo by Andrew Davis Tucker)

From Buddy Calls to helping local businesses, they heeded the call

When University of Georgia students had to quickly adapt from in-person to online courses this spring, many also forged ahead to find ways to serve the Athens community and beyond. With a spirit of innovation and compassion, students led and participated in efforts to connect people during social distancing, find solutions for vulnerable populations, and aid small businesses transitioning to digital platforms.

Here are a few ways UGA students have given back:

Connections

  • Students in the AU/UGA Medical Partnership teamed up with the Athens Community Council on Aging to connect with senior residents in Athens during social distancing. The Buddy Calls program—started by rising fourth-year medical student Quinn Peragine—began on April 21, and involves student volunteers having phone conversations with one or two ACCA clients a week to help combat the negative effects of social isolation.
  • Pets Together, a program established by graduate student Kim Wolf in March, hosts video chats featuring pets and other animals for those in group homes or health care settings. With the aim of reducing feelings of loneliness in vulnerable groups, the program has hosted more than 200 virtual pet visits since its inception.
  • In May, the UGA Student Government Association partnered with 6FT Closer, a media platform that facilitates connections, to send messages of thanks from UGA students to essential workers through the SEC Gratitude Challenge. The challenge asked students from all 14 SEC schools to create and upload videos thanking essential workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. UGA students created nearly 50 videos in one week, taking third place overall in the challenge.

Innovation

  • Through UGA’s COVID-19 Virtual Design Sprint, nearly 200 UGA students from 43 majors developed innovative solutions to problems caused by the pandemic. Fourth-year students Cheryl Maafoh and Abigail Snyder won $3,000 to fund their initiative, the Clean Campaign. Maafoh and Snyder are addressing challenges facing Athens’ unsheltered population through the creation and distribution of portable personal hygiene kits filled with items donated by local hotels.
  • Other Design Sprint finalist ideas included improving PPE for first responders to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the field, and developing a mobile application to help individuals maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Service

  • Students in UGA’s department of management information systems have offered their services and expertise to help local businesses and nonprofits adjusting to the impacts of COVID-19. From creating websites to improving information security to enhancing remote worker productivity, MIS students were paired with companies whose requests matched their professional interests. Twenty MIS students will work directly with more than a dozen local organizations through the summer. They will also help prepare long-term implementation plans for fall and beyond.
  • UGA’s Panhellenic Council and its 19 member organizations partnered with Feeding the Frontlines, a nonprofit begun by UGA alumna Anita Qualls that works with local restaurants to deliver meals to health care workers. Together, the chapters raised more than $12,000, which will help provide 1,523 meals to medical professionals across the state.