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Juniors and seniors in Kelly Eichmann’s patient-care pathways classes at Clovis East High School are used to going twice weekly to hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices.

They help out while learning about the different careers they might have someday.

“Students like structure. They like to feel like they’re contributing to society in some positive way.” — Clovis East HS teacher Kelly Eichmann

After area schools were closed last month by the COVID-19 pandemic, students were eager to keep volunteering with their community partners and were disappointed to learn that they’d have to stop for now.

“Hours after this announcement went out by Clovis Unified (that schools would be closed after March 13), they were sending me messages, ‘Hey, can we still go to the hospital?” Because the hospital was still taking volunteers,” Eichmann recalled. “I said, no, I can’t take that liability or risk.”

Other Ways to Help Out

She soon learned from Dycora Transitional Health and Carmel Village that because residents of the care homes had to be isolated and could have no visitors to protect them from the virus, they were at risk of depression.

So Eichmann developed the idea for a “community service task force” of students wanting to volunteer.

They started out making inspirational cards for residents of the two care homes, she said.

Soon after that, Community Regional Medical Center, Valley Children’s Hospital, and Dycora said they were in need of face masks, and the task force responded. Student Alexis Bruno even enlisted the aid of her grandma to sew masks for Valley Children’s Hospital.

“Students like structure,” Eichmann said. “They like to feel like they’re contributing to society in some positive way.”

Blood Donations Also Help Community

So far the students have made 303 inspirational cards, sewed 124 masks, made eight small gifts, and even given blood.

Eichmann has posted photos of the task force’s efforts on her Dr. E Med Careers Facebook page.

Blood donations are particularly needed now because many potential donors are remaining at home, Eichmann said.

Just the act of giving blood cheered up one student, who had been feeling a bit down and somewhat “lost” in the midst of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Eichmann said.

“That sense of purpose is important for mental health as well,” she said.

Some Students Can’t Volunteer

Not all the patient care pathways have been able to volunteer, at least not yet. Some are dual-enrolled in college classes and have had to adjust to completing their coursework independently online, Eichmann said.

Others have had to take charge of their siblings during the day while parents are working, or take jobs such as working in grocery stores because their parents are not working due to coronavirus-caused shutdowns, she said.

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