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Student organization creates care packages for students in quarantine and isolation

Ohio State and Columbus Foundation support effort to improve mental health

A new student organization is working to make days a little easier for Ohio State University students living in quarantine and isolation housing because of their exposure to or positive test for COVID-19.

“Most of the people in the organization have been in isolation and quarantine and we know how stressful and how unusual the situation is. You’re in a room for 10 to 14 days and you’re not able to do anything, really. So, we want to get rid of some of that stress,” said James Gelman, a first-year student majoring in air transportation.

Gelman is the president of the Student COVID Alliance at Ohio State and helps organize a group of undergraduate students helping fellow students in isolation and quarantine housing on campus. The organization assembles and delivers personalized care packages to students with games, puzzles and other activities to break up the monotony of isolation and quarantine.

Students pack up the supplies on Friday evenings and delivered them to the dozens of students. The first care packages featured a Buckeye football theme.

The student organization was developed by Gelman and fellow first-year student Gaby Del Risco, both of whom had experience in the university’s isolation and quarantine housing. Gelman said it was a simple act of kindness from the university that sparked the idea to start a new organization.

“I was the second or third person on campus to test positive,” he said. “[While in quarantine] dining services dropped off a whole box of cupcakes for us, and we were like, ‘it feels so good.’ It was wonderful.”

Gelman and his peers established the Student COVID Alliance as an official student organization and received support from the Office of Student Life to fund the care packages. Tracy Stuck, with the Office of Student Life, serves as the organization’s adviser. She found support through the Columbus Foundation and Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health and current director of the foundation’s Kind Columbus initiative.

Stuck said the coordination is an excellent example of the university’s partnerships.

“It’s a really great town-and-gown relationship, because it’s the university, the Columbus Foundation and the students all coming together to help,” she said.

Students in the organization plan to meet at the Blackwell each week for the foreseeable future. As long as there’s a need, they will seek to fulfill it. Beyond helping their peers, the students in the organization are showing leadership and making life-long connections in their campus community, Stuck said.

“Honestly, my heart was so big before the game started because of the marching band played the night before and then watching this student organization support their fellow students, it was just a great day to be a Buckeye,” she said.

The university continues to provide mental health support for students in isolation and quarantine through the Counseling and Consultation Service. Some of the programs include:

  • The Let’s Talk Consultation Program provides drop-in, informal mental health consultations on a first-come, first served basis. The free and confidential service is now available via Zoom or by phone.
  • The Mental Health Strategies Video Series provides strategies for managing mental health. Students can watch the entire series, or find a video for specific needs.
  • Coping with COVID Group Counseling is a rolling admittance group for undergraduate and graduate students who have tested positive for COVID-19. Students must speak with a CCS clinician individually before joining a group.

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