Under normal circumstances, students return from March break rested and ready to work, but also ready to enjoy the many culminating events and celebrations of spring at Govs. But the spring of 2020 would test the resilience and resolve of our students in deeply existential ways. With campus closed to protect that health and safety of all due to COVID-19, students had to quickly transition to online learning and adjust to a world unlike anything any of us has ever seen before now. Three Govs students knew they had to do something to help the most vulnerable in their communities. Eliana ‘22, Jessica ‘22, and Olivia ‘22 started a project called Supplies to Aid Retired Seniors (STARS), which distributes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and notes of encouragement to nursing home residents.
“Early in the pandemic, after that first week when the school closed, we knew that we were not going back for the rest of the term,” said Olivia. “Eliana and I started talking about how to best use our time to help others and what we could do even if we were not together in the same place.”
Similarly, after Jessica returned to South Korea, she knew that she wanted to get involved and reached out to her classmates, Eliana and Olivia.
“South Korea has a much lower infection rate than the U.S., but as we went into quarantine here at home, I was very grateful that my family was not impacted, and yet I also knew that others were struggling and I had to give back locally,” said Jessica.
“We talked about how elderly people, who are likely to be isolated when they could no longer have visitors and see their loved ones, would inevitably get lonely,” said Eliana. “That’s how we started the STARS Project.”
The students decided to focus on senior citizens in nursing homes, who are at the greatest risk because of their age and preexisting conditions, and whose facilities were under strict quarantine with no visitors allowed. The STARS team also determined that senior centers are in great need of medical supplies and emotional support, both of which the STARS team could provide.
“At first, the project started humbly,” said Olivia. “But we grew quickly. We are so thankful to the Govs community for their support and for all of our donors.”
They started fundraising in early May, raising over $6,000 thanks to the generosity of the Govs community. Within a few months, fundraising was picking up and the team grew to include Nancy ’21, Aleem ’22, Jacqueline ’22, Jana ’23, and David ’22.
The students have delivered a total of 7,660 surgical masks, 295 handmade masks, 7,000 gloves, and 1,261 cards to more than 40 nursing homes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Illinois, China, and South Korea.
“Our motto is STARS shine brighter together,” said Jessica. “We believe that it’s the little efforts that we do that can add up and make a huge impact in our communities, and I am really thankful that we can be a part of that.”
From the start, STARS has been a student-led initiative and will continue as they have time and resources. Keeping up with schoolwork leaves less time for fundraising for PPE, but they continue to write and deliver letters, and the STARS team welcomes individuals to do the same.
“We have received so much positive feedback from the senior centers,” said Aleem ‘22. “PPE continues to be the most critical need, but writing letters is so impactful. Even when we aren’t in a pandemic, seniors can get lonely. It is just really rewarding knowing that we are putting smiles on the residents' faces. It makes us continue on.”
Get involved! To write a letter, send to: The Governor’s Academy, 1 Elm St, Byfield, MA 01922. Attn: STARS Project, or email STARS.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also donate on their GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/f/stars-covid19-relief.