DC-area students helping seniors get protected from COVID-19

Who knew a past of competitive online concert ticket shopping could prepare college students to help seniors during the coronavirus pandemic?

“For all of us who tried to quickly dial for concert tickets back in the day, it seemed like a life-or-death matter to us. But right now this really is,” said Dava Schub, CEO of the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, DC.

It started pairing college students with older adults who are having a tough time navigating the online vaccination portals across the D.C. region.

In many cases, the process is much like waiting for great concert tickets to go on sale. You have to be online at just the right time to get the tickets before they’re sold out.

But when these students are jockeying for one of the golden tickets, they are grabbing appointments for seniors to get what could be a life saving COVID-19 vaccine.

“Knowing that the urgency and the energy we brought to the pursuit of those concert tickets at that time helps us channel, I think, even more intention and commitment to getting someone a vaccine appointment,” Schub said.

The community center wanted to do what it is supposed to do, foster community building. That’s when it came up with the idea to match tech-savvy students with less tech-minded seniors.

“We started with a wonderful partnership with George Washington University Hillel,” Schub said, but the project quickly expanded: “We also have students at Georgetown, George Mason, Maryland, American University and others in our pool of volunteers.”

The volunteers aren’t just current students. World of mouth expanded their numbers from students to alumni and their friends.

“We currently have just north of 200 volunteers, close to 225 at this point,” Schub said.

Once the volunteers were onboard, the community center posted a sign-up form on its website and started to see the requests for help pour in.

“Within a couple of weeks we had over 800 older adults who signed up for the match with student volunteers,” Schub said.

So far they have been able to get appointments for about 200 of those seniors, many of whom have written letters of thanks, saying they would not have been able to navigate patient portals alone.

Right now, they are helping seniors qualified to get the shot in the current vaccination phases, those 65 and older, who live in D.C., Maryland or Virginia.

There is a sign-up form on its website. Once filled out, the community center will work to pair the senior with a student volunteer.

Schub said if the form does not allow you to fill it out and submit, it may be because there is a backlog of requests and registrations will open again after some of the seniors on the list secure appointments.

While the program is helping seniors gain peace of mind by getting a vaccine, she said this is good for the volunteers as well.

“I think that people right now are really hungry to be of use in a moment that it feels hard to get your hands really into something meaningful,” Schub said. “As a volunteer, this is safe and productive.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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