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QCC Students and Alumni Demonstrate the Meaning of Community

July 2020
  • QCC students and alumni take care of our communites each and every day.
    QCC students and alumni take care of our communites each and every day

As COVID-19 became a household word and people in the region scrambled to remain safe, Quinsigamond Community College students and alumni were out on the frontlines taking care of others and keeping our communities’ essential businesses running. These are the unsung heroes who have quietly held a hand, given medical treatment, offered a kind word, and been there when our communities have needed them most.

Dale Bickford, of Boylston, is a QCC student and an EMT. He knows what it’s like to be in the forefront of the pandemic and the fear of going to work each day. He said he does his job even in the midst of a pandemic because he loves helping people.

“Some days we deal with only COVID-19 patients and then there are days when there aren't any patients who are positive for COVID- 19. Since patients are not allowed visitors in hospitals, sometimes my partner and I are the only outside people that elderly individuals get to see and have contact with. So if I can bring a smile to their faces while helping them, then it makes me happy,” he said. “I like being able to make a difference in someone's life.”

Emeritus Professor Karen Kaletski Dufault, of QCC’s Respiratory Care program, and her students know first-hand what it’s like to selflessly help your community. She quickly recognized there was a shortage of respiratory therapists in the region and jumped into action. She petitioned and received approval from the Respiratory Care accrediting agency to allow QCC’s respiratory therapy students to work on a student license, while earning credit simultaneously. This allowed nine second-year students to work at local hospitals, while finishing their degrees.

“Obviously, there is a sense of uncertainty every time students walk into a clinical setting. Although many have told me that they are concerned that they may get COVID-19, their sense of duty, caring, professionalism and desire to help, far outweighs their fear,” Ms. Kaletski Dufault said.

Not only are QCC students helping care directly for COVID-19 patients, they are also making sure those in the community continue to receive vital life necessities.

Pre-Pharmacy student Daniesha Bailey, of Worcester, is a lead pharmacy technician for CVS. During the start of the pandemic, she continued working at the pharmacy, even though it posed an added risk to her and her family.

“It was scary thinking I could possibly bring COVID-19 home to my son and other family members, yet it was also rewarding to be there to help people during this scary time,” she said. “I have elderly grandparents, so being able to help the elderly population during this pandemic has been the most rewarding because they are at a higher risk.”

Nurse education major Monique Skipwith, of Sutton, is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and had been working as a school nurse until the schools closed because of the virus. She quickly realized her skillset was needed and went to work at a long-term care facility in Worcester, helping some of the most vulnerable in our community.

“This was when COVID-19 cases began to rapidly increase. It was challenging because not only was I learning a new job with new nursing skills, but also I found myself in the midst of a pandemic. Every shift I would leave my children to go to work and I would say a prayer,” she said. “I have always wanted to become a nurse. I understood that regardless of a pandemic, I would be putting myself in potentially hazardous situations, yet I knew that I could not sit back and let this virus take over. I had to do my duty as an LPN and help as much as I could.”

Mobile Device Support Specialist and QCC alumnus Darius Corcoran, of Shrewsbury, works in the Millis K-12 school district. In April, he began working from home to help the school district complete the year remotely, something that was imperative in order to keep the students on track and able to finish out the school year.

“I was helping both students and teachers remotely by scheduling Google Meet or Zoom video meetings to assist with any troubleshooting that came up. I also made a lot of technical instructional videos,” he said.

In June, Mr. Corcoran went back to working in person. There are new protocols now in place, that include wearing masks, daily temperature checks prior to entering the building, as well as keeping a log of everyone he comes in contact with at the high school where he works.

“If technology did not work and with no one around to address it that would cause huge stress, especially if all the planning was being done on the fly,” he continued.  

South Grafton resident and nurse education major Christine Reid has also been working throughout the pandemic, as unit secretary in the maternity ward at Milford Regional Medical Center.

“Working in a hospital during the pandemic was surreal.  I felt that I was ‘safe’ on the maternity ward because I wasn’t in the COVID/ICU units.  I quickly realized that we were just as vulnerable, as I had checked in patients, walked them to their rooms, only to find out hours later that they had tested positive for COVID,” she said, adding, “I didn’t get into nursing or the hospital field thinking that I would be safe and healthy.  It’s just what I do, and if I don’t or won’t do it, who will?”

According to QCC’s President, Dr. Luis Pedraja, community college graduates are known to stay in the area (over 7,000 QCC alumni live in Worcester) and are heavily relied on during times of crisis, making them vital to the prosperity of our communities, particularly in today’s pandemic world.

“There was never a moment’s hesitation from our students and alumni to help our communities,” President Luis Pedraja said.” This crisis, unlike any other, has shown how essential our students, alumni, faculty, and staff are to our community.”