SMCM Alumni Make a Difference During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Olivia Sothoron

As the nation was overtaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) alumni started campaigns and projects to give back to the frontline workers who were putting themselves at risk on a daily basis to fight this deadly and unprecedented virus. During these dark times, SMCM alumni demonstrated their ability to put the needs of others before themselves to help those in need. 

Kathleen Stefanos (‘05) is a trained physician in both pediatrics as well as emergency medicine. One of her main goals aside from treating her patients was to help inform others about the new illness, and she spent much of her time teaching others about the new discoveries which surfaced each day. Her desire to teach others about the Coronavirus inspired her to create an online learning elective for their medical students who were no longer able to gain experience in the hospital due to the pandemic.

The online elective, which was originally created to be a one-time occurrence, was so popular that Stefanos and her coworkers opened up two more week-long courses that filled up quickly. The curriculum will also be offered for students at outside institutions for the Fall 2020 semester. Stefanos explained, “the medical center was seeking ways to teach students without having them see patients, so I spoke to a colleague with an idea and we opened an elective for the students.”

In addition to Stefanos, Lt. Alexander Walls (‘13) has been working with his training group of seven United States Marines to create protective equipment for those on the frontlines. Walls is a member of the 2d Marine Logistics Group (2dMLG) MakerSpace, whose mission is to inform and educate Marines and sailors on how to properly utilize technology that is not taught in formal Marine Corps training, such as 3-D printing, robotics and coding.

Although the pandemic caused the cancellation of all classes in order to slow the spread of the virus, the 3-D printing devices were still used to produce personal protective equipment for marines who were confronting the virus in their daily work. Walls explained that the most rewarding part of the work was “knowing that we were making a difference by providing protection for those that were on the front lines. It was also great to have a case study that could demonstrate the usefulness of the technology and training we were providing.” 

Kate Jakuta (‘07) has been a member of the Latino Racial Justice Circle, a faith-based group out of Baltimore, Maryland that works to provide support for immigrants, since January 2017. In March, when the pandemic was first making a large impact on communities in Maryland and across the nation, the Latino Racial Justice Circle started a GoFundMe “to provide financial assistance to immigrants in the Baltimore area who have lost work due to the COVID-19 crisis and don’t qualify for support from the government, such as unemployment benefits or the stimulus payments.” Originally, the goal was to raise $3,000 and provide financial assistance contributions of $200 to 15 families. As of July 10, the organization has provided 257 financial assistance contributions for a total of $51,400. 

Jakuta mentioned: “Our fundraiser is an act of solidarity and an effort to fight back against this lack of equity. I wouldn’t describe the work as rewarding. It is challenging and heartbreaking to receive so many requests from community members who are going through extremely desperate times, and to know that our financial contribution is just a Band-Aid solution to a much larger problem.”

During this dark time, members of the St. Mary’s community reminded us that it is always possible to shine as a light unto others and to support one another regardless of the circumstances.  

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