Social work intern heads up care package program for isolated students

With COVID cases currently on the rise, more students are in quarantine and experiencing the loss of social connections. Hoping to ease that burden, a team of volunteers is creating care packages to show the isolated students that they are not alone.

Case manager Kelsey Colburn’s intern, senior social work major Jax Heil, has taken charge of making and delivering care packages. Colburn started the program after seeing a need for additional support for students isolated on campus. Heil then reached out to the social work department. “Just like that,” Heil said, “we had the students ready to help put this together.”

Heil’s internship has changed dramatically due to Colburn’s work shifting from focusing on the Sexuality Series to concentrating on COVID case management, but Heil has embraced the opportunity. 

“The internship assisting students in quarantine and isolation on campus is a silver lining of the pandemic,” Heil said, “as it has helped me so much to develop in my social work knowledge and skills.”

According to Colburn, Heil has “enlisted a number of volunteers from the [social work] department to bake cookies and muffins, put together bags of treats, and drop off notes.” He is participating in this internship as part of his social work practicum.

“Going through quarantine and isolation – especially on campus – can be incredibly lonely and boring,” Heil said, “The goal is for students to know that their peers are here for them, and a gift bag and friendly note hopefully conveys that!”

The care packages contain a variety of items, including gatorade, granola bars, chips, candy, coloring books, colored pencils and encouraging notes. Heil and other volunteers do the shopping for the packages, which are funded by Calvin, but the baked goods are primarily donated. Nicole Stehouwer, Miriam Kluitenberg and others have baked cookies and muffins for isolated students. 

“The group sounded like a great way for students to support fellow students with the effects of COVID,” Kluitenberg said. “Seeing how quickly people respond to requests and needs has been encouraging, and I’m glad we can help in a variety of ways since people are affected differently.”

More than 20 students, mostly social work majors, have volunteered with the project. Heil calls them “the COVID student support dream team,” and they take turns assembling and delivering the packages.

The office also takes student requests. “When a student mentions to me that they could use a coloring book, puzzles, snacks, a mini fridge, mail from family etc…” Colburn explained, “we coordinate dropping those items off.”