Over the past four years, UVM seniors Carl Ellerkamp and Sabrina Morgan developed strong bonds with the people of Burlington through their academic and volunteer work in the community. Those relationships compelled them to find a way to serve the community in response to the current pandemic.

“We provide full-day childcare to parents who are first responders and essential medical personnel at the UVM Medical Center,” says Ellerkamp, an Elementary Education major currently serving as the site director for the childcare program. “Throughout the day, we have very small groups (1:3 ratio of staff to students) with consistent staff members assigned to a family and classroom while doing fun activities, art projects, and academic work.” That includes collaboration with local teachers to support student learning, he says.

Morgan is a Nursing major who worked as a Burlington Kids Afterschool Program employee for the past three years. “When the school district decided to close to take extra precautions against the pandemic, one of my first concerns was how the kids would be affected. My boss from the afterschool program reached out to inform me of this opportunity, and I knew this was my chance to help the community.”

Ellerkamp also worked with the afterschool program over the last four years, most recently becoming lead staff for Kindergarten through second grade at Champlain Elementary School. During the crisis, he wanted to help out in whatever capacity he could.

Morgan says she and the other childcare workers are each assigned to a family. “We are ‘quarantined’ in a specific classroom with the same kids every day. We play games, do crafts, go outside for recess, and get the kids connected with their teachers and classmates through Google Classroom. Our goal is to maintain somewhat of a sense of normalcy for these kids while having fun doing it. I am so appreciative of the opportunity to build connections with the children of this community, especially with those whose parents are working as everyday heroes.”

Ellerkamp was inspired to help support local employees in the Burlington School District when he learned about the opportunity through Christy Gallese, the Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities in Burlington. “It’s an opportunity to support the community in a positive way, and to continue fostering a safe and enjoyable environment for the students."

“People have responded to this situation by making logical plans-of-action, are putting them into place, and lives will change for the better because of it,” Morgan says. “I’ve been amazed at how many people have reached out to see if I needed anything. Having lived in Burlington as a UVM student for four years now, I know that the relationships that I’ve made here will last long after I graduate. The people that make up this community are strong, passionate, and are undoubtedly making a difference during this time.”

Students and families also receive support through the Burlington School Food Project that provides a nutritious breakfast and lunch each day of the week.

Both Morgan and Ellerkamp are grateful for the ongoing support and compassion from the UVM community since the crisis began.

Current and previous professors are reaching out to extend their support, Morgan says. “We stay connected via online video chat during our regularly scheduled class meeting times, and doing so has made this daunting end of my college career a bit easier. I feel fully supported by my faculty and the UVM community as a whole.”

Likewise, Ellerkamp appreciates the ongoing support. “During the crisis, I’ve been able to stay connected with the UVM community through online learning, often connecting through daily email or meeting virtually for instruction. I am very grateful that my professors are so supportive of this opportunity to help the community, and that they made accommodations so I could continue my education during this time.”

While the situation can be unnerving as it evolves day-by-day, Ellerkamp says, “it’s important that people stay educated and informed throughout this time of crisis so that we can all make it through together.”

Note: Students featured in this story are participating in work that is separate from their academic studies at UVM. 

PUBLISHED

04-16-2020
Doug Gilman