Helped by six grants from Kansas Leadership Center, Wichita State University’s HEALTH Student Association in the Department of Public Health Sciences is working to end the pandemic and support students with information and resources to keep them healthy.
Members of HEALTH distributed more than 6,000 free and reusable masks. Some featured “Shockers United” branding and some are plain black. They offered sequined masks for the inauguration of President Rick Muma. They assembled gift boxes for quarantining students with information on COVID-19 vaccines and testing and gifts such as Wichita State water bottles, stickers and lanyards.
“This is helping to promote getting back to normal,” said Shazia Ahmed, president of HEALTH. “COVID-19 has changed a lot of the atmosphere for WSU, and I think this will help students see they have access to getting help and information.”
The grants are part of the Kansas Beats the Virus campaign, a public health partnership with the state of Kansas. HEALTH members handed out masks at WU’s Big Event in October and plans to continue throughout the semester during events such as homecoming and Fall Commencement.
“It’s been really awesome to see how many masks we’ve been able to order and distribute,” said Kari Coster, treasurer of HEALTH. “We actually had enough funds to buy extra masks, so we’ve been distributing them to offices around campus. It’s been really great being able to provide reusable masks to everyone.”
While the pandemic caused many stressful situations, both students learned from their experiences studying and working in health care.
Ahmed, a junior majoring in health science, wants to attend medical school to become a physician.
“What we learned in books, I got to see that play out in real life,” she said. “All of the mandates that were being put out and the changing policies, I got see them first-hand."
Coster, a junior majoring in health management, plans to stay at Wichita State in the master’s of health administration programs. She works at a rehab hospital while studying.
“It’s been an incredible learning opportunity,” she said. “Seeing how much operations of things can change and how quickly new information changes practices, both in the community and in health care. Health care is always evolving and it’s always a field that is going to need more workers.”