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Stories of Courage and Innovation

Strong will change the world.

COVID-19’s effects on our communities have been devastating. Meredith College alumnae, students, faculty, and staff are responding with courage and innovation.

Sarah Massey Hester, '17, '19 (M.S. Nutrition)

Sarah Massey Hester, posing with a table of apples"As I was finishing up the Dietetic Internship program at Meredith in early May, I was approached by my current employer who offered me a full time position. I joined Ripe Revival and its sister company Ripe Revival Market that next week and hit the ground running! We are specifically operating in response to COVID-19. My position is helping to operate a food/grocery distribution subscription service within North Carolina, serving Raleigh and extended areas.”

“Currently, I spend my efforts with the companies running and helping to grow the Ripe Revival Market business. Ripe Revival Market is a produce and grocery delivery subscription service that was formed directly in response to the pandemic in early April. We are providing the direct link from North Carolina food and farm businesses by getting fresh produce, locally raised meat, eggs and dairy as well as snack items into the homes of consumers. While this subscription service supports our local and regional farmers, food distributors, food manufacturers, and artisans during difficult times when food supply chains are rearranging themselves, we are also giving back to our community. With every box we deliver, Ripe Revival Market pledges to donate two meals worth of fresh produce to our local food banks. We are based in Rocky Mount, N.C., and are currently serving the Raleigh and Eastern North Carolina area in our box deliveries. I have spent my academic and personal career enveloping myself in food systems work and am putting that to use now as I work with food and farmer vendors all over our state.”

"This pandemic has again proven to me that food is what connects us all. So many people have begun rediscovering their kitchens as they are home during the pandemic, having to cook more meals for themselves. People are thinking about where their food comes from and the quality of the ingredients they use, and being more intentional in supporting small businesses. I've seen the genuine desire from consumers to support local producers and our state's food system."

Briana Landis, ʼ19

Briana Landis Posing with MasksBriana Landis, ʼ19, has made over 300 masks for medical professionals and others who need them. The masks made out of fun fabrics are appreciated by younger patients when they are in healthcare facilities because they help ease the children's fears of health professionals’ obscured faces. 

“I have been making masks and headbands for those who need them most. First it was doctors and nurses, then nursing homes, now it is the homeless, minorities, and those going back to work. I even have a special section of masks that remind me of Meredith College such as the ‘corn mask’ and the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mask.

“I have seen that people are amazing. When I first started doing this, I decided I wanted to make sure there was nothing keeping people from getting what they need. I told people just to pay what they could as everything was just a donation. I've had everything from 1$ to $100 for a mask. I never expected the generosity or the amazing people I have met through this process.” 

“In general, Briana has been a light of positivity on the cloudiest of days! Laughter and smiles have turned out to be powerful medicine during this health crisis and Briana serves them up on a silver platter. I’m proud to call her a friend and appreciative of my corn mask!”  - Annie Morin, ʼ18

Emily Pulley, ’22

Emily Pulley, posing with masks she made with her mother, grandmother and sisterWhen social work major Emily Pulley began making masks for something to do during the stay-at-home order, she had no idea her efforts would have such an impact. Along with her mother, grandmother, and sister, Emily’s team has created 1,487 masks. They sold the masks and donated the proceeds to Hope and Vine, a nonprofit located in Wake Forest, N.C.

“Hope and Vine, where we are donating the money, is also helping provide hope for those on the frontlines of COVID-19. They are donating Tikvah bracelets to healthcare workers. The bracelets are made out of a red cord,” said Emily. “‘Tikvah’ is the Hebrew word for cord and translates to HOPE. Hope is not wishing, it is waiting expectantly.”

Christina Saraceno, '17

Christina Saraceno posing in mortarboard hat and blue dress“I have been volunteering for a non-profit organization called Redefined Courage. We provide specially designed post-op shirts for women who are battling breast cancer. Our mission is to restore those feelings of comfort, beauty, and confidence in her and provide a ray of HOPE as that battle is waged. Our ‘HOPE’ shirts are both soft and comfortable and come with built-in pockets that allow women who are recovering from mastectomies to retain a sense of style and beauty while they heal. To date, we have shipped more than 400 shirts to survivors and those undergoing breast cancer surgeries – at no cost to them.”

“I have learned that my determination, motivation, and drive doesn't have to stop just because we are going through a pandemic. This is a perfect time for me to showcase my skills and give back in some capacity.”

Meredith Student Teachers

Allie Manchester, '20 

Ali Manchester, '20 Virtual Learning Screen“The best thing I was able to do with my students during remote learning was to connect with them as much as possible. By sending them messages, seeing them on Google Meet each week, and giving them specific, encouraging feedback on their assignments, I was able to communicate to them that I still cared about them and that I still saw them as individuals. When you show the students that you’re invested in them, they become much more invested in their role as a learner. And, when they see so much warmth and positivity on Google classroom, that makes them much more excited about, and engaged with, the remote learning activities!”

Teaching Fellow, Psychology major, K-6 Licensure

Donna Kocur

Field Experience Coordinator

“The Meredith student teachers demonstrated creativity, flexibility, community, and digital literacy.  As soon as they were able, the elementary teachers created engaging virtual lessons using technology. They reached out to students and families with phone calls and video conferencing. They met many times a week with their cooperating teachers and grade-level teams to strategize and plan lessons. I heard from many veteran teachers that our Meredith student teachers were leaders – they stepped up to the challenge of remote learning and shared their lessons and ideas with others in their schools. One third-grade student teacher offered to plan and teach science to the entire third grade, over 100 students. The teachers told me they would be lost if it wasn't for this particular student teacher who was leading the team.”

Read more about how Meredith student teachers helped respond to COVID-19.

Kim Turnage Keith, '04

“The impact of COVID-19 has been tremendous on YMCA’s across the country. The YMCA of the Triangle in Raleigh, N.C. is no different. I serve as the Vice President of Youth Development for the YMCA of the Triangle. I have also supported YMCA's across the state of North Carolina and across the country as they have been working to meet the needs of their communities while following the local, state and federal restrictions. I also recently had the unique opportunity to represent the YMCA of the Triangle and YMCA of the USA in advocating for the importance of out of school time programs for youth in a virtual Congressional briefing.”

“The YMCA of the Triangle suspended operations on March 16. We quickly evaluated the needs in our communities and designed programming to respond. We discovered that there was a need for childcare for children of essential personnel; that people, especially our most vulnerable, were beginning to experience social isolation and were concerned about securing enough food for their families, and that parents were struggling with balancing the demands of working from home and supporting their children’s digital learning.”

“Within days of closing our YMCA facilities, we launched virtual programming for adults, children, and families and started reaching out to our most vulnerable participants, those living in under resourced communities and our seniors. Within two weeks, we launched Camp Hope, a childcare program for children of essential personnel. Within three weeks we created a network of food delivery in partnership with local nonprofits and churches. And just a week later, we launched the YMCA Learning Lab, a program where our YMCA staff virtually meet with students to help walk them through their school assignments while their parents take care of needs at home and at work. And we started the YMCA Ready4School program, a virtual kindergarten readiness program to help ensure that children who are missing their last few months of preschool are still prepared with the skills and knowledge to enter kindergarten successfully.”

“I have learned that these circumstances can be a catalyst for creativity and innovation if we can see past all of the things we can't do and focus on what we can do. I have been inspired by the way many businesses have pivoted and are now thriving and I am hopeful that much of this creativity and innovation will continue even when we are not in the thick of a global pandemic.” 

Brenda Hughes,'70

Brenda HughesBrenda Parks Hughes, ’70, is the creator, photographer, and editor of actTWO stories, YouTube videos that offer information and inspiration to help people find fulfillment in the second half of life. Her recent videos have highlighted ideas on how to navigate this “new normal” we face. For example, how to use self-isolation in a positive way - to find purpose and understand ourselves better . 

“My recent videos in actTWO stories really reflect how I’m dealing with self-isolation -  trying to make it a learning experience instead of just “driving me crazy.” So, it’s been a time of reflection on my life - where I am and where I’m going.  Taking time to meditate and just be still, to clean up my “mess," and make sure that every day, I do something to be kind to others. I’ve had a lot of positive reactions to these suggestions and plan to do more.”  

Allison Crouch, ʼ93 

Allison CrouchAllison Crouch, ʼ93, director of development for Bluffton Self Help (BSH) in Bluffton, S.C. has been working tirelessly to support her community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bluffton Self Help has a food pantry that relies on donations and gifts to help individuals meet their basic needs. 

“I have been at Bluffton Self Help for almost a full year and have had a learning curve getting back into the small nonprofit world where you wear many hats after working at NC State for 15 years. We are the only food and clothing pantry in the area and this is one of the most giving and loving small towns that I have ever known. In my entire 20+ years of fundraising, I have never felt more fulfilled than I do now working with BSH. I have also never worked so hard. It is a very humbling experience to work with our clients and the people in need. It puts your life into incredible perspective and I am so proud and honored to be a part of it.”