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UNC program gives students opportunity to get hands-on health care work experience

Emily Draper, a senior exercise and sports science major, directs a student at the Current ArtSpace testing site on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.

Students are getting hands-on service experience working in health care — even during a pandemic. 

The Carolina COVID-19 Student Services Corps allows UNC students to volunteer for service activities related to COVID-19 safety. Here's what the program is and how it works. 

What is Carolina CSSC?

Carolina CSSC is a program led by the Office of Interprofessional Education and Practice that gives students the chance to promote student outreach and support for COVID-19 testing sites and contact tracing. 

Meg Zomorodi, a CSSC faculty leader and professor in the School of Nursing, said the original mission of the CSSC was adapted from a model at Columbia University. The program was created as a service learning opportunity for health professionals and students who were pulled from their clinical rotations in March 2020, she said. 

In preparation for the spring semester, Zomorodi said the CSSC has decided to change the primary focus of the program to on-campus safety. Undergraduates can volunteer and get work experience in health care, she said. 

“I'm hearing from (students) that they are thrilled to be able to give back to the community to form a sense of community on this campus, and to get to know people in a safe way,” Zomorodi said.

What does Carolina CSSC do?

The goals of CSSC are to help various University academic and health care sectors to build volunteer and service-learning activities that support the community during the pandemic. 

Student volunteers and student leads can volunteer at testing sites. For students who prefer a virtual opportunity, they also have contact tracing, volunteer engagement and online workshops.

During the first week of move-in, Carolina CSSC served a total of 1,551 hours, Zomorodi said.  

Junior biostatistics major Manas Tiwari is a student leader who works remotely for the CSSC. He said the CSSC is a great way to get involved and solve a problem that everyone is impacted by.

“You gain experience with solving a pandemic, which might be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity,” Tiwari said. 

Kate Nicholson, a junior chemistry major and student volunteer, said she works remotely and in person for the CSSC. The way the University was handling COVID-19 cases last fall made her angry, she said — until she joined CSSC. 

Kate Nicholson, a third-year chemistry major, cleans a table at the Current ArtSpace testing site on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.

“I think having the CSSC or having some sort of tangible solution has given me an outlet to move toward acceptance and problem-solving, as opposed to being upset about the circumstances,” Nicholson said.

Is it safe?

Virtual opportunities for the CSSC range from campuswide communication to helping with contact tracing. In the exclusively asymptomatic testing sites, masks are required and everyone must comply with distancing of 6 feet, Zomorodi said. At the testing centers, air filters keep a constant air flow. 

With the commitment of Carolina CSSC to uphold safety on campus during the pandemic, many community members hope the University will reach a sense of normalcy again.

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“Having a sense of community in a team of people that we're all volunteering together with or the people that you're helping when you're volunteering has really great effects, at least on my mental health,” Nicholson said.

Carolina CSSC is actively looking for volunteers and student leaders. Upon completion of 75 service hours, students will receive a certificate as a Carolina COVID-19 Student Services Corps Member. You can sign up online.