By Drew Wemple
This semester, SUNY Plattsburgh faculty are helping students in more ways than usual. With COVID-19 cases on-campus, some have volunteered to assist students. They’re called quarantine buddies, and they’re advisers, directors of various departments and other campus coordinators who took the time to provide isolated or quarantined students a resource for important information and a friendly connection.
“The planning of the quarantine buddies program started back in early April,” Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Special Programs Michele Carpentier said, “and we activated in late August once students returned.”
The idea was for a faculty or staff member to form a relationship with quarantined students and give them someone to talk to, according to Carpentier. Some of the buddies opened up about why they volunteered to be a part of this program and what their experience has been like.
“My job is already so student-oriented, plus I was missing interaction after working from home,” quarantine buddy and Coordinator of Extended Time Testing for Student Accessibility Services Laura Cronk said.
Cronk has had three buddies so far this semester since August.
“My first buddy had come in two weeks early to quarantine,” Cronk said. “I maintained normal contact, reaching out through email and text. I’d ask them how’s it going [or] if they needed anything.”
Cronk has taken on a different type of role compared to her first.
“They’ll contact me and ask me to get stuff from the mail center,” Cronk said. “After I checked with Michele to make sure I could pick up packages, I’ll pick them up and drop them off at the front desk attendant.”
Even though Cronk, like most of the buddies, hasn’t met her buddy in person, she still found a way to establish a personal connection with her latest buddy. Cronk will add handwritten notes to the packages she delivers that read, “You’re doing great!” or “Hang in there!”
“I want to make everyone feel welcome and comforted,” Cronk said.
The typical time frame for a quarantine buddy is 14 days, and they do have particular requirements they must fulfill.
“We are required to have daily contact without adding unneeded stress,” Director of the Learning Center and two-time buddy Karin Killough said.
Killough volunteered herself to be a part of this program for the main reason of wanting to support the campus community.
“Neither individual has had any specific requests, but it’s good for them to know that someone is in their corner,” Killough said.
Quarantine buddy and Assistant Director for Student Involvement Jacob Avery didn’t originally volunteer himself but was referred to the list by Carpentier herself for a very particular reason.
“I had been diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 29. I was one of the first cases in Clinton County,” Avery said. “For that Michele thought I would be a good person for the role. I’m being an advocate as well as a comforter.”
Some buddies make a more personal connection with their assigned student than others. It is all about the quarantined student’s preferences. Sandra Layhee, coordinator of note taking services for Student Accessibility Services, was able to not only be a support system for both of her two buddies but also was able to build a connection with her first.
“It started as me explaining who I was and my role and him asking me if he could walk around the fenced off outdoor area, designated for international students, to get fresh air,” Layhee said. “We wound up then being able to carry on conversations about sports since I have grandsons in sports. We were able to connect through that.”