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South Forsyth HOSA students partner with area organizations to support community’s healthcare needs during pandemic
Each member of South Forsyth High School's HOSA chapter sorts Personal Protective Equipment for volunteers at a local election center at the end of last year. Photo courtesy of Swetha Pendela.

South Forsyth High School’s Health Occupation Students of America chapter worked alongside the Georgia East Metro Medical Reserve Corps this year to host fundraisers and highlight healthcare needs in the community to benefit those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consisting of five junior students — Swetha Pendela, Rasagna Vuppala, Siya Kumar, Krithika Kasireddy and Shree Delwadia — the group has taken part in several service projects over the last few months, partnering with many local organizations to raise money and supplies and to help educate community members on certain health concerns.

The students said that the community partnerships have helped them to reach more people and learn more in the healthcare field than they ever could have imagined, and they are excited to see how their HOSA chapter and work will continue to grow in the future.

The Forsyth County News talked to the group about the service projects they have worked on in the last year, why they feel community service is important for them and how they work to also educate their peers in Forsyth.

What sparked your decision to partner with Georgia East Metro Medical Reserve Corps?

“The MRC is an organization run by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable members of our community,” Kasireddy said. “Partnering with them has provided us with so many opportunities to learn about and serve [others in Forsyth].”

“[This partnership] allowed us to transform our passion for healthcare into acts of meaningful service,” Delwadia said. “Ultimately, one of the main reasons our interest sparked within this organization was because of how frequently MRC-GEM continued to engage us with emergency preparedness knowledge related to the pandemic. It really gave us a chance to be involved despite our younger age.”

What are some service projects you have worked on alongside MRC-GEM?

“We partnered with the Georgia Mad Hatter Knits Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to making hats for premature babies in unstable conditions,” Vuppala said. “[We made] over 50 hats and 200 NICU name tags for premature babies [at Northside Forsyth and Emory hospitals].

“Over the summer, we also worked alongside a student from Emory University to develop a public health syllabus regarding COVID-19 for preschoolers to understand the precarious conditions of the environment in simple terms.”

“Additionally, we held a Blue Ribbon Drive at our school to raise funds for Be the Match, a bone marrow transplant organization,” Delwadia said. “We worked with our team to create these blue ribbons and went around the school every morning to collect donations for this amazing cause. We sold each ribbon for fifty cents and ended up raising over $50 dollars for this organization.”

What is one way you work to raise awareness of issues you believe are important to the community?

“In January, we conducted seminars every week regarding prevalent issues such as vaping, nutrition, distracted driving and child trafficking,” Vuppala said. “We hope to bring awareness to our peers so that they can lead healthy lives.”

“We partnered with various organizations throughout our community to raise awareness as well,” Pendela said. “For instance, we partnered with one organization to collect menstrual hygiene products [at school to provide them for those in need] and raise awareness about period poverty.”

Why do you feel it’s important to take part in these service projects and help others in the local community?

“These service projects …. show us a new perspective of the world,” Kasireddy said. “We are able to see parts of our community that are outside the bubble of our school. [And] especially in the past year, we have worked on targeted events for COVID-19 and the families in our community that have been the most affected.”