Reevu Adakroy is a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology located in Alexandria, Virginia. Reevu worked to create Project YCRO (Youth COVID-19 Relief Organization), helping make n-95 masks for many local DMV hospitals during the pandemic. Over the past three months, YCRO has created a network of data collected from 75 hospitals throughout the DMV region and has documented requests for over 20,000 pieces of PPE from 18 hospitals and healthcare facilities, in addition to donating over 5000 supplies and counting. Reevu is excited to continue growing his organization and to share his experience and journey.
How did it start?
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, within the US, hospitals were overwhelmed with patients. PPE supplies were at an all-time low and hospitals were struggling to provide the necessary resources for their doctors to handle the virus. “The Youth for COVID-19 Relief Organization all started on March 19th, when I saw on the news that the need for personal protective equipment had risen so much that hospitals had started accepting non-professionally produced PPE. For the first time, I knew there was a way that I could help out. It didn’t make sense to me that in the same world there aren't enough resources for medical professionals to protect themselves, while the drive and passion of hundreds of people are being wasted as they wait bored at home. I initiated a call to action within my high school community. I have a 3D printer, so my first inclination was towards there, seeking designs and creating test prints. I hoped that people with that same dedication to helping their community in the wake of the pandemic would join this cause. I was not disappointed. Along with a group of other invested students who were willing to build on this idea, we turned YCRO into an organization that is 120 members strong and working on 12 distinct projects.”
“Our first step consisted of research. For the first one and a half weeks, all we did was read papers and understand how masks worked, what qualified as an N95, and the caveats of certain production methods. After discussion, we chose a select few designs and began to prototype. After completing a variety of 3D printed masks, as well as a custom mask designed using a milk jug, we worked with George Washington Hospital to test the masks for comfort, fit, and effectiveness. Their feedback led to tweaks and adjustments that would eventually lead to our final production standard. The sewing team decided on the Johns Hopkins University mask pattern, with material testing using Georgia Tech’s procedure. The process of developing these masks was difficult, and it was extraordinarily important for us to be thorough and take the time to do so properly. Within the first month, we were able to set up our finalized catalog of designs and proceed to production. Our first donation was on April 18th”
Within any project there are sure to be major challenges and project YCRO was not immune to that. “One of our greatest obstacles as an organization was reaching out to draw volunteers from the community, support from suppliers, and trust between us and medical facilities”. However once the project was able to start gathering interest and integrate themselves in worldwide networks such as MasksforDocs and OSCMS (Open Source COVID-19 Medical Supplies) they were really able to get off the ground running. “Reaching out to our own school and regional community for volunteers led to increased participation and efficiency. There are always new obstacles to any organization and YCRO is not an exception, but through diligence and effective use of our members and organization structure, we are always overcoming those obstacles, and improving upon ourselves. The most important part of being an organization is staying organized, motivating and inspiring the volunteers, and continuing to be smart and mindful with your actions.”
“As the demand for homemade PPE dies down and access to professionally made PPE at reasonable price increases, YCRO is planning to focus more on the spread of information, which will hopefully outpace the spread of the pandemic. YCRO aims to educate the public as best as it can.While we are making an impact in the DMV area, we want to provide resources for students in other areas to be able to supply their communities with PPE, and make a measurable impact across the nation.”
Starting any effective organization can be such a daunting task for any person, let alone a high schooler. Reevu has some advice for future student leaders looking to make a valuable impact within their communities. “Don’t stop just because you took the risk and went out into the world. Be thorough and careful with research and goals and never stop being open-minded. It doesn’t matter how experienced or inexperienced you are, because that’s not going to change by dwelling or doubting and waiting. Find the people you need and get to work. Be detailed in your plans and be clear with your expectations. Of course it will be hard. But if it wasn’t they wouldn’t need you “
If you would like to explore more about Project YCRO or even get involved, they can be contacted through their Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. YCRO is also open to collaborating with organizations that support their mission (this can range anywhere from PPE donation/production teams to filmmaking groups), so anyone willing to work can email as well.
This article was written as part of the Student Alliance’s Student Stories. You may find more information about the various articles on our website www.thestudentalliance.org and Instagram page @thestudentalliance. As always, thanks for reading!