Putnam County School District students are doing their part to help local residents – and even some people from out of state – get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Wednesday, 103 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported among Putnam County residents. Superintendent Rick Surrency said he is proud of all the students who are giving back to their community during these trying times.
“We’ve had a number of cases where kids are stepping up,” Surrency said.
One of the students aiding people is Sydney Sheffield, a senior at Palatka High School.
Sheffield has been dressing up as Elsa from the Disney musical “Frozen” and sending video messages to children who have to spend their birthday in quarantine. She said she played the role of Elsa in PHS’ winter performance of “Frozen Jr.” and thought the video messages would be a good way to boost morale in Putnam County.
“I knew that there were a lot of kids that weren’t getting to see their teachers or their friends and were upset about it,” Sheffield said. “I wanted to do something to lift their spirits.”
Sheffield said she has sent more than 100 personalized video messages since she began shooting them earlier this month, with some of the videos being sent to children outside of Putnam County.
“I thought it was only going to be a few parents in Palatka and Putnam County who would want videos,” she said. “It actually ended up spreading throughout Florida and into other states.”
Sheffield isn’t the only high school student helping the community.
Several students are keeping the county’s economy going by working in essential services.
PHS senior Imonie Sapp, who works at a local McDonald’s, said she has had to find a way to balance her online classes with her work schedule.
“It’s been very stressful and hard,” Sapp said. “We have teachers who text us but it’s not as easy to get the help that’s needed.”
Similarly, PHS senior Keslyn Lands is also employed in the restaurant industry.
Lands, who works at Burger King, said she feels like her high school experience was cut short by the pandemic and hopes future senior classes will be even more appreciative of events like prom.
“To the underclassman, make sure you do as much as you can because all of that is gone for us,” Lands said.
High school students aren’t the only students aiding Putnam County during the pandemic.
Brian Bunch, a fifth-grade student from Interlachen Elementary School, has been using his 3D printer to make face mask clips for local first responders. There are clips intended to relieve ear pressure irritation for the people who wear masks.
Surrency said he supports all the different ways students are addressing coronavirus concerns. He said he hopes students continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines while looking for new ways to contribute to their community.
“I’m just very proud that we have young people that see the need to keep our community safe and take on those leadership roles,” Surrency said.