Alumnae/i Feature

Cecilia Elhaddad '16 Equitably Serves her Community in Response to COVID-19

This spring and summer, Cecilia Elhaddad ’16 was the Project Assistant for the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Pandemic Health Worker Program. She acted as the liaison between the Pandemic Health Workers, who provided services to clients, and her supervisors, who made decisions about the project’s logistics.

“I learned so much about how the pandemic has affected peoples' lives in so many different ways, and how something as simple as a thermometer, a homemade mask, or a daily check-in could make a huge difference,” says Elhaddad.

She spent most of her time collecting and analyzing data on the people calling the hotline, including demographics, the reason for the call, and how the team was able to help.

As a political science major, Elhaddad identifies “equity” as an underlying theme of her education. “I was constantly reminded to think about how factors such as race, income, wealth, citizenship status, or ability can affect one’s access to resources.”

Her studies at Simmons equipped her to interrogate the Program’s practices with various questions:

  • What’s the racial composition of callers vs. the racial composition of the community?
  • How to support those who lack transportation and require food bank assistance?
  • How to provide masks to those who can’t afford them?
  • How to help people who lack health insurance get tested for COVID-19?

“These questions helped my supervisors, and I think critically about the resources offered to our clients, and to ensure our program served our community equitably,” she says.

Elhaddad extends her advice to current Simmons students by encouraging them to reach out if they need help.

“I can’t think of a single faculty member, administrator, or staff member at Simmons who didn’t care deeply about their students and go above and beyond to help them,” she says. “If you’re experiencing a problem (COVID-related or not), that’s getting in the way of your education, open up to someone you trust, and I guarantee you’ll get the help you need.”

She also encourages students to lean on their peers. “You don't have to do this alone. Study groups and shared Google documents were my life-line in college. Before every major exam, I would write a practice exam based on the syllabus and share it with my friends in the class. We would answer the questions collaboratively and use it to study. Even if in-person study groups aren’t safe, there are plenty of virtual platforms that can help you share the knowledge and the burden.”

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On June 16, Gary Bailey, Professor of Practice and Assistant Dean for Community Engagement and Social Justice at Simmons University, moderated a Colleges of the Fenway panel discussion, “Juneteenth, Then and Now: A Conversation on Being the Change Through Arts and Activism."

Campus & Community