This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
As social distancing practices continue into the summer, students at Lincoln High School have come up with creative ways to serve their community – all from home.
The students, participating in the School District of Philadelphia’s Business Marketing Summer Internship program, have worked together to design internships that advance their professional skills while making a difference.
The six-week internships aim to challenge students’ leadership skills, improve their communication and organizational skills, and hone soft skills like resume writing. They focus on giving students experience in marketing, accounting, and business administration, among other areas.
But with the city still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the students had to reimagine their internships to comply with social distancing measures. They had to adapt to remote work, and the widespread effects of the pandemic brought the most vulnerable communities to the students’ attention.
One group of students mobilized to gather letters for the elderly in geriatric care, who, due to concerns about the spread of the virus, have had strict visitation restrictions since March.
Realizing the effects that those restrictions might have on seniors’ morale, the group formed Quills in Quarantine, a program that invites the community to write letters of encouragement to retirement home residents.
To limit the possibility of COVID-19 transmission, the team created a website where community members can electronically submit their letters, which will then be printed and sealed all at one location.
“It takes two minutes at most to send in a letter,” said Christ Pirgu, the group’s director of social media. “We’re just trying to make their quarantine the best it can be.”
Leana Zheng, the press secretary of Quills in Quarantine, said: “Our goal is to hit every single one of the patients in the nursing home so no one feels left out.”
So far, the team has collected more than 30 letters to be delivered to the Welsley Enhanced Living Facility in Chestnut Hill. They will add other facilities if they receive more letters.
But the Quills in Quarantine interns are not the only students mobilizing to help the community. Six other Lincoln marketing interns designed an internship to help individuals and families dealing with food insecurities during the pandemic.
Their initiative, called Feast for Change, is collecting non-perishable food items to be donated to and distributed by a local food pantry. Its goal is to fill 125 boxes and 75 bags of food for those who need it.
“Things are getting a bit out of hand for a lot of families. So we want to help out families who have been affected by COVID-19, since not everyone has essential workers in their family,” said Vicky Zheng, press secretary and director of online correspondence.
In order to donate safely, the team is organizing two drive-through donation days from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 5 and Aug. 20 at School District headquarters, 440 N. Broad St. The programs Feast of Justice and Helpers for Homeless Shelters, will also attend the donations days to collect food and personal items.
The students are asking for donations of canned foods, pasta, rice, beans, boxes/bags, and face masks.
The teams behind both Quills in Quarantine and Feast for Change have worked together throughout July to overcome the barriers posed by this summer’s unprecedented social distancing measures. Both teams have designed web pages and curated social media accounts that they encourage the community to visit. They remind us that, although social distancing is necessary, we can still work together to help out the community with a dash of creativity.