In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, countless new community and global needs have presented themselves. But though schools may not be in session, Wilton teens have been stepping up in countless ways to make a difference. After covering GOOD teen news in early- and late-May, we’re release a third round of stories about teens acting to make a difference.
Mackenzie Northway, Making Art that Matters
Though her passion project may not be COVID-19 related, Mackenzie Northway‘s action is nothing but GOOD. A painter since “before she could walk” (in her mom’s words), Northway recently switched to abstract art as a way to express herself and her emotions. Crushed and devastated by the news of George Floyd’s death, Northway, a Middlebrook School rising 8th grader, knew she had to do something.
“I was startled because I didn’t really know how to react because it was just that devastating,” Northway said. “I didn’t even know him, but it’s just sad to hear that that would happen to someone just because of the color of their skin.”
Seeing the protests and people taking action, she wanted to step up herself and decided to direct her passion to help a cause she truly cared about: selling her abstract paintings to benefit the George Floyd Memorial Fund and spread awareness for Black Lives Matter.
“I decided to do my own kind of taking part, and I decided to do what I love, but also be able to help George’s family out. So I decided to sell my paintings and give some of the money from each painting to the family,” Northway said.
Northway has sold five, one-of-a-kind paintings since starting to offer them a few weeks ago, donating a portion of the proceeds to the George Floyd Memorial Fund. Each painting is sold for $35, and she encourages people to reach out if they’d like to buy one. She hopes selling them spreads awareness for Black Lives Matter and helps support the cause.
Emily Bukowski and Caroline Mahony, Positive Connections
On a nature walk while home from boarding school due to the shutdown, high school students and Wilton residents Emily Bukowski and Caroline Mahony reflected on what they could do to help the community while filling the new time they had. They thought of a recent Wilton Meadows post on Facebook about the benefit tablets have to help seniors connect, and were immediately inspired to help the cause.
The duo launched a fundraising campaign called Distanced Positivity to help isolated seniors better connect with family and friends in a time where isolation is a necessity, through the gift of a tablet. With the slogan “Stay Home, Stay Safe and Stay Positive,” their initiative strives not only to give tablets to local nursing home patients but also to spread positivity as well so that no one feels alone.
With a website, GoFundme page, and even a Redbubble site with 12 different positive sticker designs, the duo is creatively imploring the community’s help to make sure that despite the distance, seniors never feel alone.
On their GoFundme site they have raised $1,030, with the goal of reaching $2,500. On their website they also invite the community to donate old tablets, and encourage people to contact them via email.
“I’m so happy to have found a way to lend a helping hand to my community during these difficult times,” Mahony said. Bukowski added that “by providing tablets to seniors I am so glad that we can encourage seniors to connect with their friends and family while staying safe and maintaining social distancing.”
Billy Bonnist, Wilton Very Strong
Wilton resident and high school student Billy Bonnist wanted to find a way to help during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. According to his mother, Billy has benefitted from emergency medical services on more than one occasion, so the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC) popped into his head as a likely beneficiary. He designed a car magnet incorporating the words “Wilton Strong” and decided to donate the proceeds from any sales to WVAC. Billy reached out about his fundraising idea to the president of WVAC, John Miscioscia, who was very appreciative for Billy’s offer, which netted the organization $2,576 from magnet sales.
“I was very gratified for what Billy did for WVAC,” Miscioscia said. “To have someone his age take it upon himself to help during this unprecedented time, to think of the first responders speaks words about him. The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps is extremely grateful for Billy’s thoughtfulness.”
Will Olmstead and Luke Schwartz, Three-Dimensional Compassion
Early on in the pandemic, Sarah Lewis, a biology and environmental science teacher at Wilton High School, collaborated with students and other faculty to utilize the high school’s 3-D printers to print N95 masks, a coveted personal protective equipment (PPE) item, and other PPE gear for health care workers.
Recognizing this was an important cause, WHS administrators asked the custodial staff to retrieve their six printers from the school for Lewis to use for this goal. Jose Figueroa was among the custodial staff who delivered the printers directly to people’s homes.
Printers went to Lewis, Wilton teachers Cindy Cherico and Laura Connell, and Superintendent Kevin Smith, where they were immediately pressed into service.
Two other school-owned printers were brought to Wilton students, sixth-grader Will Olmstead and WHS sophomore Luke Schwartz, who Lewis said knew more about 3D printing than many of the teachers.
Having these teens on this initiative was a big asset to the project, particularly when it came to problem-solving.
“We reached out to these particular students because they had a connection to knowing how 3D printers work,” Lewis said. “And as I’ve learned over the last little bit, having other people who know how the printers work has been so useful, because then I’m not the only resource for troubleshooting, because it happens–technology breaks and then you have to fix it and knowing how things work was really great. And the students have been excellent at figuring out how things work and kind of going through it.”
After three to six hours in the printer depending on the size of the mask being made, an elastic and filter is attached to the mask, and it is ready to use. After printing 160 masks for local health care providers, the team switched gears based on feedback from Stamford Hospital, and they began printing visors to be used with face shields and “ear savers” which help prevent elastic from irritating the ear. They were able to print five ear savers in an hour and a half, and one visor in an hour and a half to two hours.
Wilton High School teachers honored Schwartz for his work on this initiative with the “Golden Mask Award” at the recent 2020 FAPA awards.