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Burnaby Students Start COVID-19 Response Team

Ryan Chiu
Grade 11
With the COVID-19 pandemic locking people in their homes for weeks, every student across Burnaby has been experiencing their lockdown slightly differently. Some are trying new hobbies and others are feverishly trying to meet homework deadlines, but most are just bored out of their minds. As restrictions start to ease, many are wondering who to turn to for details about returning to school. Luckily, students from across Burnaby have been asked by district officials to create a COVID-19 response team to answer all of these questions.

The team, consisting of members from five of Burnaby’s eight secondary schools, includes five proud representatives from North’s leadership classes: Ellen King, Lori Kullahian, Ryan Chiu, Samuel Tao, and Cassandra Cassilotto. The response team has been running an Instagram account by the handle @youthcovidresponsebby to communicate to Burnaby’s youth. The response team is a district-sponsored group, affiliated with the adult working group behind the website www.burnabycoronavirus.com.

Their mission is to “foster and build a sense of community and provide relevant information to students across Burnaby during the COVID-19 pandemic.” To fulfill that statement, as of May 21, 2020, the response team has posted bingos and cooking tutorials, as well as providing information about schools reopening and the coronavirus. With cases of domestic violence and mental health issues at an all-time high during the pandemic, they have been posting mental health resources and hotlines for anyone who may need them. They also hosted a series of Q&A videos with a doctor, with questions coming from the public.

In the future, the team has plans to host “quarantine competitions,” a series of events and challenges to pit schools against each other for the ultimate prize: bragging rights. These events will range from video game tournaments to school spirit contests. Apart from the group prize, each competition is set to have individual prizes. Another project coming up is to create book exchange boxes to be placed throughout Burnaby in order to help ease quarantine boredom and provide easy access to literature. Potential partnerships for the team include those with Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and local businesses. Since the team includes members of the District Student Advisory Council (DSAC), they have enthusiastic plans to host a Q&A about schools reopening and graduate info.

While some of these plans have not been announced to the public yet, they show promise of turning into reality. “It is great to see a grassroots movement of youth from all corners of Burnaby get involved to help advocate for youth voice, share information that is pertinent, and ease the blow of social distancing,” says Bal Dhillon, the group’s teacher sponsor. For more information and to find the resources mentioned above, check out @youthcovidresponsebby on Instagram.