N.J. students create nationwide COVID-19 donation database - with extra motivation

Posted May 05, 2020

Seton Hall Prep teacher David Snyder has seen some pretty extraordinary things in his 25 years as an educator.

In the past, his STEM classes launched balloons nearly into outer space and put satellite trackers into the Atlantic Ocean, but nothing compares to what this year’s class has accomplished in the midst of a worldwide crisis.

The coronavirus reached New Jersey in March and hit it hard. Its outbreak caused Gov. Phil Murphy to shut down schools - eventually for the remainder of the school year.

Even with Seton Hall Prep shutting its doors to students and classing continuing virtually, Snyder’s STEM students showed their resiliency.

In a desperate time when hospitals, first responders, and many others needed donations, students from the West Orange-based preparatory school came together to find a way to help.

The gifted STEM students landed on the idea to create an online database - https://covidresourcenetwork.org/ - where essential workers and organizations nationwide could request any equipment needed. The general public and companies could see what was requested and directly send it to the source quickly and efficiently.

The students received crucial volunteer support from Texas-based software development company, the Syberry Corporation, which turned their first draft into a professional website that could easily be navigated to make the donation process seamless.

“The kids absolutely knocked this out of the park,” Snyder said. “It was really impressive how quickly they jumped on tasks, but most importantly, their enthusiasm to do this was incredible. In my 25 years of teaching, I’ve realized that when students are working on a project that is selfless and will help somebody else, that’s when you see their motivation kick in more than ever. That is exactly what happened in this case.”

EXTRA MOTIVATION

In early April, Snyder received a message from senior Jordin Lamothe that made him stop in his tracks.

“Jordin told me that he lost his aunt to COVID-19,” Snyder remembered. “He said that he was more motivated to do this project than ever and whatever I want him to do to help, that’s what he’s going to do.”

Colette Lamothe-Galette passed away on April 4 at the age of 45 leaving behind a husband, three children and a loving family.

The coronavirus always motivated Lamothe and the rest of his classmates to create their project, but now it had hit the Seton Hall Prep community and with Lamothe-Galette’s memory at the forefront, the students dialed in to a different gear.

“For me, this is for her,” Lamothe said. “My aunt was a really loving, happy person that was always looking out for people. I want to do this in her name to help people just like she would have. If she could see what we were doing, she would say that this is a very nice thing and that she was proud of me.”

GEARS CHURNING

The Covid Resource Network’s first brush with publicity came from Fox News on April 13. The website was still in its beginning stage but was accessible by essential workers to request donations as well as the public to fulfill those requests. Consisting of nearly 40 requests in a google doc, the website needed to work out some kinks.

That is where the Syberry Corporation willingly and graciously stepped in.

“I felt like I was talking to Tony Stark from Ironman,” Snyder said with a laugh. “Tim Procopovich, the Executive Vice President of Syberry Corporation, responded to my email saying that ‘The whole power of Syberry will be at your service.’ He told me that although they are in Texas, they could do this job even if we were on Mars.”

Even with an award-winning technology development corporation in its corner, Snyder’s students continued to grind.

They compiled data already received so that it could be seamlessly inputted into the new website, double-checked all new requests that were now piling in nationwide and readily dropped everything to fulfill any tasks that arose.

Thursday, April 30, the new, improved website launched.

It currently features 35 essential organizations stretching from New Jersey across the country to California, all in need of donations.

“We really need the donors now - especially companies,” Snyder said. “We have the hospitals and places in need coming to us. Now we need people to get them those resources.”

HOW IT WORKS

Essential organizations can sign up by filling out a form online and detail what they need and how many of each item to be approved.

The website allows users to search by organization state, organization type, item type and/or organization name. It also provides links for how to make face masks and face shields.

Once a user selects the organization whose need they will be filling, users must input their own email and phone number, and add how many of whatever item they will be sending. From there, donors are asked to print the donation form and include in the shipment as well as take a picture of their shipment to attach to the form so the recipient knows what is coming.

“The website has incredible power and ease of use,” Snyder said. “It is absolutely poised right now to publicize the critical resources and where they need to go. In fact, it is also easy for the donors to keep track of their own resource donations and that is something that can help them feel good about what they are doing.

THE FUTURE

While the Covid Resource Network is providing an immediate and important need, Snyder and his class believe that this technology can revolutionize the way donations are handled in future emergencies or disasters. By pooling the needs of emergency workers nationwide, this class from New Jersey has created a one-stop-shop for donations that can be accessed by anyone looking to help.

“We think that this format of a website can be really efficient to provide help to people after disasters as quickly as possible,” Snyder said. “Most importantly, all of this was done with gratitude in mind for all of the people that are helping the sick right now. That is really the spirit of this whole website and idea.”

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